Regis Philbin says goodbye on 'Live! With Regis & Kelly'
Philbin was greeted with a standing ovation as he walked on stage, holding hands with co-host Kelly Ripa. "It's all about you today," she informed Philbin.
What followed was an hour of clips and special guests stopping by to pay tribute to the ubiquitous TV host, who is capping off a career of roughly 16,500 hours on the air. (In 2004, he broke the Guinness World Record of most hours on camera with 15,188 hours.)
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg came on to present Philbin with the key to the city, while Disney President Bob Iger brought a plaque commemorating Philbin's career that would be placed in the studio where the show taped. "It has been a true pleasure to consider you a colleague and a friend," Iger said. "I have a gift for you, but it's a gift you can't take with you. Sorry, we're a little cheap here."
Other guests on the show included Philbin's former co-host (and current "Today" co-host) Kathie Lee Gifford, Donald Trump and Tony Danza. A younger generation of stars, including Anne Hathaway, Justin Timberlake, Kevin Connolly and Emma Stone, shared their own memories of what appearing with Philbin meant to them.
Philbin's wife and fill-in co-host, Joy, joined him on stage to share her memories of the show, with their children watching from the audience. Joy finally told Ripa the story of the couple's honeymoon, when Philbin neglected to make a reservation at a motel for them after the wedding and they ended up drinking wine at a Du-Par's restaurant in a rainstorm.
The cast of the Broadway musical "Rent" came on to sing the anthem "Seasons of Love" with lyrics specially rewritten for Philbin, commemorating his many hours and minutes on the air. Philbin watched from the sidelines and appeared to become truly misty-eyed for the first time during the broadcast.
Ripa read a prepared and emotional speech from a sheet of paper. "How many steps does it take to change the course of a person's day?" she read. "I happen to know it takes exactly 43 steps." That's the number of steps from her dressing room to the stage. Ripa gave thanks to Philbin for taking a "soap actress" and changing the course of her life.
Philbin had just a few minutes at the end of the broadcast to give his own goodbye to his audience. "Why has the show stayed on so long?" he said. "It’s answered to me every time people tell me why they watch it. They watch it, they say, because it makes them feel better. And it can’t get better than that.
"I’ll never be able to answer all the cards and letters and messages," he continued. "Especially in the last few weeks. Thank you for all the great years together. God bless you all, and I hope I see you again real soon."
Then he was joined on stage by his family as the credits rolled.
-- Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: Regis Philbin waves goodbye during the taping of his final episode of "Live!" Friday. Credit: Brendan McDermid / Reuters