Book Review: “How I Got This Way” by Regis Philbin

Before reading this book, Regis came across to me as a normal talk show host who would make a big deal out of trivial events to fill the time and did it in such a dramatic way. After reading this, I came to appreciate his true talents that he’s always doubtful of himself throughout his career.

Like a good talk show host, he introduces in this books lots of people I’m not familiar with like:
1. Jack Paar: a big-time Tonight Show host before Johnny Carson who he tries to emulate and had a close relationship with until Paar’s death. I had to watch some old Youtube videos to see what’s he like.
2. Joey Bishop: a talk show host who Regis was his sidekick in the Joey Bishop show, competing with Johnny Carson on ABC network. Regis appeared to be not too crazy about Joey because Joey forced him to pretend quitting/walking out the show to get a jump on the rating. But Regis was appreciate of his giving him a break. He looked like a boy in those days.
3. John Severino: a revengeful boss who gave him a middle finger early in Regis’ career and later offered him the Live with Regis talk show in New York after he defected to ABC.

Some facts that I learned from this book:
1. Regis started the red carpet show on Oscar night before anyone else.
2. How accurate this astrologist, Sydney Omarr, predicted his success in 20 years which turned out to be true when he got his gig New York talk show more than 25 years ago.
3. Jack Nicolson is such a private person and has never been interviewed except for this one time he phoned Regis to invite him to a Lakers game.
4. George Steinbrenner’s superstition that caused him a lot of bladder pain when he had to stay while the Yankees went into over time and won the game. Funny story.
5. Dean Martin is someone he literally worshiped and admired as someone with so much talent and grace, working with Jerry Lewis. Dean’s spontaneity and great voice were still legendary. His last encounter with him in a Beverly Hill restaurant is something of a sad ending and yet he reminisced.
6. Regis had a lot of self doubt in the beginning of his career because his perception of “lack of talents” after seeing Steve Allen’s setting the high bar.
7. Regis has a strong tie with his alma mater, Notre Dame, which seemed to bring him lots of consolation during his lull.
8. Steven Spielberg was a young man who choked when interviewed by Regis.
9. Howard Stern was such a gentle soul when you live next to him and have a share the same elevator like Regis did.

At the end of each chapter, there are a couple of paragraphs on “what he took away from it all.” They are very true and sometimes funny. A couple of quotes here:
a. “To specifically label what you do best is to unfairly limit what you can do best.” “Just make sure you know what you absolutely cannot do. And don’t be afraid to admit it.”
b. Go ahead and take a chance on doing surprising things at work (as I did in the piggy bank story). Attention will be paid.” “There is no such a thing as a lowly job when you start in a particular business where you’ve always dreamed of succeeding.”
c. “Great things can happen much later than you might have hoped. But even then, great things are great – and always worth appreciating – so don’t give up.”
d. “Never stop saying thank you to the people who’ve made the biggest differences in your life. No matter how much it embarrassed them.”
e. “Learn what you can from old mistakes, but don’t dwell on them too long or you may miss out on truly great opportunities.”
f. “Loyalty to others tends to ensure that your loyalty will always be returned in kind.” “Know how to take a ribbing, especially from people who obviously care about you – as well as those who do it for a living and mean you no harm. (Don Rickles). It’s really a compliment that they though enough of you to talk about you in the first place.”
g. “In business, think first with your head, and soon enough your heart will follow the same path.”
h. “When difficult times arise, don’t lose sight of how far you’ve already come and of all the better times that have helped sustain you along the way.” “After a terrible setback, the true test is how you face the next day: Get up, show up and I promise you you’ll soon begin to cheer up.”
i. “Get yourself near people who exude great enthusiasm and watch how it rubs off on you.”
j. If you approach any task with perfection as your goal, it will always bring you that much closer to truly achieving it.”
k. “To become big, you cannot be afraid to play big – and to dream even bigger.” “Always keep self-doubt to yourself – as best you can. And never buy into it for very long.”
l. “The bigger you build your dreams, the more likely you are to take heat from detractors. Forget about the heat and just keep building.”
m. “Helping others will, more often than not, help yourself find a greater sense of fulfillment.” (Charles Grodin).
n. “Those who’ve shared the same health scares as you and eagerly comfort you along the way are the realest friend you can find.” (David Letterman)
o. If you are lucky enough to find the right one, you’ll know it. Then just hang on for dear life. Dearer life, really.” (Joy Philbin)

I really enjoyed this memoir. Regis is truly an icon who shared his life on live TV and shared his life lessons in this book. He’s a generous man.