Regis Philbin, American TV host who spent 17,000 hours in front of camera, dies of natural causes at age of 88
American TV host Regis Philbin, who logged more hours in front of the camera than anyone else in the history of US television on shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire, has died aged 88.
- Philbin died of natural causes, according to his family, one month before his 89th birthday
- Guinness World Records listed Philbin as having put in about 17,000 hours on television
- He was paid $28 million a year in 2000, the most ever for a game-show host
People magazine said Philbin died of natural causes one month before his 89th birthday, citing a statement by his family.
“His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him for his warmth, his legendary sense of humour, and his singular ability to make every day into something worth talking about,” the statement said.
“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 was known for his rough edges, funny anecdotes, self-deprecating humour and a Bronx accent that was once described as sounding “like a racetrack announcer with a head cold.”
American comedian and late-night host David Letterman, a long-time friend, called Philbin the funniest man on television.
Philbin, known to fans as “Reeg”, was a fixture on various local and national shows for half a century with co-hosts including Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelly Ripa.
He hosted Who Wants to be a Millionaire when it debuted in the US in 1999, as well as other game shows.
His $US20 million ($28 million a year salary in 2000 was the most ever for a game-show host.
Guinness World Records listed him as having put in more time on camera than anyone else in the history of US television — about 17,000 hours.
Philbin was perhaps best known as the host of the nationally syndicated talk show, Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. It started in 1988, and became Live! with Regis and Kelly in 2001, running until 2011.
Philbin first made a name for himself in the 1960s with his own show on local TV in San Diego and then as a sidekick to comedian Joey Bishop on another program.
His biggest success came in the various incarnations of his nationally syndicated morning talk show that began in 1983 when he created The Morning Show for WABC in his native New York City.
After two co-hosts came and went, singer Gifford joined him in a highly successful collaboration in 1985, and in 1988 the program gained national syndication.
Gifford was his co-host for 15 years before Philbin was partnered with former soap opera actress Ripa for 11 years. Ripa remained as host of the show after Philbin departed.
“I think he is the world’s greatest storyteller … that’s his gift,” Ripa said in 2011.
He also received a lifetime achievement Daytime Emmy award in 2008.
Philbin, who was born into an Irish-Catholic family in New York City, dealt with heart problems during his career and underwent triple-bypass surgery in 2007 at the age of 75.
Philbin married his second wife, Joy, in 1970 and remained married the rest of his life.
She sometimes co-hosted his national talk show with him when Gifford or Ripa were absent.