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Michael Gelman honors Regis Philbin: 'They broke the mold when they made him'

“He was the son I never had and a bonus father all in one," the longtime "Live!" producer wrote.
"Nurse Betty" Premiere Party
Michael Gelman and Regis Philbin at the "Nurse Betty" premiere party in New York City on Sept. 6, 2000.Ron Galella / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The tributes keep pouring in for Regis Philbin, the legendary TV personality who passed away last Friday at the age of 88.

Michael Gelman, the executive producer of “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee,” who himself became a star when Philbin and co-host Kathie Lee Gifford talked with him on their show, saluted him in a moving essay for Entertainment Weekly.

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“Regis used to say that he and I had a great father/son relationship, but that I was the father. I couldn't agree more,” he wrote.

“Regis embodied the old adage ‘what you see is what you get.’ The genuinely warm/grumpy uncle you saw every morning is the same man I spent the day with even after the cameras stopped rolling,” he wrote.

Gelman, who still serves as the executive producer of "Live!,"wrote that Philbin had a knack for making the mundane seem extraordinary.

“And boy, could he tell a story. There were nights on the town with him when literally nothing out of the ordinary happened, and yet the next morning he would weave a tale that was so hilarious I often wondered how we could have been at the same event,” he wrote.

Gelman, 58, said Philbin had a magical way of inviting everyone to see the world through his own eyes.

“His whole life and everyone in it were up for discussion during his signature Host Chat. Whether it was a medical procedure he experienced, the antics of his cat Ashley, detailed updates on the wins and losses of his beloved Notre Dame, or even a visit from his sister-in-law, who he lovingly called 'The Winds of War,' we knew everything about Regis' life," he wrote.

"He was one of the first broadcasters to break the fourth wall to talk to the staff and crew on live TV — including, and especially, me.”

Gelman himself was often the foil for Philbin and was lampooned on TODAY in 2016 when Gifford got dressed up as Philbin while Philbin got dressed as Gelman and Hoda Kotb did her best Gifford.

Gelman, who also wrote about how much Philbin loved his family and loved talking about his kids and grandchildren, added that he was truly one of a kind.

“Regis used to say ‘I'm only one man.’ Indeed he was. And they broke the mold when they made him,” he wrote. “He was the son I never had and a bonus father all in one. I will miss him as a friend and I can only hope he and Dean Martin are together now singing ‘Pennies From Heaven’ while Don Rickles heckles from the bleachers.”

Philbin was buried at his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame.

“The Philbin family wanted to bring Regis back to the place he loved so much for a private funeral and burial. That occurred on Wednesday, and he is now resting in peace at Notre Dame,” school spokesman Dennis Brown said in an email to the Associated Press.

Philbin has been honored many times over in the days following his death, with Gifford leading the way.

“There are no words to fully express the love I have for my precious friend, Regis. I simply adored him and every day with him was a gift,” she wrote, in part, on Instagram.

"He was an entertainer in his guts, and so was I, and so when we came together, although we didn't have a friendship yet, we had a mutual respect for what we had accomplished already in our careers," Gifford said on TODAY earlier this week. "And we had the same sense of humor, and I wasn't afraid of him, and he sure as heck was not afraid of me, and we just took off like a rocket."

Gifford’s daughter, Cassidy, shared her grief with a touching Instagram post featuring Philbin and her father, Frank Gifford arm in arm.

“The laughter I know you two are sharing together again in heaven is palpable... love you forever, Reeg,” she wrote.