Kathie Lee Gifford reflects on 'precious' last visit with Regis Philbin; Kelly Ripa dedicates show
Kathie Lee Gifford is reflecting on the last time she saw Regis Philbin.
Philbin, a household name during his ever-present, six-decade career on the small screen, died Friday of natural causes at age 88.
In an appearance on the "Today" show Monday, Gifford said she had lunch with her former co-worker and longtime friend and his wife, Joy, at Gifford's Connecticut home about two weeks ago.
"We just had the best time, and after they left, I just thought to myself, 'Lord, is that the last time I'm going to see my friend?' Because he was failing, I could tell," she said.
Gifford said she called Joy immediately after hearing the news of Philbin's death and later went over to her house to bring her food and support.
"We just reminisced for a little while. I didn't want to intrude," Gifford said, adding she could relate to needing private, family time after her own husband, Frank Gifford, died nearly five years ago.
Gifford added that she is "so grateful the Lord gave me that final time" with Philbin.
"It was so precious because when I talked to Joy the day that I found out right after he had passed, she said, 'Kathie, he hadn't laughed in a long, long time.' She said, 'I was so worried about him,' " she said.
"I think he was like Frank. He was just ready, you know? ... And she said, 'The day that we came to have lunch with you was the last time I heard him laugh.' That will forever be a precious gift the Lord gave me, that I got to laugh again with one of my best friends in all my lifetime."
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Philbin, a TV legend embraced by millions for a not-overly-polished familiarity and brisk speaking style that seemed more neighborhood than Hollywood, was a dominant TV force in daytime for more than two decades, co-hosting "Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee" and "Live With Regis and Kelly." He briefly became the king of prime time, too, as host of game-show phenomenon "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire."
On Monday, Kelly Ripa dedicated "Live With Kelly and Ryan" to her former co-worker.
"As people get older, you always know that certain things are inevitable and passing away is one of those things," Ripa said to co-host Ryan Seacrest while fighting back tears. "But Regis is one of the people that we all believed, I think, would somehow figure out a way around the inevitable. It was not in the cards, I suppose."
Ripa said she was with her family when she learned of Philbin's death.
"Mark (Consuelos) and I were lucky enough to have all of our children with us this past weekend, on Saturday," she said. "We were all together when we heard this horrible news."
Although Ripa said many people sent their condolences because she's the "first person" people thought of when Philbin died, Ripa said she thought of "Regis' core four."
"The first person I thought of was (Philbin's wife) Joy and (daughters) Joanna and J.J.," Ripa said. "And then I thought of Kathie Lee. Those are Regis' … girls, the ladies he had this incredible partnership with."
During the emotional episode, Ripa said, "they don't make them like Regis anymore."
Seacrest added that Philbin was "so many people's best friend."
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Morgan Hines and Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
Remembering Regis Philbin:A man made for TV, maybe the last of his kind