NYC Native Regis Philbin Remembered As 'One Of The Last Of The True Broadcasters'

Steve Burns
July 25, 2020 - 7:30 pm
Regis Philbin

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Spike TV

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Bronx native Regis Philbin has died at the age of 88—and he’s being remembered as a legend of the television industry.

“One of the last of the true what we used to call broadcasters,” Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, told WCBS 880.

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People of a certain age know Philbin from “The Joey Bishop Show.” Others remember him sitting next to Kathie Lee. Still more recall him asking, “Is that your final answer?” on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

“If anything else one can say about Regis Philbin, the guy knew show business,” Thompson said. “I mean this guy did everything. He did announcing, he did commercials, he hosted all kinds of things.”

Thompson said Philbin managed to recast himself over the decades to stay relevant.

“On the verge of being a parody of himself, but not quite,” Thompson said.

Out of the broadcaster's six-decade career, Thompson thinks back to an appearance Philbin made on David Letterman’s show just six days after 9/11.

“Life is very unpredictable, so I implore you again, can’t we have dinner together?” Philbin told Letterman.

“His performance there was expert,” Thompson said. “It was both funny, but it was respectful.”

Thompson also remembered the cultural impact of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

“You couldn’t go anywhere without someone saying, ‘Is that your final answer?’” he said.

Philbin died Friday night of natural causes, just over a month before his 89th birthday.

His family released the following statement to PEOPLE: “His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him – 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.”

President Donald Trump tweeted Philbin was "One of the greats in the history of television."

"New York lost a TV legend today," Gov. Andrew Cuomo posted on Twitter. "Bronx born and raised, Regis Philbin greeted us for years with our morning coffee and at night after dinner. His humor and enthusiasm touched millions of Americans. My heart goes out to Joy and his loved ones."

"Regis Philbin brought humor, warmth and wit into so many homes," Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. "Many people who never met him feel as though they’ve lost a personal friend and that’s a testament to his character. He will be missed."

"Today we mourn the loss of Bronxite Regis Philbin," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. tweeted. "Regis may have been one of the most recognizable media personalities of our time, but he never forgot his roots and was in the first class of inductees honored on the Bronx Walk of Fame in 1997."