Regis Philbin, the genial host who shared his life with television viewers over morning coffee for decades and helped himself and some fans strike it rich with the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” has died at 88.
It was on ABC that Philbin became a household name in the 1980s cohosting “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee.”
“We are deeply saddened to share that our beloved Regis Philbin passed away last night of natural causes, one month shy of his 89th birthday,” his family said in a statement on Saturday. “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.”
(Below, Local10′s Janine Stanwood interviews Regis Philbin in Coral Gables in 2011.)
Philbin said on his final episode in 2011: “I think I’m going out a pretty proud and happy guy. I wanted this show to be a show where people would feel better about themselves, would look at life in, maybe, a different way, a funnier way, and I think that’s what we accomplished and I’m very happy about that aspect.”
Philbin died Friday, just over a month before his 89th birthday. He died of natural causes, according to a family statement to People Magazine.
It was also in 2011 when Philbin made a stop to South Florida as the first stop on his book tour in Coral Gables.
“It’s tough getting used to those New York writers so, the best, the easiest refuge was South Florida,” Philbin said.
His memoir was titled “How I Got This Way.” “This is about the people who have helped me get this way, you know, that is the titled. You know, People over the years that have made a difference in your life,” he said.
Celebrities routinely stopped by Philbin’s eponymous syndicated morning show, but its heart was in the first 15 minutes, when he and co-host Kathie Lee Gifford — on “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” from 1985-2000 — or Kelly Ripa — on “Live! with Regis and Kelly” from 2001 until his 2011 retirement — bantered about the events of the day. Viewers laughed at Philbin’s mock indignation over not getting the best seat at a restaurant the night before, or being henpecked by his partner.
He was host of the prime-time game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” briefly television’s most popular show at the turn of the century. ABC aired the family-friendly program as often as five times a week. It generated around $1 billion in revenue in its first two years — ABC had said it was the more profitable show in TV history — and helped make Philbin himself a millionaire many times over.
Philbin’s question to contestants, “Is that your final answer?” became a national catchphrase. Philbin was even a fashion trendsetter; he put out a line of monochramactic shirts and ties to match what he wore on the set.
“You wait a lifetime for something like that and sometimes it never happens,” Philbin told the AP in 1999.
He’s survived by his wife, Joy, and their daughters J.J. and Joanna Philbin, as well as his daughter Amy Philbin with his first wife, Catherine Faylen, according to People.