- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 9, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) —Kathie Lee who?
Ratings for Regis Philbin's daily talk show have been soaring since his former co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford, departed on July 28, eliminating any real urgency to replace her.
The first three weeks of "Live With Regis" this summer had 26 percent more viewers than the same three weeks of "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Since Miss Gifford's tearful departure after 15 years next to Mr. Philbin on the syndicated chat show, he's worked with a succession of guests — including Dolly Parton this week. Some are clearly trying out for the permanent gig.
Executive producer Michael Gelman says he is not really surprised by the ratings surge. Miss Gifford had her fans, but she is a polarizing figure, he says.
"When she said goodbye, it opened us up to a whole new audience of those who either might not have been fans or hadn't even thought about the show," he says.
Mr. Gelman and Mr. Philbin had already planned to take their time selecting a replacement. The Nielsen numbers mean their bosses won't be pressuring them to do otherwise.
The people responsible for the show have even discussed not naming a permanent co-host, he says.
"But I think we all at some point want to settle down with somebody," Mr. Gelman says. "It's nice to have the stability of one person. We're just not going to rush it because I don't think there's a need to."
Sarah Ferguson has been confirmed as a guest host next week, with Raquel Welch, Whoopi Goldberg and Gloria Estefan waiting in the wings. The week of Oct. 2, Mr. Philbin will work with unknowns who have sent in tapes applying for the job. Mr. Gelman says more than 1,000 applications were received before "Live With Regis" even asked for any.
He hasn't ventured a guess on when a permanent co-host will be in place.
"The downside of putting the wrong person there is much worse than just waiting and letting something organically develop," he says.

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