Sunday, July 26, 2020

He is Wiki's One Word Answer to @NDLoyal

On the same day that Regis Philbin '53 left for Heaven -- I received a big box from his longtime agent, Kenny DeCamillo...

Kenny had reached out to my boss at Notre Dame (Lou Nanni) a week or so earlier and asked if we could do anything with some of Regis' old TV footage and photographs for Joy and the family.  Lou directed Kenny to me and I obviously replied that we would put together a video tribute to Regis...

Little did I know what would happen a few days later.

I had the honor of a few encounters with Regis over my eight + years here at the University of Notre Dame.  The story I'll never forget was my first time.  Here it goes...

It was in the Fall of 2012 -- a September football weekend at Notre Dame.  We had created an event for the Love Thee Notre Dame initiative and Regis had agreed to be our MC (see video above).

So, that Saturday morning I rode out in a vehicle to be the Regis' welcoming party at the airport.  We pulled the car right up next to the private plane the University had sent to NYC to bring Regis home to Notre Dame.  I got out of the car and as soon as the door opens to the plane and Regis sees me -- he says this, as only he could:


It felt like one of his monologues or famous rants from his Live with Regis and Kelly show on TV.  I responded -- "yes they did!"  And he proceeds down the steps of the plane and into the back seat of the vehicle -- sitting alongside me.  He had his script in hand for the show and we spent the 19 minute drive to campus going over all of the names of the people he would be introducing an interviewing during the show that morning.
  • All the way -- he's "doing Regis" while he struggles with the names -- entertaining both the driver of the vehicle and me...

When we arrived at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, we did a quick run through of the show on stage and then I immediately escorted him to his "green room" to await the start of the show.  My plan was to just get Regis situated, and then leave to take my seat inside the Leighton Concert Hall.  I didn't want to miss the surprise opening to the show -- see video below.

Well, as I was getting ready to leave -- Regis says to me "where are you going?"  I explained my plans and he proceeds to tell me -- "I want you to hang with me..."

The next 39 minutes (while we waited for him to take the stage) is a time I will never forget -- here I was alone with the guy who has spent more hours in front of a LIVE TV camera than anyone, in the history of time -- and Regis regales me with story after story about his Notre Dame.  It was pure magic.

A few months later, I was invited to an event in Detroit, it was the 90th birthday party of a very wealthy family friend and guess who was the hired entertainment -- Regis Philbin.  Well, Regis had been tipped off that I was in the audience -- so when he came walking out on stage he made a point of letting everyone in the room know that his "good friend from Notre Dame, Jim Small was in the audience tonight..."

I didn't deserve that.  However, my presence gave him the opportunity to talk about his great love, the University of Notre Dame -- in the middle of Wolverine and Spartan country.  That was Regis Philbin.

When you think about the billions of people who have walked this planet -- there are very few who are widely recognized by just one name.  Regis accomplished that.

What the Notre Dame family will always love -- and will always miss about our REGIS -- is he aligned his name, his brand with Notre Dame.  Just see all of the tributes flowing his way -- they all talk about his love for Notre Dame.

Regis, you were and always will be -- the Wikipedia "one word" answer to ND Loyal.  

May you forever lead the cheers for your Fighting Irish in Heaven's Notre Dame section and Heaven TV's morning show...

Domer Achonwa Given WNBA's Staley Award

Not surprised...