Regis Francis Xavier Philbin or Regis Philbin (August 25, 1931-July 24, 2020) was an American media personality, actor and singer know for hosting talk and game shows. Having been called "the hardest working man in show business" Philbin holds the Guinness Book of World Record for the most ours on U.S. television. His trademarks included his excited manner, his New York accent, his wit and his irreverent ad-libs.
After graduating from the University of Norte Dame, he served in the U.S. Navy and got his television start serving as a page for The Tonight Show in the 1950s. Philbin gained his first network TV exposure in 1967 as Joey Bishop's sidekick on The Joey Bishop Show. Philbin is most widely known for having been co-host of the New York City-based national syndicated talk show Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee starting in 1988, which became Live! with Regis aand Kelly starting in 2001 and continued with former football player Michael Strahan after Philbin's departure in 2011.
Philbin debuted and hosted the US version Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Million Dollar Password and the first season of America's Got Talent.
Philbin was born on August 25, 1931 in Manhattan. His father, Francis "Frank" Philbin, a U.S. marine who served the Pacific, was of Irish heritage. His mother, Filomena "Florence" (nee Boscia) was froman Italian immigrant family of Arbereshe (ethnic Albanians from Italy) descent from Greci, Campania. Philbin had a Catholic upbringing. He was supposedly named "Regis" because his father wanted him to attend his alma mater, the prestigious Regis High School. It was long believed that Philbin was an only child, but on the February 1, 2007 broadcast of Live! with Regis and Kelly, Philbin announced that he did have a brother, Frank L. Philbin (March 1, 1951 - January 27, 2007) who has died from non-Hodgkin lymphoma several days earlier. Philbin said his brother, 20 years younger than he, had asked not to be mentioned on television in the press.
Philbin was raised in the Van Nest neighborhood of The Bronx. He attended Our Lady of Solace grammar school and graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School before attending the University of Norte Dame, from which he graduated in 1953 with a sociology degree. He later served in the United States Navy as a supply officer, then went through a few behind-the-scenes jobs in television and radio before moving into the broadcasting arena.
In his earliest show business work, Philbin was a page on The Tonight Show in 1955. Later he wrote for Los Angeles-based talk show host Tom Duggan and nervously filled in one night when the hard-drinking Duggan didn't show up. He was also an announcer on Th Tonight Show in 1962. In 1957, Philbin left his job as assistant news editor to Baxter Ward at KCOP, Los Angeles to make his fortune in New York City. His replacement at KCOP was George Van Valkenburg.
His first talk show was The Regis Philbin Show on KOGO-TV (now KGTV) in San Diego. For financial reasons, he had no writing staff, so he began each show with what became his hallmark, the "host chat" segment (influenced by Jack Paar) where he engaged his audience (and later his co-host) in discussions about his life and the day's events. In 1964, Westinghouse Broadcasting picked up Philbin's talk show for national syndication in the late night time slot (replacing Steve Allen). The show failed to attract many stations and Westinghouse replaced Philbin with Merv Griffin.
Philbin gained his first network TV exposure in 1967 as Joey Bishop's sidekick on The Joey Bishop Show on television (1967-1969). In a Johnny Carson-Ed McMahon vein, Bishop would playfully tease Philbin and he would take the barbs in stride. But his feelings were hurt when he learned from the network grapevine that ABC executives were dissatisfied with his work and thick accent, so during the opening of one 1968 program, he launched an unplanned diatribe about "not being wanted and letting down" the program and abruptly quit on air. A few night later, assured by Bishop that was well and the barbs were not personal, Philbin returned. As revealed in his 1995 book I'm Only One Man!, this was actually a publicity stunt planned by Bishop and Philbin beforehand. He reiterates this assertion in his 2011 memoir How I Got This Way explaining that it was intended to draw in some of Johnny Carson's viewers. When The Joey Bishop Show was cancelled, Bishop returned the favor and walked off the show on the air unannounced, leaving Philbin to successfully carry the night on his own.
Talk Show Career
In 1964, Philbin took over the show that replaced The Steve Allen Show after Steve Allen left. the audience did not accept Philbin as a replacement for Allen's zany antics and the appearance lasted only a little over four months because of dismal ratings, especially as compared to Johnny Carson in the same time slot. Nevertheless, Philbin has cited Carson as an influence.
