Regis Philbin, the genial host who shared his life with television viewers over morning coffee for decades and helped himself and some fans strike it rich with the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, has died at 88.
Philbin died of natural causes Friday night, just over a month before his 89th birthday, according to a statement from his family provided by spokesman Lewis Kay.
Celebrities routinely stopped by Philbin’s eponymous syndicated morning show, but its heart was in the first 15 minutes, when he and co-host Kathie Lee Gifford — on Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee from 1985-2000 — or Kelly Ripa — on Live! with Regis and Kelly from 2001 until his 2011 retirement — bantered about the events of the day.
Ripa and her current partner, Ryan Seacrest, called Philbin “the ultimate class act, bringing his laughter and joy into our homes every day.”
After hustling into an entertainment career by parking cars at a Los Angeles TV station, Philbin logged more than 15,000 hours on the air, earning him recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most broadcast hours logged by a TV personality, a record previously held by Hugh Downs.
He was host of the prime-time game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, briefly television’s most popular show at the turn of the century. ABC aired the family-friendly program as often as five times a week. It generated around $1 billion in revenue in its first two years — ABC had said it was the more profitable show in TV history — and helped make Philbin himself a millionaire many times over.
Philbin’s question to contestants, “Is that your final answer?” became a national catchphrase. Philbin was even a fashion trendsetter; he put out a line of monochramactic shirts and ties to match what he wore on the set.
In 2008, he returned briefly to the quiz show format with Million Dollar Password. He also picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award from the daytime Emmys.
He’s survived by his wife, Joy, and their daughters J.J. and Joanna Philbin, as well as his daughter Amy Philbin with his first wife, Catherine Faylen, according to People.