TV host Regis Philbin spent more than 60 years in the entertainment industry and kept working in the field he loved up until he died on July 24, 2020. The native New Yorker was born in 1931 and raised in the city. After attending college at Notre Dame in the 1950s, he joined the Navy and then made a go at a TV career, starting as a page at NBC in NYC.
Philbin once told People that his first job as a page was with Tonight! at NBC. He recalled, “I looked at Steve Allen playing the piano, making jokes. Everyone was beautiful and talented. I thought, ‘What am I doing here? What can I do in this business?'” It was in 1961 when he got his own show, The Regis Philbin Show, that he actually started to find his footing as a host. But his stint on The Joey Bishop Show after that is what really made him a star.
Philbin went on to become one of the most recognizable and well-loved TV hosts in Hollywood history, earning numerous accolades and fans all over the world. Learn more about this legend’s life as you keep reading.
Regis Philbin spent decades hosting 'Live!'
One of Regis Philbin’s biggest roles was as the host of Live! His most notable co-host was Kathie Lee Gifford, and the pair teamed up in 1985 when the show was originally called The Morning Show (which he previously hosted with Cyndy Garvey). The name was eventually changed to Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, and they broadcasted into homes across the U.S. until Gifford left the show in 2000.
Gifford went on to be a host on Today with Hoda Kotb, and when she departed that show in 2018, she told Kotb that Philbin reached out to her to wish her well. She said on the show (via USA Today) that Philbin told her, “Kath, I’m so happy for you… There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the 15 years we spent together and how much I loved you.”
After Gifford’s exit from Live!, Philbin was paired up with Kelly Ripa until he left the show in 2011. Philbin said in a 2017 interview that he hadn’t spoken with Ripa since 2011, because his exit was a little bit uncomfortable. He told Larry King (via USA Today), “She got very offended when I left. She thought I was leaving because of her. I was leaving because I was getting older and it wasn’t right for me anymore.” For his work on Live!, Philbin earned multiple Daytime Emmy Awards and the Emmys Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
Regis Philbin could never escape his 'Millionaire' catchphrase
Regis Philbin made a huge impact on primetime television as well when he stepped in to host ABC’s game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? ABC was making plans to adapt the U.K. show for the U.S. when Philbin caught wind of it and threw his name in for host, but it wasn’t an easy sell, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “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. I wasn’t even on the ABC list. I had to pitch pretty hard to even be considered for it,” he recalled.
The show debuted in 1999 with Philbin as host and aired more than 400 episodes before going off the air in 2002. At the show’s peak, it was airing five hour-long episodes a week, eventually giving viewers a little bit of fatigue from overexposure. “When it went off, I thought that’s what you get for giving too much of it away to the audience,” Philbin told the Associated Press via THR.
Philbin won the 2001 Daytime Emmy Award for his role as the game show host, and he never escaped his catchphrase, “Is that your final answer?” for the rest of his life. He even stepped back into his Millionaire shoes in 2020 to take part in the celebrity special, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
Regis Philbin was married to his wife, Joy, for 50 years
Regis Philbin may be one of the most beloved TV hosts in Hollywood history, but he was also a devoted husband and father. He married his first wife, Catherine Faylen, in 1955 and the two had two children, Amy and Daniel, though Daniel died in 2014. Philbin and Faylen divorced in 1968 and Philbin went on to marry his second wife, Joy Philbin, in March 1970. They had two daughters, Joanna and Jennifer (also known as J.J.).
Philbin’s marriage to Joy lasted the entire rest of his life, and the two were madly in love for five decades. A source told Closer Weekly in early 2020 that Philbin worshipped the ground his wife walked on and has for 50 years. Aww! When the couple celebrated their 50th anniversary, the source also revealed that these two were known for celebrating their love all the time, saying, “They truly are best friends. Everyone loves Regis and Joy; they’re great company, have amazing stories, and they complement each other perfectly. It’s one of Hollywood’s longest lasting marriages and a true love story.”
When Philbin died on July 24, 2020 at age 88, he was survived by his wife, Joy, and his three children, Amy, Joanna, and Jennifer. He also leaves behind a TV legacy as a beloved host and award-winning entertainer who had a knack for making his viewers smile.
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