From 1975 to 1981, he co-hosted A.M. Los Angeles, a local morning talk show on KABC-TV, first with Sarah Purcell (1975 to 1978), then with Cyndy Garvey (1978 to 1981) Philbin's presence brought the show from the bottom of the local ratings to No. 1.
During the early 1970s, Philbin also commuted each weekend to St. Louis, where he filmed Regis Philbin's Saaturday Night in St. Louis on KMOX-TV (now KMOV).
A 1978 book called The Great 1960s Quiz, authored by Dan Carlinsky (pub. Harper & Row) asked "Who Was Regis Philbin?" (p.7) The answer was "Joey Bishop's sidekick on his late night show" (p. 124) Philbin's seemingly trivial media presence would soon be revived.
In 1981, Philbin and Mary Hart co-hosted a national morning variety series for NBC. The show lasted 18 weeks.
After Garvey left Los Angeles in 1982 and moved to New York City, Philbin joined her on The Morning Show on WABC-TV. At the time, the 9 am time slot for WABC suffered from low Nielsen ratings because of competition from WNBC-TV's Donahue and WCBS-TV's game show block featuring The Joker's Wild and Tic Tac Dough. After Garvey left again and Ann Abernathy briefly shared co-hosting duties, Philbin was paired with Kathie Lee Johnson (later Gifford) In June 1985 and ratings improved significantly. The show became nationally syndicated in September 1988 as Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee and the success continued. The program replaced A.M. Los Angeles upon its cancellation in 1991 and was eventually picked up by all of the ABC owned-and-operated stations except for WLS in Chicago, which aired The Oprah Winfrey Show in that time slot and had done so since the show's debut as A.M. Chicago.
In the 1980s, Philbin hosted Lifestyles with Regis Philbin on the Lifetime television network.
When Gifford departed in 2000, the show was temporarily named Live! with Regis. Philbin had guest co-hosts until a replacement was found. Philbin won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host in 2001. Kelly Ripa was chosen as the permanent co-host in 2001, and the show was renamed Live with Regis and Kelly. Their chemistry proved to be successful as the show continued to enjoy high ratings.
In 2008, Philbin's contact with ABC was renewed through 2011. Under his contract, Philbin reportedly earned more than US $21 million per annum. He received a similar contract with CBS for hosting Million Dollar Password.
It was announced on the September 17, 2009 episode of Live! with Regis and Kelly during their World Record Breaker Week, that Philbin's Guinness Book World Record for most time spent in front of a TV camera had reached 16,343 hours. Philbin departed Live with Regis and Kelly after hosting his final show on November 18, 2011.
Game Show Career
Philbin was also a game show host. He joined The Neighbors, a short-lived game show on ABC from late 1975 to early 1976. The show had two female contestants guessing which of her three women neighbors said gossipy things about her. In 1976, he was a "field reporter" for ABC's Almost Anything Goes an American adaptation of the British game show It's a Knockout.
Philbin was the original host of the U.S. version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? an ABC game show that had its roots in Britain. Millionaire was a big ratings success in its 1999 debut, when it was intended as an occasional special series. ABC aired Millionaire as a regular series with frequent episodes, but its viewership slowly declined. After Millionaire was cancelled, it was retooled in 2002 as a syndicated series hosted by Meredith Vieira. ABC brought back Millionaire in 2004 with Regis Philbin, retitled Who wants to Be a Super Millionaire? a related series that was aired on a more limited basis. Philbin had appeared in 11 episodes of a special edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? which started on August 9, 2009 10th Anniversary of the show. He was also a celebrity contestant in this version. Millionaire in its syndicated form, uses guest hosts for selected weeks during the season and Philbin hosted a week of episodes that aired in November 2009, coinciding with his 2009 surgery.
Philbin's Millionaire hosting duties won him a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host in 2001. In a 2007 Time article, he was listed among the 15 Best Game Show Hosts in History. When Millionaire was honored on GSN's Gameshow Hall of Fame special, Philbin's tenure as the show's host was praised. Leigh Hampton, then executive producer of the syndicated version, said that he "[knew] when to take rein of it and when to sit back and let the contestant be he contestant" and Jennifer Slater of twogirlsandatv.com called him "the sweetest man on television". Philbin himself recalled his own Millionaire tenure on said special with the following statement:
"You could only have a minute or two with it before the questions began. I did everything I could to make them more available for the right answer". - Regis Philbin
Philbin hosted the first season of America's Got Talent, a Simon Cowell-produced amateur talent search show on NBC, during the summer of 2006. He flew between New York City and Los Angeles during the time period to participate in both Live with Regis and Kelly and AGT. Because of his difficulty with commuting cross country and his health problems, he was replaced in 2007 by talk show host Jerry Springer. With regard to filling Philbin's spot, Springer noted that "no one fills in for Regis. He's the best there ever was at this so you pay homage to him".
