Regis Philbin, the former host of Live! with Regis and Kelly, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and America’s Got Talent, has died at the age of 88.
"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 shares told People in a statement. "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."
Philbin battled health issues over his life, including undergoing triple bypass surgery in 2007.
In 2004, Philbin was recognized for his Guinness World Record banking more than 16,000 hours in front of a TV camera. That year, he also filled in for Dick Clark on Dick Clark’s New Year Rocking Eve special.
Known for his charisma, and thick New York accent, the hosting legend began his career as a page on The Tonight Show, before being hired as a sidekick on The Joey Bishop Show in the 1950s. He later moved from New York City to Los Angeles where he landed a self-titled local talk show, but couldn’t afford writers, and struggled to gain viewers.
The native New Yorker married his first wife, Catherine "Kay" Faylen, in 1955. The couple welcomed two children, Amy and Daniel, but divorced in 1968. Two years later, Philbin married Joy Senese, with whom he had two more children, Joanna and Jennifer.
Philbin was born in the Bronx, New York to a U.S. Army Marine father and an Italian mother on Aug. 24, 1931. He graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in 1949, and went on to attend Notre Dame College where he earned a sociology degree in 1953.
Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, Philbin rotated hosting gigs including taking over for Steve Allen on The Steve Allen Show, although audiences didn’t quite connect with him. Philbin moved on to host The Neighbors game show for one season in 1975. He worked as a field reporter for Almost Anything Goes, and hosted the local news show, A.M. Los Angeles, from 1975 until 1981. Additionally, Philbin commuted from L.A. to St. Louis for the weekend talk show, Regis Philbin’s Saturday Night in St. Louis.
In 1981, Philbin and Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart were paired to host a short-lived NBC variety series. After the show was canceled, Philbin moved on to The Morning Show on New York City’s local ABC affiliate with co-host Cindy Garvey. Philbin joined former co-host Cindy Garvey on The Morning Show (an early version of Live! With Regis & Kathy Lee). After Garvey left the morning show, Philbin was paired with Kathie Lee Gifford, which resulted in a ratings bump. The show was renamed Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, and went into national syndication in 1988.
Philbin and Gifford worked side-by-side for more than two decades until she left the Live! in 2000. Philbin won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding co-host the following year.
Following a nationwide search for Gifford's replacement, former soap opera actress Kelly Ripa was named Philbin's co-host. The morning show was renamed Live! with Regis and Kelly and continued to soar in the ratings. “I think he is the world’s greatest storyteller,” Ripa gushed to The New York Times in 2011 about Philbin's ability to grab audiences. “That’s his gift.”
Despite their chemistry on TV, Philbin and Ripa stopped speaking after he exited the show in 2011. Michael Strayan was eventually hired to as Ripa’s co-host, and later Ryan Seacrest. “She [Rippa] got very offended when I left,” Philbin told Larry King at the time. “She thought I was leaving because of her. I was leaving because I was getting older and that wasn’t right for me anymore.”
In addition to a successful morning show, Philbin also hosted the inaugural seasons of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and America’s Got Talent. He went on to helm a short-lived revivals of the game shows This Is Your Life, and Million Dollar Password.
Speaking on the transition from morning to prime time Philbin once toldThe New York Times that the change in schedule marked a turning point.
“That was the highlight of my life,” he revealed. “I realized there was a difference between a syndicated morning show and prime time‘Regis saved the network!’ I used to walk around saying that. I was a big man! I was a giant! It was a wonderful time in a broadcaster’s life to get a show like that. Wow, it was dynamite.”
After ending his tenure on live morning television, Philbin played guest host for an episode of Pierce Morgan Tonight and The Daily Show before signing on as host of Crowd Goes Wild on Fox Sports. The show was cancelled in 2014. The following year, Philbin and Gifford reunite on Today with Kathie and Hoda. Philbin has made guest appearances on the show since 2015.
Philbin's infamously recognizable voice and years on morning TV turned him into an omnipresent pop culture figure. He made cameos in Miss Congeniality 2, Shrek the Third, Seinfeld, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, and The Simpsons, among other TV shows and films.
Philbin is survived by Senese, his four daughters, and grandchildren.