Regis Philbin, legendary television personality and talk show host, dies at 88
Legendary talk show host and three-time Daytime Emmy winner Regis Philbin has died at the age of 88.
Philbin's family said in a statement to PEOPLE that the TV icon died on Friday. "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," the statement said. "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."
A New York native, Notre Dame graduate, and U.S. Navy veteran, Philbin was all but destined to be a talk show host. His career in entertainment started as an NBC page for The Tonight Show, before he would eventually end up as announcer on the Johnny Carson-led program. In 1967, he came to national attention on ABC's late-night series The Joey Bishop Show, playing Bishop's sidekick (and unexpected fill-in when the host walked out after learning the show was canceled). It wasn't until he took over as co-host of New York City's The Morning Show in 1985 that Philbin met the other half of what would become a storied partnership, the perky yang to his lovable-curmudgeon yin, Kathie Lee Gifford. The series was so popular it went into national syndication in 1988 under a new name: Live With Regis and Kathie Lee, a partnership that would last until Gifford departed in 2000.
If Philbin's brand of morning chat hit airwaves too early for some, audiences got to know Philbin in absentia at night, when Saturday Night Live's Dana Carvey and Darrell Hammond began doing impressions of him. (It wasn't the last time he was copied — the trend of wearing suit ties and dress shirts in precisely the same shade was a Philbin original.) Philbin’s career escalated in the ‘90s and ‘00s as he did guest appearances on numerous sitcoms, found a new Live co-host in daytime soap actress Kelly Ripa, and became the face of the American version of the primetime game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Philbin worked so much, in fact, that he earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2004 for the "most hours on camera."
“I had my years of struggling. Some of my shows failed miserably, and I was upset by it and it dented my confidence,” Philbin told AARP in a 2011 interview. “But I never stopped. I kept going for it. And when I returned to New York from Los Angeles, I mean, it was make it or not — that was my last chance. And what a great chance it was, to make it in my own hometown. I knew by that point in my life that I had to be live on television. I couldn't have anybody writing for me; that didn't make sense. I couldn't deliver a joke if you asked me to. It would have to be live and spontaneous. And that's what I was able to have in New York, at 9 o'clock in the morning, and people all over the country seemed to respond to it.”
After more than 10 years with Ripa, Philbin officially departed Live With Regis and Kelly in 2011. He wouldn’t stay away from TV, though, serving as host of Fox Sports’ short-lived Crowd Goes Wild, while also occasionally reuniting with Gifford as a contributor and guest host on Today With Kathie Lee and Hoda.
Philbin is survived by his wife, Joy, and their daughters, J.J. and Joanna. He is also survived by daughter Amy Philbin, from his first marriage to Catherine Faylen. Philbin and Faylen had another child, son Daniel, who died in 2014.