TV personality and host Regis Philbin dies at 88

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NEW YORK – Regis Philbin, the brilliant host who has shared his life with viewers over morning coffee for decades and helped himself and some fans get rich on the game show ‘Who wants become a millionaire ”, died at the age of 88. Philbin died of natural causes on Friday evening, just over a month before his 89th birthday, according to a statement from his family provided by manager Lewis Kay.

Celebrities regularly stopped by Philbin’s eponymous morning show, but his heart was in the first 15 minutes, when he and co-host Kathie Lee Gifford – on “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee ”from 1985 to 2000 – or Kelly Ripa – on“ Live! with Regis and Kelly ”from 2001 until his 2011 retirement – joked about the events of the day. Viewers scoffed at Philbin’s mock outrage for not getting the best seat in a restaurant the night before or being stung by his partner.

“Even I have a little worry,” he told The Associated Press in 2008, when asked how he does a show every day. “You wake up in the morning and say, ‘What did I do last night that I can talk about? What’s new in the newspaper? How are we going to fill those 20 minutes? ”

“I’m not going to say that it always works great, but somehow we connect more often than we don’t,” he added.

After embarking on an entertainment career parking cars at a Los Angeles TV station, Philbin logged over 15,000 hours on the air, earning him recognition in the Guinness Book of Records. in the world for the most recorded broadcast times by a TV personality, a record before. owned by Hugh Downs.

“Every day you see the broken record, buddy! Philbin would tell viewers. ” One hour more! ”

He hosted the prime-time ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ game show, briefly the most popular TV show at the turn of the century. ABC airs the family program as often as five times a week. It generated about $ 1 billion in revenue in its first two years – ABC had said it was the highest grossing show in television history – and helped make Philbin himself a millionaire on several occasions.

Philbin’s question to the candidates: “Is this your final answer?” Has become a national slogan. Philbin was even a fashion pioneer; he pulled out a line of monochramactic shirts and ties to match what he was wearing on set.

“You wait a lifetime for something like that and sometimes it never happens,” Philbin told the AP in 1999.

In 2008, he returned briefly to the trivia game format with “Million Dollar Password”. He also won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daytime Emmys.

He was the type of TV personality that was easy to laugh at and love.

When his son Danny first met his future wife, “we were talking about our families,” Danny told USA Today. “I said, ‘You know that Regis and Kathie Lee show? And she said, “I hate this show. And I said, “He’s my father.” ”

Yet Philbin was the favorite of the ironic icon of a younger generation, David Letterman. When Letterman announced he was due to have heart surgery, it was on air to Philbin, who was also there for Letterman’s first day after his recovery.

Letterman returned the favor, appearing on Philbin’s show when he returned to the air in April 2007 after undergoing heart bypass surgery.

In the 2008 AP interview, Philbin said he considered “getting the most out of your guests” to be “a specialty. … Time constraints mean you have to get right to the point, you have to make it work, get publicized, start over. Play this clip. Say goodbye. He gave his office a decisive rap.

“And make it all conversational.”

Regis Francis Xavier Philbin grew up in the New York borough of the Bronx, the son of Italian-Irish parents and named after the Roman Catholic high school his father attended. He went to Notre Dame University and was such an enthusiastic elder that he once said he wanted his ashes to be scattered there.

After leaving the Navy in 1955, Philbin went to a meeting with the KCOP-TV station master in Los Angeles. He got a job in the car parking lot, then progressed into the job as a machinist, courier, editor and producer of a sports TV show. When his sports leader did not show up one day, Philbin replaced him.

Philbin had much more on-air experience in San Diego in the early 1960s, when KOGO-TV began producing “The Regis Philbin Show” for a national audience. The music and celebrity talk program was taped two weeks before each broadcast. It was canceled after four months.

In 1967, Philbin was hired as announcer and comic book sidekick Joey Bishop on his network show. When he learned he was going to be fired due to poor ratings, Philbin tearfully announced that he was leaving on July 12, 1968, walking away on a live broadcast. He returned three days later after the influx of letters of support.

He and Bishop had bad blood: Bishop called Philbin “ungrateful” for walking away during a salary dispute and after denigrating him.

Philbin’s second wife, Joy, was Bishop’s assistant.

After three years of commuting to St. Louis each week for a local Saturday night show, Philbin became a star on local morning television – first in Los Angeles, then in New York. In 1985, he teamed up with Kathie Lee Johnson, a year before his marriage to former football star Frank Gifford, and the show went national in 1988.

Philbin’s “sarcastic playfulness” endears him to fans, Good Housekeeping magazine wrote in 2000.

“He’s the little guy who protests against the injustices of life, from waves of crime to paper clippings,” the magazine writes. “The rantings are punctuated by Kathie Lee’s familiar cry of ‘Oh, Reege’, uttered sometimes in brotherly sympathy and sometimes in scolding of teachers.

The sweet bickering and exasperation of Philbin and Gifford’s on-screen relationship were familiar to anyone in a long-lasting relationship.

“No arguments, no harsh words all this time,” Philbin told a theater audience in 2000. “Well, there was time that I didn’t talk to him for two weeks. I didn’t want to interrupt him.

Gifford left the show in 2000. After a probationary period for a replacement, soap star Ripa (“All My Kids”) filled the slot.

The same scammer who parked cars in Hollywood worked just as hard to land the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” job.

“I begged my way,” he told People magazine. “There was a short list, and I wasn’t on it. I called my agent and we launched a full assault on ABC in LA ”

Audiences responded to Philbin’s warm and comedic touch in the role. He later jokingly called himself the man who saved ABC. It wasn’t complete hyperbole: ABC was suffering in the odds before the game became a smash hit. Forbes reported that two-thirds of ABC’s operating profit in 2000 was due to “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.”

Philbin seemed to love every minute. Even the ultimate hip arbiter, the MTV Video Awards, asked her to make an appearance.

“Better to be warm,” he told the AP. ” It’s funny. I know this job. I was perfectly happy with my morning show. People would ask me, “What’s next? ” There is nothing else. There are no more mountains to climb. Believe me when I tell you, all I wanted when I started this show in 1961 was to be a nationwide hit.

The prime-time game quickly ran out due to overuse and ended in 2002.

Philbin had a parallel career as a singer that began when he sang “Pennies from Heaven” to Bing Crosby on the Bishop show. He said a record company called him the next day and made an album.

Although the series “Regis Philbin’s Health Styles”, on Lifetime in the 1980s, was part of his long CV, Philbin had health problems. Doctors performed angioplasty to relieve a blocked artery in 1993. He had bypass surgery in 2007 at age 75.

He is survived by his wife, Joy, and their daughters JJ and Joanna Philbin, as well as daughter Amy Philbin with his first wife, Catherine Faylen, according to People.

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