Philbin's affiliation with Fremantle started to develop at this time. He hosted a revival of the Password franchise entitled Million Dollar Password which premiered June 1, 2008 and ended on June 14, 2009.
Other Television Appearances
On December 31, 2004, Philbin filled in for Dick Clark on ABC's Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve as Clark was recovering from a stroke. Philbin (who was a year and a half younger than Clark) lightheartedly claimed to have interrupted his previously planned vacation to do the show. The following year, Philbin hosted a competing special for FOX, replacing Clark's new co-host an eventual successor Ryan Seacrest.
Phibin was the host of The Apprentice 2 finale on December 16, 2004 and the official 30-minute red carpet arrivals at the 80th Academy Awards ceremony on February 24, 2008.
Philbin hosted the 37th Daytime Emmy Awards on June 27, 2010.
Philbin made regular guest appearances on Late Show with David Letterman. He was introduced by Letterman as "Regis Lee Philbin" a play on his former morning co-host Kathie Lee Gifford. H also appeared on other late-night talk shows; such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Philbin appeared on the sitcoms Spin City, How I Met Your Mother, Mad About You, Hope & Faith, Seinfeld and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, s well as sketch comedy programs The Dana Carvey Show, Mad TV and The Larry Sanders Show. He appeared in an episode of The Big Valley called "The Challenge" which first aired on March 18, 1968. In 1970, he appeared in an episode of the ABC drama The Silent Force.
In 1991, Philbin was a celebrity guest at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles, commenting on the main event between Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter.
In 1998, Philbin made an appearance in Disney's Hercules as the voice of a mythical monster Typhon. Kathie Lee Gifford was also present as the voice of Typhon's mate, Echidna.
On December 25, 2000, Philbin appeared as a panelist on the first season championship game of ESPN game show 2 Minute Drill.
On February 28, 2004, Philbin guest-starred in Lilo & Stitch: The Series episode called "Drowsy".
On May 15, 2006, Philbin appeared as a special guest, alongside Howie Mandel, for a two-hour special episode of Deal or No Deal on NBC.
Philbin appeared three times on Celebrity Jeopardy!, the most appearances for any competing celebrity on the game show Jeopardy!. In November 2006, he won his competition and earned $50,000 for Cardinal Hayes High School, his alma mater.
Philbin appeared as a contestant on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? in November 2007. He again played for his alma mater, Cardinal Hayes High School. He dropped out of the game an went home with $175,000 for the school.
In September 2008, Philbin guest starred as himself on How I Met Your Mother where he joined the cast in the search for New York's best hamburger. The show revealed that he worked out at Barney's gym. During their best-burger hunt, his picture hung in the "Best Burger" restaurant and every other suspected best-burger restaurant, such as Corner Bistro and Veggie Heaven. In the show, he hosted a "show within a show" called Million Dollar Heads or Tails, which made reference to both Million Dollar Password and Millionaire.
On December 25, 2009 Philbin attended Christmas Mass with Father Edward L. Beck and Timothy Dolan, the current Archbishop of New York at The Sunday Mass and gave a special interview discussing how being a Catholic had influence his life.
In February 2011, Philbin made an appearance on Take Two with Phineas and Ferb. On July 3, 2011, he was a celebrity guest on The Marriage Ref along with Tracy Morgan and Susie Essman.
On May 29, 2012, Philbin appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight during the show's Guest Host Week. Philbin's guest was hos long-time friend, fellow television host David Letterman.
From September 2012 to October 2017, Philbin was an official recurring monthly co-host on Rachael Ray.
In 2013, while Jon Stewart was absent from The Daily Show, Philbin made a guest appearance, kissing guest-host John Oliver on the head at the end of the interview.
Fox Sports announced on March 5, 2013, that Philbin would be hosting Crowd Goes Wild a daily sports talk show featuring a panel of hosts on their all new national sports network fox Sports 1, which launched on August 27, 2013. He once again partnered with his producer from Millionaire Michael Davies.
