When Regis Met Reagan

TV talker Regis Philbin isn’t as politically chatty as, say, Sean Penn or Tim Robbins. But Philbin opens up about one particular politician in his new book, “How I Got This Way.”

Seems a future politician named Ronald Reagan made quite an impression on Philbin. The former “Live! With Regis and Kelly” star devotes 12 pages in his new book to the conservative icon.

Ronald Reagan Knute Rockne

Philbin was hosting a live post-news talk show at the time – 1962 – and he was hungry for guests. So when he learned that the star of “Knute Rockne All American” was available, the affable Philbin jumped at the chance to book him.

The two talked a little about life in general and sports in particular given Reagan’s background as both an athlete and sports broadcaster. They avoided politics all together.

“It was unthinkable back then that he would go on to become the governor of California and, eventually, the president of the United States!” Philbin writes in his typically breathless style.

The talk show host recalls the reaction Reagan had on not just him but the studio audience.


“I could tell the audience was becoming mesmerized by his optimism. He just made you feel better, gave you hope, made you want to strive even harder to achieve your own goals,” he recalls.

That television appearance marked the first of several on-air chats the two would have in subsequent years. Philbin wraps his chapter on Reagan by including some of the president’s 1981 commencement speech at Notre Dame University. The event came shortly after the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life, but a recovered Commander in Chief delivered one heckuva speech all the same, according to Philbin.

“Yes, the ‘Gipper’ – now the leader of the free world – came back that day to give these graduates a rousing send-off that I’m sure each of them will remember forever,” he writes.

.