Regis Francis Xavier Philbin, elfin television presenter and former sidekick of Rat Packer Joey Bishop, exited the closed set of our world on July 24th at the tender age of 88. Regis was unique in that he was genuinely beloved by a broad range of people, and was an ebullient, welcome presence on the small screen for literally decades.
I am now in the unique position of confessing that in 1996, I secretly attempted to form a cult around him.
You wanna know how to tell if a city is your home? When terrible things happen to you there, and it never occurs to you to leave. You don’t abandon your home. You stay and tough it out.
There was a night during my stay in Fulton County Jail where all of us were herded into the rec area, so that the guards could search the ward for contraband. Apparently some inmates had been smoking weed in their cell. Since that cell was mine, and one of the inmates was me, I spent my time in the rec room deep in contemplation. As time wore on no quicker than molasses, we all started to chat to break the tension.
The cement room was sweltering. The walls were nine feet high, rimmed with cyclone fencing. If I jumped vertically, I could catch a glimpse of the glimmering Atlanta skyline I missed so terribly. This was soothing. Some of the inmates I’d befriended took notice, and I eagerly explained myself. It was the first view of the city I’d had in a month.