Where's ageism when you need it?
Regis Philbin leads the TV generation that will never retire
A common phrase in the entertainment industry, "break a leg," couldn't be more timely for lifetime TV talk show host Regis Philbin. On Tuesday, Philbin will go under the knife to have a blood clot in his leg removed.
The procedure follows a hip replacement in December 2009 and a triple bypass heart surgery in 2007.
"You're the human version of that game Operation," observed colleague Kelly Ripa of the 78-year-old former Who Wants to Be a Millionaire host.
Philbin's string of health upsets emphasizes his position in a long list of aging TV hosts — a talented generation of Great Depression-era talkers — who don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
The most iconic of aging media stars, Larry King, 76, is still revered as a premier broadcast interviewer, and has received recent media attention for his April 14 reconciliation with his seventh wife, singer Shawn Southwick-King, who is 26 years his junior.
Staking a claim at greatest geriatric female journalist is Barbara Walters, 80, an icon of sass and serious small talk since she debuted with CBS News in the 1950s (Her 1999 interview with Monica Lewinsky brought the highest rating ever for a journalist's interview). Her meddlesome position as Dictator for Life on The View is met with little opposition from her minions, which includes supposed houseboy Justin Bieber.
Also making the list of oldies-but-goodies is Andy Rooney, 91, who proudly declared last week, "I don't know who Lady Gaga is!" on antiquated TV news magazine 60 Minutes, where he has maintained his segment, "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" since 1978.
While the broadcast veterans bring an aspect of sage insight to the journalistic process, it's difficult not to ask: Why don't these people retire?
Houston hindsight points to investigative journalist Marvin Zindler, who maintained restaurant reports at his bedside until his 2007 death at the ripe age of 85, by which point he had endured countless phases of reconstructive surgery and perfected a tired method of reporting.
For better or worse, not all aging voices leap on the chance for a lift here and there, leaving them with an appearance that's more radio-ready than TV chic. For instance, it's a privilege to not have to see Rush Limbaugh's face daily. And does anyone really know what Garrison Keillor looks like?
Perhaps more celebrity TV hosts should take a page from talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who is preempting a national broadcast of her golden years in favor of launching The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), featuring classy reality shows surrounding Shania Twain's comeback and a competition for aspiring TV personalities.
Better yet, the group should observe the tactics employed by Betty White, 88, who makes strategic public appearances, keeping the public begging for more. Raspy Joan Rivers, 76, is still going strong with her 2009 win on Celebrity Apprentice and How'd You Get So Rich? series. Rivers is also the subject of the documentary A Piece of Work, which premiered May 6 at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Philbin's surgery comes a day after today's International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which is fitting since Walters herself highlighted the generation gap during a 2007 20/20 segment on transgender children, insinuating that being transgender is "not normal." To much acclaim, the video was later reformatted by gossip bloggers Rich Juzwiak and Tracie "Slut Machine" of Jezebel's "Pot Psychology" fame: