There is no way you aren’t in some way, shape or form familiar with Regis Philbin. After all, he does hold the record for having the most hours on television in a career that spanned back to the 1950s.
He was known as a morning talk show host, a game show host, late night guest star, television sitcom guest star, sports fanatic, and wore many other hats. He was often called, in a title shared with James Brown, “The hardest working man in show business”.
But did you know he was also a Navy veteran and served our country in the 1950s?
Regis was born in New York City in 1931. His father was a United States Marine who served in the Pacific during the war. After graduating high school, Regis attended the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated with a sociology degree in 1953. His ties to the Irish often found a way to be mentioned on television where he lived and died by the Irish’s success and failure on the football field. Even when they struggled, he never lost faith as you can see here in this famous clip.After Notre Dame, Regis became an officer in the United States Navy. He served in Coronado, California, as a supply officer and did two years on active duty before being honorably discharged.
After getting out of the Navy, Regis managed to get a job as a page on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar and from there moved to working in local news. When he got to San Diego, he was given a talk show in the morning to host and his career started to take off. The show, which didn’t have any writers, forced Regis to come up with material on his own. So he started doing what he did best, talking and ad-libbing his way through his monologue. He talked about his life, current events, sports and interacted with the audience which became a staple of his shows moving on.
Regis worked various roles on tv, from Joey Bishop’s sidekick to various late night shows to early morning variety shows. In the 80s, he was paired with Kathy Lee Gifford and the combo saw ratings rise for what was to become, “Live! With Regis and Kathy Lee.” The combo became a morning staple with both talking about families, personal stories and ad-libbing their way through the broadcasts. After Gifford left in 2000, a nationwide search landed Kelly Ripa as Regis’ new co-host. They continued the show until 2011 when Regis finally left.
Along the way Regis hosted various game shows, but one sticks out. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire took the country by storm and gave us phrases that we will use to this day. “Phoning a Friend” and “Using a Lifeline” have become staples in our lexicon along with Regis’ trademark, “Is that your final answer”?
Even younger Americans remember Regis from memorable bits, like this classic from “How I Met Your Mother”.How I Met Your Mother | R.I.P Regis Philbin | You are loved by many and condolences to the family…
It should be said for Regis that considering he didn’t sing, dance, act or wasn’t a comedian by trade, it is impressive that he lasted as long as he did in the entertainment industry. But he bought a human element that people could relate to. Nothing says this better than one September in 2001. After the horrific attacks in New York on 9/11, the country struggled to get back to normalcy. Philbin, making one of his trademark appearances on the Letterman show, came on and bought a levity that the country needed. The back and forth between him and Letterman resonates to this day.Regis Philbin on David Letterman’s first show after 9/11 [9/17/01] www.vinniefavale.com
Regis, thanks for the decades of making us laugh, helping us forget about our struggles and keeping us company.
And thank you for your service to our country!