NEW YORK (AP) — Regis Philbin, the genial host who shared his life with television viewers over morning coffee for decades and helped himself and some fans strike it rich with the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” has died at 88.
Philbin died of natural causes Friday night, just over a month before his 89th birthday, according to a statement from his family provided by spokesman Lewis Kay. 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.
He was host of the prime- time game show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” briefly television’s most popular show at the turn of the century. ABC aired the family-friendly program as often as five times a week. It generated around $1 billion 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’s question to contestants, “Is that your final answer?” became a national catchphrase. Philbin was even a fashion trendsetter; he put out a line of mono-chramactic shirts and ties to match what he wore on the set.
“You wait a lifetime for something like that and sometimes it never happens,” Philbin told the AP 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.