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Regis Philbin has died


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Regis Philbin, a host who became a beloved fixture of US daytime television, has died. He was 88.

Philbin’s family confirmed his death in a statement to People magazine, which said he “passed away last night of natural causes, one month shy of his 89th birthday”.

Philbin was a longtime morning talkshow host on ABC, first with Kathie Lee Gifford and then alongside Kelly Ripa before stepping down in 2011. Other credits included Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and America’s Got Talent, both transfers from British TV.

“His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him,” the statement said.

“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.”

Philbin was born in New York City, served in the US navy and started in TV in California before achieving national fame as sidekick to Rat Pack member Joey Bishop, in part for the way in which, in 1968, he tried to leave the late-night show.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, its own Rambling Reporter column said Philbin heard “an ABC exec or two had been bum-rapping him and urging Joey to replace him ‘for the good of the show’. So Regis told Joey he liked him too much to jeopardize his show and walked off.”

Philbin returned, although the show did not last long. Later in life, Bishop said Philbin had walked out in a dispute over pay.

Philbin started hosting ABC’s morning show in 1983. In 1994 he achieved a certain level of international cool by appearing on Seinfeld, in the famous episode The Opposite.

Appearing with Gifford as Kramer promoted his coffee table book about coffee tables, which folded out to be used as a coffee table, Philbin was given a line he didn’t think was funny.

In a 2011 memoir, How I Got This Way, he wrote: “The Seinfeld writers had, for some reason, decided to have me react to Kramer’s antics by repeatedly declaring: ‘This guy’s bonkos!’

“I had never said the word bonkos in my life. I’d never even heard of the word! I mean, it just wasn’t funny – and why should I become the only Seinfeld guest in history who never got a laugh?”

Philbin wrote that he tried to get the line change, but “Jerry, too, thought bonkos was hilarious”.

The lines duly bombed.

“Kramer was a hilarious smash,” Philbin wrote, of actor Michael Richards’ success while spewing coffee all over the TV hosts. “Me and bonkos … we got nothing, not even one laugh. Only silence. I mean, deafening silence.

“I will never forget that silence, nor will I ever get over it. It remains embarrassing to this day.”

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Regis was as big a part of the 90s and early 00s entertainment as anyone. Just an iconic name on TV. Regis & Kathie Lee was the biggest morning variety show and basically the first one to go with that format. People have copied it since but (and this might be because I was young and my mom had it on all the time) none better. And his hosting on Who Wants to be a Millionaire was great and that show was a massive hit and the precursor to the reality TV boom in many ways.

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