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US TV personality Regis Philbin dies aged 88

He hosted the American version of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’

Image: PA

US TV STAR Regis Philbin, who fronted breakfast TV for decades and hosted the American version of the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has died aged 88.

Philbin died of natural causes last night, just over a month before his 89th birthday, according to a statement from his family.

Celebrities routinely stopped by on Philbin’s eponymous syndicated morning show, but its heart was in the first 15 minutes, when he and co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford or Kelly Ripa bantered about the events of the day.

Viewers laughed at Philbin’s mock indignation over not getting the best seat at a restaurant the night before, or being henpecked by his partner.

“Even I have a little trepidation,” he told The Associated Press in 2008, when asked how he does a show every day.

“You wake up in the morning and you say: ‘What did I do last night that I can talk about? What’s new in the paper? How are we gonna fill that 20 minutes?’

“I’m not gonna say it always works out brilliantly, but somehow we connect more often than we don’t,” he added.

He hosted Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee from 1985-2000, and then Live! With Regis and Kelly from 2001 until his retirement in 2011.

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.

“Every day, you see the record shattered, pal!” Philbin would tell viewers. “One more hour!”

He was host of the prime-time game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? which was US television’s most popular show at the turn of the century.

ABC aired the family-friendly programme as often as five times a week. It generated around one billion dollars 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 was even a fashion trendsetter; he put out a line of monochromatic shirts and ties to match what he wore on the set.

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“You wait a lifetime for something like that and sometimes it never happens,” Philbin said in 1999.

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.

Regis Francis Xavier Philbin grew up in the New York borough of the Bronx, the son of Italian-Irish parents and named for the Roman Catholic boys high school his father attended.

He went to Notre Dame University, and was such an enthusiastic alum, he once said he wanted his ashes scattered there.

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