Regis Philbin, iconic television host, dies at 88

"We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss."
regis philbin obituary
Kathie Lee Gifford and Regis Philbin appear on NBC News' "Today" show --NBC NewsWire / NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Ge
/ Source: TODAY
By Alexander Kacala

Regis Philbin, iconic television host and media personality, died on Friday, July 24. He was 88 years old.

"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," his family said in a statement to TODAY.

Nathan Congleton

"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."

Saturday morning, Philbin's longtime co-host Kathie Lee Gifford tweeted, "Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. I Timothy 6:12 LORD, give us the strength we need to persevere on our journey. Hold us up by Your righteous right hand and deliver us from despair.🙏🏻"

TODAY co-anchor Hoda Kotb also took to social media to remember the television giant. "Heartbroken. We will miss you regis. Nobody like you," she wrote.

A media personality, actor and singer, Philbin is best known for hosting talk and game shows since the 1960s. The University of Notre Dame graduate holds the Guinness World Record for the most hours on television in the United States, beating the previous record holder Hugh Downs in 2004.

Philbin is most widely known as the co-host of the nationally syndicated talk show "Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee" that began in 1988 in New York City alongside Gifford. Later, the popular daytime series became "Live! with Regis and Kelly" when Kelly Ripa took over for Gifford in 2000. He stepped down from the morning show in 2011.

During his departure, he noted, "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 explained he was often asked why the show had been on for so long, and he said because it makes people happy. "I'll never be able to top that," he added.

Ripa also took to social media on Saturday to remember Philbin, releasing a joint statement with current co-host Ryan Seacrest.

"He was the ultimate class act, bringing his laughter and joy into our homes everyday on Live for more than 23 years," they wrote. "We were beyond lucky to have him as a mentor in our careers and aspire everyday to fill his shoes on the show. We send our deepest love and condolences to his family and hope they can find some comfort in knowing he left the world a better place."

Another notable gig for Philbin was "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," the popular ABC game show that he hosted on and off for a decade after its premiere in 1999.

Originally from the Bronx, New York, Philbin got his start working in the entertainment industry as an NBC page in 1955.

"In those days, the page department was run almost like a military unit," Philbin said of his experience working in the legendary internship program. "There was a full dress inspection before every shift. TV was still in its infancy. I don't remember giving tours, but I'd sit behind this big desk on the bottom floor, and it was a thrill because you never knew who would come in. Perry Como was upstairs doing his half-hour show every night."

Philbin married twice and had four children. He was married to Catherine "Kay" Faylen from 1955 to 1968, and they had a daughter, Amy, and a son, Daniel. In 1970, he married interior decorator Joy Senese, who occasionally co-hosted with her husband on his talk shows, and they had daughters Joanna and Jennifer "J. J."

This is a developing story.