Regis Philbin on Sydney Omarr
Don’t tell him astrology is not an exact science
Mr. Philbin has collected many of the best stories in a new book called “How I Got This Way.” For example, when Mr. Philbin got his first shot at national television, he thought a good gag would be to invite the famous astrologer Sydney Omarr as his first guest to predict how the show would fare.
“He says the show’s not going to make it,” Regis recalled.
And indeed it did struggle. But when he was told that the show was renewed, “I got cocky,” Mr. Philbin said. He invited the astrologer back.
“Sydney says, ‘I hate to be the bearer of bad news every time I see you, but the show’s going to go off in 48 hours.’ ”
It was canceled 36 hours later.
Mr. Omarr returned when Mr. Philbin’s three-year stint as late-night sidekick for Joey Bishop was ending. Mr. Philbin asked the astrologer for predictions on Mr. Bishop’s career future (dim) and Mr. Philbin’s.
“He tells me I’m going to become a household name,” Mr. Philbin recounted. “When? I ask. Six months? A year? No, he says, 20 years.”
The kicker to the story is that “Live” began to click in New York and syndication just about 20 years later.
Mr. Philbin almost didn’t take the job. He had been a success in Los Angeles on a local morning show before giving it up to try a national show for NBC. That flopped quickly, leaving Mr. Philbin without work. Still, he resisted reviving the plan of a show in New York because despite being a child of the Bronx, he disliked the winters.
But he took it. It was 1983, and his co-host of what was then called “The Morning Show” was Cyndy Garvey. She was followed by a woman named Ann Abernathy, who left in 1985 and the Kathie Lee era began. For 15 years Mr. Philbin jousted in the mornings with Kathie Lee Gifford. Ms. Ripa has been his partner for the last 11.
“They were both live wires,” Mr. Philbin said. “Both could tell a good story and both laughed easily.”
Regis Philbin is an honorary inductee in the Righter-Omarr Astrology Hall of Fame
Sydney Omarr: Author & Astrologer to the Stars Wrote World’s Best-Read Horoscopes
American writer and journalist, a nationally syndicated astrologer and newspaper columnist. Omarr is the author of “My World of Astrology,” 1965, and 12 annual sun-sign paperback books with indications for the year. Frequently seen on TV, he is a poised, erudite and articulate guest on interview shows, also well-versed in numerology. With a production line of columns and books for the general public, he added “World Famous Psychic” to his dossier in 2001 with phone numbers listed in pulp papers for the convenience of those seeking his advice.
In 1996, with more than 40 million copies of his books in print and a column in 300 daily newspapers, Omarr published his memoirs, “Answer in the Sky – Almost.” It is written as a series of anecdotes of his adventures in the world of astrology. He makes no secret of his contempt for academic snobbery and exposes incidents of scientific “cover-ups” that exclude the historic prevalence of the astrological method.
The son of a grocer and a housewife, Sydney was performing sleight-of-hand tricks in magic shops at age 15 and local talent shows when he changed his name. His interest in astrology and numerology began at that time and he sold his first self-published booklet for $2.00. At 17, he enlisted in the Army. A year later, he was transferred to Okinawa, where he became the first and only GI assigned astrology duty.
After the service, he attended journalism courses at Mexico City College and went on to become a reporter for United Press. One of his first assignments was to interview the governor of California at the time, Sagittarius Goodwin Knight, about some pending legislation.
He sold his first book, “Sydney Omarr’s Private Course on Numerology” and began analyzing the charts of movie stars in magazines. One of his proudest moments was his three-hour debate on Philadelphia radio station WPEN the night of 6/21/1951, with astronomer Roy K. Marshall, then director of the Fels Planetarium. The confrontation brought Omarr to the attention of astronomers and science writers, and elevated his public image as a skillful protagonist, helping to make him a star.
By the early 1970s, Omarr was publishing several books a year, and appearing regularly on TV talk shows hosted by Virgo Regis Philbin, Leo Mike Douglas, Cancer Merv Griffin and Libra Johnny Carson. He also threw legendary parties for fawning celebrities and glamorous women in his home at that time, a Santa Monica condominium overlooking the waves.
Nearly all of the women in his life remain close friends. Among them is Virgo Jeraldine Saunders, a former fashion model and television producer who was Omarr’s wife in 1966 for eight months.
At age 76, Omarr showed remarkable spirit and zest for his work with syndicated publications. Paralyzed by multiple sclerosis, the world’s most widely read astrologer is blind and paralyzed from the neck down. Working with his editorial advisor, Capricorn Valerie Barbeaux, Omarr dictates daily from his bed. The walls at his Westside apartment are covered with signed photographs of movie stars and public figures. In an adjacent room, assistant and friend Sagittarius Paul Smalls organizes Omarr’s daily pay-per-call telephonic astrological forecasts, and assembling material for the 13 books – one for each sign of the zodiac and one for the entire year – that his boss writes annually. His books have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, making him a wealthy man.
Rarely granting interviews, he appears confident yet modest, part mystic and part everyday-Joe. His disease of M.S., diagnosed in 1971, robbed him of his sight in the early ‘90s. His column still appears in more than 200 daily newspapers.
The old master died on 1/02/2003 at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica after a heart attack, his ex-wife and friends at his side.