Stick a flag pole in your yard, yank your TV out of your living room, and fly it at half-mast on that pole, because the world has lost a television icon. This one has thrown me because I thought Regis would outlive us all. But sadly, Regis Philbin died this morning. He was 88.
Regis’ family confirmed the news of his death in a statement to People:
“We are deeply saddened to share that our beloved Regis Philbin passed away last night of natural causes, one month shy of his 89th birthday. His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him – for his warmth, his legendary sense of humor, and his singular ability to make every day into something worth talking about. We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss.”
Regis was fighting with that horrible demon know as heart disease for a while and had triple-bypass surgery in 2007 and underwent an angioplasty procedure in the 90s. TMZ is hearing that Regis died of a heart attack at his home in Manhattan. All together now: NOT REEG!
Regis Philbin (born name: Regis Francis Xavier Philbin) was born in the Bronx on August 25, 1931. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame and spending some time in the Navy, he started his legendary television career as a page for The Tonight Show in 1955. Seven years later, he was an announcer on The Tonight Show.
Regis worked on local TV before joining ABC’s The Joey Bishop Show as Joey Bishop’s sidekick in 1967. They were up against Johnny Carson who beat them in the ratings. So after hearing that the network was blaming Regis for the show’s ratings, he and Joey gambled by coming up with a STUNT QUEEN stunt. During one episode, Regis went off about not being wanted and walked off the show. Yes, Regis was the original Inetta the Moodsetta. The stunt worked and the network called Regis the next week and asked him to come back after his walk-off got so much attention. Regis talked about it later on:
When The Joey Bishop Show got canceled in 1969, Joey returned the favor and quit on air, leaving Regis to host the rest of the show.
Regis hosted several local morning shows, including A.M. Los Angeles with Sarah Purcell and then Cyndy Garvey, before doing The Morning Show for WABC-TV in NYC. Regis’ co-host was Cyndy Garvey, and eventually, the dynamic morning duo of Regis and Kathie Lee was born when Kathie Lee Gifford became his new co-host in 1985. The ratings went up and the show was nationally syndicated in 1988 as Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. That masterpiece of a morning show made me realize I was a middle-aged housewife trapped in the body of a baby gay because watching that visual cup of pure caffeine was one of the highlights of the days when I faked sick to stay home from school.
Regis and Kathie Lee perked up the hell out of mornings together until 2000 when Kathie Lee left in a beautiful corny bubble of glory:
Regis did the show on his own with guest co-hosts until 2001 when Kelly Ripa officially took the chair next to his. WARNING: Kelly Ripa says the word “moist” in this clip.
Regis and Kelly did the show together for 10 years. Regis left in 2011 and Michael Strahan took over for him.
Regis was also a seasoned game show host. He hosted a few game shows including, of course, the American version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which started off as a special in 1999 and became a full-on evening show that ran from 2000 to 2002. Regis hosted the entire time, as well as coming back for a couple of special events in 2004 and 2009. In 2002, Meredith Viera became host of the daily version.
Regis also hosted the first season of America’s Got Talent and was on a million more shows. Regis graced our television screens so much that in 2004, he got the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours at that time). Hugh Downs was the previous record holder.
Regis won Emmys for both Live! and Millionaire and was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daytime Emmys in 2008.
I also remember Regis being a commercial king. He was in commercials for everything from Aspercreme to Jenny Craig to Harvest Crisp Crackers, which he did with his wife Joy Philbin:
Regis and Joy were married for 50 years. Regis had four children: Amy and Daniel from his first marriage, and Joanna and J.J., his daughters with Joy.
Rest in peace, Regis. Thank you for all the entertainment. I’m sure you’re jokingly yelling at the angels right now.
UPDATE: Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, who co-hosts Live! with her, gave a joint tribute to Regis on her Instagram.
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We are beyond saddened to learn about the loss of Regis Philbin. He was the ultimate class act, bringing his laughter and joy into our homes everyday on Live for more than 23 years. We were beyond lucky to have him as a mentor in our careers and aspire everyday to fill his shoes on the show. We send our deepest love and condolences to his family and hope they can find some comfort in knowing he left the world a better place. – Kelly and Ryan
And Kathie Lee also paid tribute to Regis.
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There are no words to fully express the love I have for my precious friend, Regis. I simply adored him and every day with him was a gift. We spent 15 years together bantering and bickering and laughing ourselves silly—a tradition and a friendship we shared up to this very day. I smile knowing somewhere in Heaven, at this very moment, he’s making someone laugh. It brings me great comfort knowing that he had a personal relationship with his Lord that brought him great peace. I send all the love in my heart to Joy, to his children, to the rest of his family and to the innumerable people he touched over his legendary life. There has never been anyone like him. And there never will be.