TV Legend Regis Philbin Announces Retirement

79-year-old to step down in the summer or fall

By Greg Wilson
|  Tuesday, Jan 18, 2011  |  Updated 10:14 AM EDT
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NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 09: Regis Philbin poses at the Opening Night Arrivals for "Colin Quinn Long Story Short" on Broadway at The Helen Hayes Theater on November 9, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

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Regis Philbin, the ubiquitous ABC morning host who has logged more TV time than anyone in history, is retiring.

The 79-year-old Philbin, who co-hosts the network's "Live! with Regis and Kelly," made the announcement this morning on the show that bears his name.

"This will be my last year on this show," Philbin said. "It's been a long time, it's been 28 years since I've been here. And it was the biggest thrill of my life.

"There is a time that everything must come to an end for certain people on camera, especially certain old people," he joked.

The New York-born host, who came to national prominence in 1964 in a short stint replacing Steve Allen as host of the "Tonight Show," later caught on as Joey Bishop's sidekick on "The Joey Bishop Show."

The three-time Emmy Award winner Philbin plans to step down at the end of the summer or in the fall. Co-host Kelly Ripa, whose role often involved reining in or expressing shock at the over-bubbly septuagenarian, was emotional after Philbin's announcement.

"I think I can only speak for America and all of us here when I say it has been a pleasure and a privilege and a dream come true," Ripa said. "And I wish I could do something to change your mind."

"Live!" grew out of a local WABC-TV program Philbin began in 1983 with co-host Cyndy Garvey. Kathie Lee Gifford, then known as Kathie Lee Johnson, began co-hosting with Philbin in 1985. The show was picked up for national syndication in 1988 and rechristened "Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee." Gifford stayed on until July, 2000, at which time Philbin spent several months working with guest hosts until Ripa was named permanent co-host in 2001.

While Philbin is most readily associated with the morning show, he has hosted numerous specials and game shows through the years. He was the original host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," which was a ratings success when it debuted in 1999 and made "Is that your final answer?" a household refrain.

Philbin was also the first host of NBC's "America's Got Talent," in 2006, doing double duty and flying back and forth between the coasts. In 2004, he set a Guinness world record with his 15,188th hour in front of a TV camera, a standard he has expanded on by more than 1,000 more hours.

ABC said the "Live" show will continue with a replacement for Philbin, but did not say when the host would be named.

Selected Reading: IMDb, ABC, TMZ.

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