New York, Jul 25 (efe-epa).- Iconic and widely popular US television talk and game show host Regis Philbin has died of natural causes, his family told People magazine on Saturday. He was 88.
“We are deeply saddened to share that our beloved Regis Philbin passed away (Friday) night of natural causes, one month shy of his 89th birthday,” Philbin’s family told People in a statement in which they thanked his fans for their “incredible support” throughout his six-decade television career.
Born in The Bronx in 1931, Philbin became a well-known face and personality on US television thanks to “his warmth, his legendary sense of humor, and his singular ability to make every day into something worth talking about,” the family said.
Philbin vaulted to fame in 1988 as co-host of the morning talk show “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” on which he starred with Kathie Lee Gifford. He remained with the show for 23 years after which he was the host of the first successful seasons of “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” and “America’s Got Talent.”
On Saturday, figures from the US television industry acknowledged the announcement of Philbin’s death, including presenter and comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who said on Twitter that the host “leaves behind a beautiful family and a TV legacy that will likely go unmatched.”
After Gifford left “Live!” in 2000, Philbin’s co-host became Kelly Ripa, who said in an interview with The New York Times the next year that he was “the world’s greatest storyteller,” calling his ability to mesmerize and entertain audiences “his gift.”
In 2004, he was recognized by Guinness World Records for having spent more than 16,000 hours in front of television cameras, the result of a passion that began in the mid-1900s with his role on “The Tonight Show” and “The Joey Bishop Show” before he carved out his own niche in the market under his own name.
He graduated with a degree in sociology from Notre Dame University in 1953 and entered the entertainment industry, winning numerous awards during his long career, including a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and a Daytime Emmy Award for lifetime achievement.
With his heavy New York accent, his raspy voice, his excitable personality and his puckish charisma, Philbin quickly attained iconic status on US television and, as a key pop culture star, he appeared in cameos on a large number of wildly popular shows like “The Simpsons,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Seinfeld.”
Philbin was married twice, first to Catherine “Kay” Faylen, by whom he had two children, later divorcing her to marry Joy Senese, with whom he had two more children. In recent years, he had battled health problems and had to undergo heart surgery and a hip replacement.