Regis Philbin dead at 88; TV icon was best known for hosting ‘Live’ and ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’

July 25, 2020

by Frances Dalton

Regis Philbin (Photo by Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Amazon)

Longtime TV personality Regis Philbin died of natural causes in his New York home on July 24, 2020. He was 88.

Philbin’s family issued this statement to Variety: “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.”

Born in New York City on August 25, 1931, Philbin was known for his affable manner with touches of sarcasm. He was most famous for co-hosting the syndicated talk show “Live” and for hosting ABC’s original U.S. incarnation of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

After graduating from Notre Dame University and serving a brief stint in the U.S. Navy, Philbin started his TV career in the 1950s as a page forNBC’s “The Tonight Show.” He worked in local TV news for several years, and then hosted local TV talk shows in various cities, such as Los Angeles and St. Louis. In 1964 to 1965, he starred in the short-lived nationally syndicated “The Regis Philbin Show,” and he became a sidekick/announcer on “The Joey Bishop Show” in 1967.

“Live” began in 1983 as the 90-minute “The Morning Show” on the WABC-TV, the ABC affiliate in New York City, with Philbin co-hosting with Cyndy Garvey. In 1984, the show was renamed “Live” and pared down to a 60-minute format with co-host Ann Abernathy. In 1988, “Live” became a nationally syndicated show, with Katie Lee Gifford as co-host, and renamed “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee.”

Philbin co-hosted the show with Gifford co-hosted the show, until Gifford left in 2000. From 2000 to 2001, Philbin was the show’s only permanent host with a revolving set of guest co-hosts until Kelly Ripa became the permanent co-host in 2001, and the show was renamed “Live With Regis and Kelly.” Philbin left the show in 2011 to go into semi-retirement, and he was replaced by Michael Strahan. Strahan left “Live” in 2016 to join ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and was replaced by Ryan Seacrest in 2017.

From 1999 to 2003, he hosted ABC’s primetime game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” He hosted ABC game show “The Neighbors,” which lasted from 1975 to 1976. Philbin also made numerous guest TV appearances on other shows over the years, usually portraying himself (or a version of himself) in scripted shows.

Philbin holds the Guinness World Record for the most hours on camera (more than 16,700 hours) for any individual on U.S. television.

He is survived by his second wife, Joy Senese Philbin (who was often a guest host on “Live”), who was married to Regis since 1970; their two daughters Joanna and Jennifer; and his son Daniel and daughter Amy, from his first marriage to Catherine “Kay” Faylen, whom he was married to from 1955 to 1968.

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