Celebrity Spotlight - Regis Philbin
When Regis Philbin isn’t sharing the hot seat with Kelly Ripa on the set of LIVE With Regis and Kelly, he can be found in his Manhattan apartment sharing the couch with his beloved flame point Himalayan cat, Ashley. Despite his success as a best-selling author and game and talk show host, Regis claims that Ashley is “one of the few ‘people’ in this world who is crazy about me.”
Named by Philbin’s daughters after Ashley Wilkes of Gone With the Wind, Regis’ favorite feline is an amazing 18 years old. Ashley, a male, does have some minor health problems associated with his age, such as a snaggletooth, one blind eye, a recurring cough, and the occasional shaving mishap at the groomer (Himalayan cats are infamous for their long, thick coats). Otherwise, Ashley maintains a relatively healthy and active lifestyle because of the meticulous care that Regis and his wife, Joy, give him. While Ashley is no longer allowed to eat his favorite treat, fish, because of a special diet their veterinarian recommended for his old age, Regis still tries to give Ashley a variety of food choices. The Philbins agree that there is one thing Ashley is rather particular about: the cleanliness of his feeding dish. Regis claims that he “puts a lot of hot water in it” to clean out the dish, but it’s still not good enough for Ashley. “He likes his dish completely cleaned, and Regis doesn’t do that all of the time,” says Joy, who gets it squeaky clean—just the way Ashley likes it.
THE KEY TO LONGEVITY
When it comes to kitty massages, Regis can’t be beat. He brags that his backrubs and scratching around Ashley’s ears put the friendly feline “in heaven.” When asked what the secret to Ashley’s long life is, Regis is quick to reply in that “Regis-esque” way that has engaged and charmed audiences for decades, “I’m the secret.” Perhaps there is some truth behind Regis’s confident answer. Himalayans are very attention-crazed cats, known for being loyal and dependent on their owners for affection and companionship. Without argument, Regis and Ashley have had quite a love affair. Ashley originally belonged to JJ, the Philbins’ daughter, along with a tortoise point Himalayan named Scarlett (named after Gone With the Wind’s heroine) who passed away several years ago. When JJ moved to Los Angeles for a job, the cats were back in the Philbins’ custody. “The thing is,” Regis explains, “JJ went away the last two years of high school, and then to Notre Dame for her college years. Then she came back and took Ashley and Scarlett with her. They had four or five years together, and when JJ had to move to the West Coast we got Ashley back, so he’s been with us off and on most of his life.”
CITY CAT, COUNTRY CAT
Regis tries to spend as much quality time with Ashley as he can. Although christened a “city cat” by Regis, Ashley enjoys his excursions to the Philbins’ home in Connecticut where he can relax on the patio. “Every weekend, we drive up to Connecticut and we usually take him with us,” Regis says. “He is a handful in the car, though. He sheds terribly and can’t get used to riding. He wants to sit in Joy’s lap and have her arms around him for the first 40 minutes of the trip, so the drive is kind of tough. But if we don’t take him, I miss him terribly.” Joy, who jokes that she’s sometimes the third wheel, says, “Sometimes I think Regis misses Ashley more than he misses me. On our last vacation, I don’t think a day went by that he didn’t tell me how much he missed Ashley.” Regis argues back that he just tells Joy those things to “aggravate” her, but it’s clear that the two men of the house share a deep connection.
AGING WITH STYLE
In human years Ashley is 85 years old, and like his remarkable age, he is not typical. He has been known to find the Philbin’s Christmas tree “fascinating” rather than such ordinary cat toys like catnip. With a fluffy white coat of hair from his Persian ancestors and color points from the Siamese, he carries himself with an air of confidence and wisdom. Regis has admitted that cats can seem “impervious to you and their surroundings,” but “cat lovers understand what it’s all about.”
Indeed, Regis is quite a cat lover. The former host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has switched places with his contestants as Ashley now looks to Regis for a million-dollar response. When Regis and Ashley are sitting on the couch enjoying some down time together, according to Regis, “Ashley will get up, jump up on the couch, and just inflict himself on me. I just give him what he wants.” Ashley has even made several guest appearances on LIVE With Regis and Kelly so Regis could show off his pride and joy. “He’s a beautiful boy, he really is,” says Regis. “He’s indestructible, right Ashley?” Ashley responds back with a short but resolute meow—and that’s his final answer.
REGIS PHILBIN: WHAT DOESN’T HE DO?
Longevity seems to be a theme that runs through Regis Philbin’s life. Not only does he have a cat that is 18 years old—he’s also managed to keep his career in front of the camera going for more than 40 years. The Emmy-winning performer has hosted talk shows and game shows, written best-selling books, toured as a singing act, and even designed a line of men’s clothing. And he’s still going strong with LIVE With Regis and Kelly, which is seen nationwide every weekday morning.
A native of New York, Regis started out in broadcasting as a news and sportswriter in Los Angeles, eventually moving in front of the camera to be a reporter and anchor on a San Diego news program. He gained a national audience when he became Joey Bishop’s sidekick on the comedian’s late-night talk show in the late 1960s. He then went on to host various talk shows, moving to The Morning Show (later known as LIVE With Regis and Kathie Lee, then LIVE With Regis and Kelly) in New York in 1983, and he’s been there ever since. But that hasn’t kept Regis from other pursuits—he’s also hosted several game shows, including the wildly popular Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, as well as a lifestyles show for the Lifetime cable network. As if that wasn’t enough, Regis also managed to write two best-selling memoirs, I’m Only One Man and Who Wants to Be Me?, and design a line of men’s shirts and ties, appropriately named “The Regis Collection.”