Thursday April 28, 2016 – Kelly Ripa has dominated the entertainment news cycle for the last week after she walked off “Live! With Kelly and Michael,” angry that Disney-ABC executives left her out of the loop about co-host Michael Strahan departing for “Good Morning America.”
Ripa gave a candid monologue upon her return Tuesday, where she wryly noted that this story has spiraled out of control — though also acknowledged that she needed a couple days to process the big changes, which is why she took time off. “After 26 years with this company, I earned the right,” Ripa said.
That number may have caught you by surprise, but it’s true — before Ripa joined Regis Philbin behind the “Live!” desk in February 2001, she joined the network’s soap opera “All My Children” back in 1990. While you might think corporate synergy is the reason Ripa landed the coveted gig with Reege, there was actually a twist to the story that helped her get the job in the first place.
As Philbin writes in his 2011 autobiography “How I Got This Way,” he and executive producer Michael Gelman were mulling ideas for his new co-host after Kathie Lee Gifford departed in 2000. They remembered that Ripa (at the time starring as Hayley on “All My Children”) was particularly delightful as a guest– or, in Philbin’s words, had “a natural, quick-witted, unaffected, confident, fun-loving kind of sparkle” about her.
“It came from, frankly, such an unexpected source — I mean, a young soap opera actress?” Philbin wrote, adding, “usually that kind of easy conversational spark is innate only in a special breed of broadcaster types.”
On Nov. 1, 2000, they invited Ripa, a “smiling, petite ball of fire,” for a tryout. Things were already going well, and then the guest that day happened to be a Los Angeles psychic named Char Margolis. The psychic started talking to Ripa about her beloved late grandmother. Ripa had tears in her eyes as Margolis talked about how Ripa’s grandmother watches over her family. Then the psychic said, “She’s going to watch over you when this new baby comes.”
All of a sudden, Ripa froze.
“It’s soon, it’s not far away,” the psychic said. She paused. “You’re not pregnant yet, are you?” Seeing the look on Ripa’s face, the psychic got concerned. “Uh oh.”
“Excuse me,” Philbin piped up. “Are you expecting?”
Ripa started to nervously laugh/hyperventilate. Finally, she burst out, “I haven’t told my boss yet!”
Cue gasps as Ripa revealed her second pregnancy on air, to the surprise of everyone; Philbin wrote she had only told a handful of close family and friends at the time. (Yes, you cynics who think this moment was staged, we believe in Reege.) Obviously, Philbin and the producers were already big fans of Ripa, but that crazy incident ensured she was at the top of their list of potential co-hosts. Unsurprisingly, she got the job.
On the “Live! With Regis and Kelly” 10th anniversary special, Gelman invited the psychic back to the stage. “Char, of course, is the reason that I got my job here, I’m convinced,” Ripa told the audience. “I really am convinced that you’re the reason I wound up getting this job.”
In his book, Philbin agreed that the incident made Ripa hard to forget, even as she was ultimately the perfect choice for his co-host. “In the end, it could only be Kelly,” Philbin said. “We kind of knew that from her memorable debut onward. She was the right choice and really the only choice.”