I don’t have to say his full name to clue you in on who I’m talking about.
Regis Philbin, the iconic television host and personality, died on July 24, a month before his 89th birthday. The multitalented Philbin was probably best known for his hosting gigs on Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, Live! with Regis and Kelly, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Raised in the Bronx, N.Y., Philbin served in the United States Navy, according to People. Which, on a personal note, is special to me given my grandfather on my dad’s side also served in the Navy. Quite possibly about the same time as Philbin.
After serving in the Navy, Philbin began his show business career as a writer. This quickly evolved into his own talk show at a local station in San Diego, followed by a widely known stint as the sidekick on The Joey Bishop Show. According to People, Philbin moved back to New York to host The Morning Show in 1983, which later turned into Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee in 1988.
From there, as they say, the rest is history.
Philbin developed a shtick with his co-hosts where he would talk about what happened the night before the show. Often making simple stories into grandiose adventures and using himself as the butt of a joke or story.
Philbin has played an integral role in my life as he has in countless others. As I learned the news of his passing, two distinct memories formed in my head. The first being all the times I watched Live! with my grandmother on my mom’s side. I can vividly recall sitting in her kitchen on so many mornings, watching Regis and Kathie Lee (then Regis and Kelly, later on). She watched the show religiously and I did so with her as well.
The second is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Oh the many nights my mom, my grandmother, and I gathered in front of the television to watch and play along with millions of fellow viewers. One of the more unforgettable moments, of course, was John Carpenter’s run to being the first $1 million winner on the show.
And, when I say I was a fan of Millionaire, I meant it. I not only watched the show but also had the handheld game and board game. I am still a fan of the show today. If I had been of age, there is no doubt I would have tried out to be a contestant! When the show made a triumphant return this year, I watched every episode. Nothing beats the original but it was still fun to watch.
It is truly heartbreaking to lose such an iconic figure in television. A person who brought us all many unforgettable moments and laughs. In 2011, the heels of his retirement from television, Philbin did a feature with Katie Couric. In it, he mentioned of listening to Bing Crosby’s radio show as a child and feeling as if he and they were friends.
That is how Regis Philbin made his audience – this viewer especially – feel.