Ruta Lee Remembers Regis Philbin and His Ability to "Put Your Guests at Ease"

King World Productions/Photofest
Ruta Lee and Regis Philbin

The actress, who co-hosted with Philbin for two years on Los Angeles' KHJ-TV morning show, remembers the interview lessons he taught her.

I first met him when he was working in San Diego, then I met him again later on The Joey Bishop Show, I guested on that. And then of course, the really fun part was when I got to be his co-host on KHJ for two and a half or three hours live every day for the interview and call-in show.

Regis always had a wonderful easy sense of humor, he never got pissed off about things; if he did, it was a very rare circumstance. He was able to smile and laugh his way through everything, and that taught me a lot about how to put your guests at ease, and how to be at ease, above all, yourself, whether you're speaking to someone who is very famous or a big politico or someone who's frightened to death to be interviewed to help them along. I learned a lot from him.

We had a lot of joyous memories to take through life. I would see him occasionally when I went into New York, but of course, him being the big muckety muck in New York and me being on the West Coast didn't put us together very often, but we touched base every once in a while. I'm so happy that he had this wonderful life that he built and he deserved. I'm just so sad that now that he was getting to enjoy the fruits of his labor — without having to go to work every day —  that the silly fool died on us. 

Regis was always wonderfully humorous, and he was very good at self-deprecating humor. He learned on Joey Bishop how to take a few jokes against him and turn them into big laughs.

I worked with him for almost two years every day. It was a very special time in my life.

A version of this story first appeared in the July 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.