If you can chat 1.000, has Regis Philbin got a job for you

July 24, 1992|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

Looking to become the next Kathie Lee Gifford? Have that never-say-downbeat demeanor? That ability to chat, chat, chat about your son, your spouse, your square-tipped nails? Can you say outREEEEEEGis?

Well, then, Regis Philbin wants you.

At least he wants you to show up at Merriweather Post Pavilion tomorrow where he and Ms. Gifford will be performing. Between singing, dancing and piano playing, the daytime talk show host will be auditioning Kathie Lee wannabes from the audience. (Before you get too excited, be forewarned that it's simply a one-shot deal. The chosen few get to shoot the breeze with Mr. Philbin on stage for a few minutes and then return to their seats. With the audience's help, he usually selects a winner.)

"Everybody wants to take a crack at it. It's all in how well you do it, though," Mr. Philbin, 58, said from his New York studio last week.

"Everybody" includes the burly guy from Atlantic City who, in a previous concert, insisted he be given a shot at stardom, even though Mr. Philbin had asked for only women participants. In the end, the young man did turn out to have some talent in the co-host's chair.

"If he shaved his legs," said Mr. Philbin, "he would have got it."

But Ms. Gifford can rest easy. With "Live with Regis & Kathie Lee" in its fourth year and now syndicated in 210 markets (seen weekdays on WBAL-TV, Channel 11, at 9 a.m.), the bickering duo seem destined to stay together.

Heavy on small talk, light on controversy, the show covers life's more manageable topics: lawn furniture, toddler birthday parties, celebrities, spelling bee champs. Thanks to off-the-cuff banter and silliness, the program has earned a reputation as the antidote to the daytime sex and perversion of soap operas and other TV talk shows.

Mr. Philbin credits Ms. Gifford, who grew up in Bowie, with contributing to the show's success. "She's one of those unforgettable characters," said the Bronx-bred host. "You never know what she's going to say next. There's spontaneity. That's why people tune in. We don't mind when things go awry. It's kind of fun."

Although he and his wife, Joy, have a weekend home in Connecticut, two minutes from Ms. Gifford and her husband, ABC sportscaster Frank Gifford, the two couples rarely socialize. To keep their show-time patter fresh, the co-hosts decline to even say more than "hello" in the morning.

Cover stories in People and TV Guide -- as well as emcee duties for last year's Miss America Pageant -- suggest they have the chemistry down right. But after 30 years in show business, during which he has done everything from usher for "The Tonight Show" to play Joey Bishop's sidekick on a late-night show, Mr. Philbin is cautious about overstating his success. There are still critics out there who see him as a "wacky crank."

He disagrees, of course.

"I think I'm a highly skilled talk show host," he said. "HIGH SKILLED! Make sure you put that in capital letters."

Regis & Kathie Lee

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Tickets: $22.50 pavilion,$15.50 lawn

Call: (410)730-2424 for more information;(301)481-SEAT for tickets

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