Remembering Regis Philbin's Life and Career in Photos
The beloved television host died on July 24, 2020, at 88 years old
Born and raised in the Bronx, Philbin was the son of Frank Philbin, a former Marine, and Francis Phiblin. Raised as a Roman Catholic, Philbin went on to graduate from University of Notre Dame in 1953 with a degree in sociology.
During a 2015 visit to his alma mater, Philbin told Notre Dame’s student magazine that he got the idea to attend the school from his father.
“My father said, ‘You’re gonna go to Notre Dame. You got to go to Notre Dame.’ So I said, ‘Sure!’” Philbin recalled.
After graduation, Philbin enrolled in the Navy and served for two years.
On his last day of service, when asked by a major in the Marines about what he planned to do for the rest of his life, Philbin revealed that he had dreams of a career in television, but he had reservations about taking the plunge.
"I told him, 'What I'd like to do is go into television but I don't know if I have any talent or what I could do,'” Philbin told NPR in 2011. “He said, ‘Well, what do you mean? Don't you know you can have anything you want in this life if you only want it bad enough?’ ”
Philbin got his start working as an NBC page in 1955. “My first assignment was to go down to the set of Tonight!,” he previously told PEOPLE. “I looked at Steve Allen playing the piano, making jokes. Everyone was beautiful and talented. I thought, ‘What am I doing here? What can I do in this business?' ”
He went on to work as a broadcaster for several years and began hosting his first talk show, The Regis Philbin Show in 1961.
His big break came after he became the sidekick on The Joey Bishop Show in the late 1960s, introducing him to a network audience.
Philbin first teamed up with Kathie Lee Gifford in 1985, when they were paired up to host The Morning Show — which would eventually be renamed to Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee.
The pair’s chemistry was a big hit with audiences, and they continued to broadcast together on the show until 2000 when she left the show.
Philbin stayed on the program for over a decade, sharing hosting duties with Kelly Ripa, who was announced as Gifford’s official replacement in 2001.
Philbin also hosted ABC’s hit game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
In 2007, Philbin, then 75, announced that he would be undergoing heart bypass surgery.
“I had been feeling chest pains, you know, and shortness of breath and all those little symptoms that you hear about,” he told a Live! with Regis and Kelly studio audience that March.
After 28 years, Philbin announced in 2011 that he was leaving Live!
“Everything must come to an end for certain people on camera, especially certain old people,” he quipped at the time.
“Some people ask, ‘Why has the show stayed on so long?’ ” he said during his final November broadcast. “People tell me why they watch it … because it makes them feel better. And it can’t get any better than that. It makes them happy.”
According to ABC News, Philbin set a Guinness World Record for most on-camera hours in 2004 while hosting the show, with a total of 15,188.
He was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Television Academy's Hall of Fame in 2006 and was even given a key to New York City in 2011.
Philbin was married to wife Joy for 50 years, and the pair had two children: daughters Joanna and J.J. Philbin, who works as a Hollywood writer and producer and is married to The Office writer Michael Schur.
He was previously married to Catherine Faylen from 1955-1968. They had two children: son Daniel, who died in 2015 at the age of 49, and daughter Amy.
Over the years, Philbin shared the screen with Gifford after her Live! departure.
In addition to occasionally filling in as guest host of the Today show, Philbin also shared a special video message last year, in honor of Gifford’s final broadcast.
“Kathie Lee, you want to know the best part of my life, my TV life, was in the 15 years I spent with you, from 1985 to 2000,” he said during the emotional message. “We stayed friends throughout the entire game and it was a lot of fun.”
“I want you to know how I will always remember the great times that we had working together and how you are as a person: just great,” he added
Philbin made his final television appearance earlier this year, in Single Parents — an ABC sitcom his daughter served as a co-creator and executive producer for.
"It's such a thrill to have him on my show after years and years of being a guest on his show and I hope he has as much fun on our set as I did on his growing up." J.J. told Entertainment Tonight in April.
The longtime television host died on July 24, PEOPLE confirmed.
"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," his family shared with PEOPLE in a statement. "We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss."