GREENWICH, Conn. (UPI) — Longtime television host Regis Philbin died Friday of natural causes, family members said. He was 88.
“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,” said a statement Philbin’s family shared with People Magazine 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,” the Philbin family says.
Philbin hosted a series of local television shows, worked as a page for “Tonight Show” host Steve Allen and served as Joey Bishop’s sidekick on “The Joey Bishop Show” before catapulting to fame in 1985 with “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” alongside co-host Kathie Lee Gifford.
The show distinguished itself with the often-friendly, sometimes-edgy on-air rapport between Gifford and Philbin — and for bucking daytime television trends when other talk shows trafficked in more sensational fare.
“That was the year of discontent on television,” Philbin told Entertainment Weekly in 1992. Geraldo was breaking his nose, Phil was walking around in a dress, Sally was walking around with hookers, Oprah was losing 65 pounds. And here we were talking about what we did last night! Who cared? But I knew that if they could just watch us two, three times in a row that we could hook our share of the audience. And we did.”
After Gifford left the show in 2000, Philbin hosted the show with a rotating series of co-hosts until Kelly Ripa joined Philbin in 2001. The franchise became “Live! With Regis and Kelly” until Philbin’s departure in 2011.
From 1999 to 2002 Philbin served as the original host of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” He also hosted “Million Dollar Password,” the first season of “America’s Got Talent” and was a recurring co-host on “Rachael Ray.”
Philbin was born Aug. 25, 1931, in New York City, and was raised in the Bronx. He studied sociology at Notre Dame, graduating in 1953, and did a stint in the Navy before starting his career in entertainment.
He is survived by his wife, Joy; a daughter from his first marriage; and two daughters from his second marriage. His son Danny died in 2014.