Replaced by Regis Philbin
January 25, 2011
Those of you who are not familiar with what goes on inside so-called show business, should be forgiven for your gullibility. After all, we are all at the mercy of public relations people, agent’s broadcast spokesmen, and all the spinmeisters who daily give the public a dose of fake, phony information.
That doesn’t mean they are all a bunch of louts and dishonest creeps. It is just as the great P.T. Barnum might have said, “The world of show business is the same as baloney making.” This is what I was told when I came into this business many years ago.
To put it as delicately as possible, the impresario from CBS who gave me my real start in radio said, “Remember this. In this business the dust never settles and it is B.S. that makes things happen.”
Why am I launching into this stroll down memory lane? In part, it is because of all the fuss being made over the phony retirement of Regis Philbin from “Live with Regis and Kelly.”
You may not think of Bob Grant and Regis Philbin in the same context. You will probably think, “Well Philbin dealt in lighthearted banter and show business stuff and Grant was controversial and dealt with politics and anything that was controversial. Bob and Regis really do not have anything in common.”
Little do you know what happened in July of 1970 in Los Angeles, California. I will be happy to tell you. As most of you know, I came to New York under contract with WMCA. I had been doing telephone talk radio in Los Angeles since l963. But, when KLAC pulled the plug on talk radio and changed to middle of the road music, that left me out since I was not a disc jockey, nor did I want to be one.
I have nothing against those fellows. Some of them are entertaining and talented, but I could never get excited playing records on the radio. So, I went over to KHJ Channel 9 in Los Angeles because Baxter Ward, the news director, had been a fan of mine and was looking for someone to co-host a program called “Tempo.”
He told me he wanted me because on the television show he was building he needed someone who was well-informed, versatile, and someone who could go from one interview to another on any subject, and he said there were very few people could do that. I liked what he said, and I welcomed the opportunity to do a regular television program.
The program went on the air at 11 a.m. and off at 2 p.m. I had a co-host whose name was Jeanne Baird. She was an attractive woman who had worked as an actress in Hollywood. I found her to be a pleasure to work with. She handled the lead interview on show business stuff and I would sit alongside her and pitch in with a question or two, especially if she indicated she wanted me to.
I did the same for her. One day, one of the many guests we had on the schedule was Marlo Thomas, the daughter of comedian, Danny Thomas. During the course of the interview which was being handled exclusively by Jeanne, something happened that happens every so often; the interviewer hit a dry spot and didn’t really have a question ready. Jeanne looked at me sitting next to her and said, “Bob, do you have anything you’d like to ask Marlo?”
Well, Marlo had just commented to the television audience that she had a saying on the wall of her dressing room which was of great comfort to her. The saying was, “Remember: Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” So thinking I was doing the right thing, I picked up on that and said, “You know this might surprise people that someone like who is the daughter of a famous star and who is on television, would look to that for inspiration.”
Marlo looked annoyed and said, “Who are you to question whether I need inspiration or not? How dare you assume I don’t need any encouragement?” I must tell you when that happened I was stunned. I am very sensitive to vibes or vibrations. All my life I had, for better or worse, the gift of sensing when something bad is going to happen. In this case, unhappily, my gift was working and the very next day I was told that several big name guests who had been scheduled for the remainder of the week had canceled.
As a matter of fact, Jane Fonda wasted no time in letting the management of KHJ know why she was not going to be on the show even though she was being promoted as a guest for the next day. My sense of doom grew and by the time Friday came, I got the word from a nice guy whose last name was Baker. He said the usual: “Bob, we are going to go in a different direction and beginning Monday you are being replaced by Regis Philbin!”
Now you know the rest of the story. By the way, Regis appeared on my 50th anniversary in radio program and neither he nor I mentioned what happened that July in 1970 in Los Angeles!