FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As people around the country take in the death of legendary T.V. host Regis Philbin, a longtime Fort Wayne radio personality is reminiscing on the time he got to co-host with Philbin.
Philbin’s family announced his death Saturday. He died Friday at the age of 88 of natural causes.
Andy Beckman, of WMEE fame, stopped at WANE 15 to share the story. He explained that the T.V. program Live with Regis and Kelly was missing it’s co-host Kelly Ripa, as she was on maternity leave. The show held a contest, Live’s American Co-Host Search, to find a one-day co-host for Philbin.
Beckman, who was senior at Ball State University at the time, happened to be in Los Angeles for spring break vacation. He heard about the contest, auditioned for a week, and won the contest. Beckman hosted the show with Philbin on April 16, 2003.
“It was a whole whirlwind experience,” Beckman said. “It was probably the fastest, best hour of my life. In a sense, it just led the way to a lot of things for my future. It helped me provide for my family and it led to a career that I’ve enjoyed for many, many years.”
Beckman, an Angola native, said the gig paved the path for his professional career in Fort Wayne radio. He worked for Majic 95.1 for several years before going on to host a popular morning show on WMEE for about a decade (through June 2020). He said people still remember the special appearance with Philbin.
“At the time it was what sort of rallied Northeast Indiana,” he said. “It galvanized the area. People who have lived here for the last 15 to 20 years probably remember the story and I still get folks who comment on it today, ‘Andy I’ve been listening to you on the radio for years and yes I voted for you when you were on Live with Regis and Kelly.’”
Reflecting on that day, Beckman said he and Philbin hadn’t talked before the show and all their interactions on air were spontaneous.
“I asked him during one of the commercial breaks, because I knew he was eyeing retirement, ‘What are you looking forward to most when you stop doing this?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Andy, I’m looking forward to not having to come up with something to talk about every day.’”
Beckman has great admiration for the life and career of the iconic T.V. host.
“To be interesting and to be captivating under national scrutiny for decades, I think that’s a real feat to be relatable like that for so long,” he said. “He was like all of us, saying the internal monologue of being a little snarly, grumpy and a little intense and that’s what he was, but he spoke to so many people for so long that you have to respect that.”
Philbin logged more than 15,000 hours on the air, earning him recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most broadcast hours logged by a TV personality.