In February 2014, Philbin announced that he was leaving Fox Sports, only returning to occasionally host Crowd Goes Wild from March until its cancellation of the show on May 8, 2014. He guest hosted two episodes of The Late Late Show in January 2015. On July 9, 2015, Philbin appeared on Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda. It was announced that he was joining the program as an occasional contributor and guest host. Philbin eventually appeared on the program roughly once a month, and sometimes joined Gifford as a guest host on Hoda Kotb's days off.
Written and Musical Works
Philbin was also an author and singer. His two autobiographies (with co-author Bill Zehme) I'm Only One Man (1995) and Who Wants to Be Me? (2000) are written in the conversational or anecdotal style of his host chats. The former book follows a year (1994-1995) in his life recalling his personal life, his memories with celebrities and work on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee among other things. The latter book was a response to the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and deals with the show and his life. In 2011, upon leaving Live!, Philbin released a memoir titled How I Got This Way.
As a singer, Philbin can best be described as having a crooner in the style of his favorite singers: Dean Martin, Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. He tested the musical waters with his 1968 pop vocal release It's Time For Regis! after receiving poor reviews, Philbin was reluctant to record another studio album, but he occasionally sang on Live, usually in duet with another singer. After 36 years, he recorded When You're Smiling (2004) a more mature-sounding pop standard album. The Regis Philbin Christmas Album was released in September 2005. This album featured several duets with close friend Donald Trump ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"), Steve Tyrell ("Marshmallow World") and wife Joy ("Baby, It's Cold Outside" and "Winter Wonderland"). A special edition of the album was produced with tracks recorded with he Notre Dame Glee Club. Philbin was signed on to Hollywood Records.
Philbin was married twice and had four children. He was married to Catherine "Kay" Faylen (daughter of actor Frank Faylen) from 1955 to 1968 and they had a daughter Amy and a son Daniel. He married interior decorator Joy Senese in 1970 and they had two daughter Joanna and Jennifer known as J.J. Joy Philbin occasionally co-hosted with her husband Regis. On Live, he often mentioned Joy and to lesser degree Joanna, J.J., Amy and Danny. At the time of his death, Philbin resided in Manhattan, near the WABC-TV studios, and in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Philbin followed the professional sports world extensively, enjoying baseball as well as football. He was an avid fan of the New York Yankees and a proud supporter of the sports teams of his alma mater The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Philbin Narrated the two audio CDs that accompained Joe Gamer's book Echoes of Notre Dame Football: Great and Memorable Moments of the Fighting Irish and was unwilling to waver even when St. John's basketball coach Steve Lavin Asked Philbin to trade his allegiance. Philbin played on the Notre Dame tennis team (putting his recent statements in an ad where he claimed to have learned tennis from second wife Joy, in doubt). Notre Dame football coaches such as Charlie Weis, Tyrone Willingham and Lou Holtz have appeared on Live. Along with being a Yankees fan, Regis was also "keeping an eye on the Florida Marlins". On May 5, 2009; he has also supported for the Pittsburgh Pirates in his last years.
In March 1984, Philbin opened a Ford dealership in Gilbert, Arizona as a side investment during his career in television. The dealership. Ford Philbin. suffered due to the already saturated auto market in the area and was closed in late 1988.
He was known to have trouble handling new technology and was frequently confused when operating electronics (such as remote controls an DVD Players). He did not usually use computers (although he did use one for an episode of Live during summer 2008, demonstrating how to find homes online) and did not use a cell phone until September 10, 2008. It is often noted, however, that Philbin did not completely reject the technology; he simply had Joy make calls and send e-mails for him.
Philbin had an angioplasty in 1993. On March 14, 2007, he underwent triple bypass surgery at Weill Cornell Medical Center because of plaque in his arteries. Prior to the surgery, Philbin talked with David Letterman, for whom Philbin had substituted on Late Show with David Letterman during Letterman's own quintuple bypass surgery. Following Philbin's successful heart surgery, he returned to the show on April 26.
On December 1, 2009, Philbin had hip-replacement surgery. He returned on Monday, January 4, 2010 to his hosting duties. In May 2010, Philbin underwent surgery to have a blood clot removed from his calf. He return to work the next day.
On July 24, 2020; Philbin died of natural causes at the age of 88.