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Regis Philbin leaves 'Live' after 28 years on air

Nov. 18, 2011 at 10:52 AM ET

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images /
Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa on set during Philbin's final show of "Live! with Regis & Kelly" in New York on Friday.

"Live with Regis and Kelly" is soon to be Regis Philbin-free. On Friday, the veteran, genial host retired from his morning talk show after 28 years exactly as he planned to -- without tears.

The show was full of famous faces either on tape or in the audience (those seated included Donald Trump and Diane Sawyer, according to TODAY's Kathie Lee Gifford, who was also present). Gifford co-hosted with Philbin on the locally-broadcast "The Morning Show" starting in 1985; she stayed with him when the show went national in 1988 and changed its name to "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee," then left in 2000.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped by to say that Philbin, 80, had been "New York City's biggest fan for 28 years.

"I wanted to let you know that New York City feels the same way about you," he said before suggesting other jobs Philbin could take on: cab driver, Gray's Papaya server or even a position as a Yankee. He also gave Philbin a symbolic key to the city.

Other celebs, including Anne Hathaway, Justin Timberlake, Kevin Connolly and Selena Gomez, popped up in pre-recorded segments to thank him for always being a gentleman in welcoming them to the show. But the real sentimental moment of the day came when the off-Broadway cast of "Rent" assembled onstage to sing a version of their show's iconic "Seasons of Love" song, tweaked to reflect the many hours and minutes of Philbin's extensive career in the business.

Philbin had the last word, at least on his show, noting that "I came back (to TV) a little late in my life to make it work... I guess it was fate that it happened this way, and I'm glad it did." He said that he's often asked why the show has been on so long, and he said because it makes people happy. "I'll never be able to top that," he said -- eyes glistening, but no tears falling.

But of course there had to be a postscript: Gifford had to rush out of the ABC studios, where "Live" is taped and over to the Rockefeller Center digs she shares with Hoda Kotb for the fourth hour of TODAY. But since teleporters haven't been invented yet, Kotbe had to open the show solo, with two glasses of wine waiting ... and spoke with Gifford from her car.

"I didn't cry until the cast from 'Rent' started singing," Gifford told her. "That's when Kelly (Ripa) lost it. It was a sweet moment."

Will you keep watching "Live" without Regis? Who should take his place permanently? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

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