By Verne Gay
NEW YORK – For such a famously excitable guy, Regis Philbin made a big announcement Tuesday with surprising calm. He’s announced his plans of retiring from his show.
Philbin delivered the news at the start of Tuesday’s “Live With Regis and Kelly,” a show he has hosted for more than a quarter-century, most recently sharing hosting duties with Kelly Ripa.
He said he would be stepping down from the show around the end of the summer, though he didn’t announce a specific departure date.
“I don’t want to alarm anybody,” he began, then said, “This will be my last year on the show.”
His brief remarks came during the show’s off-the-cuff “host chat,” after he and Ripa had batted the breeze about the Golden Globes, football and the icy weather outside.
“It’s been a long time, it’s been 28 years,” Philbin said reflectively, speaking of his current Manhattan-based show.
“It was the biggest thrill of my life to come back to New York, where I grew up as a kid watching TV in the early days, you know, never even dreaming that I would one day have the ability, or whatever it takes, to get in front of the camera and talk to it,” he said.
“There is a time that everything must come to an end for certain people on camera – especially certain old people!” cracked Philbin, who turns 80 in August.
“I wish I could do something to make you change your mind,” Ripa said.
“Now waaait a minute,” Philbin said slyly.
The show’s distributors, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, said in a statement the “Live” franchise will continue, adding that a new co-host will eventually be named to join Ripa, who marks her 10 year anniversary with the show next month.
But Philbin, referring to his time left on the show, assured viewers, “We’ll have a lot of fun between now and then.”
Philbin’s leave-taking will happen not long after another giant of daytime television, Oprah Winfrey, ends her syndicated show to concentrate on her new cable network.
A Philbin contemporary in the broadcasting world, 77-year-old Larry King, retired from his prime-time CNN talk show last month. His successor, Piers Morgan, debuted Monday.
Since the 1950s, Philbin has been a television fixture, though for years he worked mostly for local stations.
In 1967, he won national exposure as the announcer and sidekick on comic Joey Bishop’s short-lived ABC late-night show.
Later on, Philbin became a star in local morning television – first in Los Angeles, then, in 1983, in New York.
In 1985, he teamed with Kathie Lee Johnson, a year before she married former football star Frank Gifford, and their show went into national syndication in 1988.
Philbin clicked with daytime audiences as a common man who loved to sound off about familiar frustrations, even as he lived a life rubbing elbows with fellow celebrities.
Gifford left the show in 2000. After a tryout period for a replacement, soap star Ripa (“All My Children”) filled the slot.
One of daytime syndication’s most enduring hits, “Live With Regis and Kelly” was seen daily by an average of roughly 4 million viewers according to a recent Nielsen Co. report.
Typically the show airs live from its Manhattan studio at 9 a.m. Eastern time, though it is broadcast by some stations later in the day.
A decade ago, Philbin conquered prime time as host of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which quickly became a ratings phenomenon for ABC.
A three-time Emmy Award winner, Philbin was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 2008.