Regis Philbin, legendary entertainer and TV personality, passed away over the weekend at the age of 88. Philbin had the kindly demeanor of everyone’s favorite neighbor, and that soft charisma carried him through six decades of show business.
Philbin made his name as a morning show host, especially when his show with Kathie Lee Gifford became syndicated nationwide in the late 1980s. He hosted the show for decades, first with Gifford, and later with Kelly Rippa.
If morning TV wasn’t your jam, you probably know Philbin as a game show host, as he was the host for the wildly popular American version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
“I got a tape of the show and said, ‘My gosh, this has hit all over it. Someone walks off the street and wins a million bucks?!’ I just loved the whole format,” he told the Associated Press. “I wasn’t even on the ABC list. I had to pitch pretty hard to even be considered for it.”
Philbin did more than 400 episodes as the host. On top of it all, he was a constant guest and guest host for scores of other TV shows. It seems that everyone who met Regis has nothing but good things to say about the guy (I met him at a Notre Dame football game in 1994 and it all checks out) and the tributes began pouring in Saturday.
David Letterman praised Philbin (a frequent guest) as one of the TV giants, in the same category as Johnny Carson.
Regis is in the same category as Carson. Superlative. He was on our show a million times, always the best guest we ever had, charming, lovable and could take a punch. When he retired I lost interest in television. I love him.
— Letterman (@Letterman) July 25, 2020
Kelly and Ryan (who host the show Regis made popular) released a joint statement about his passing.
“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 every day on Live for more than 23 years. We were beyond lucky to have him as a mentor….he left the world a better place.”
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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 every day on Live for more than 23 years. We were beyond lucky to have him as a mentor in our careers and aspire every day 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
Regis Philbin is such a TV icon he owns the Guinness World Record for most live TV. And in maybe the truest testament to how beloved he was, he earned gushy tributes from politicians on both sides of the aisle, as both the President and New York governor Andrew Cuomo wrote warm remembrances on Twitter.
Kathie Lee Gifford, his longtime co-host, released a statement on Instagram about how much she treasured their relationship, closing it by saying “there has never been anyone like him. And there never will be.”
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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.
And finally, here’s a great Regis moment from Millionaire:
This is one of the greatest game show moments in TV history.
John Carpenter was the first winner of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ causing Regis Philbin and all of America to smile. pic.twitter.com/viMCJARg6d
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) July 26, 2020