Regis Francis Xavier Philbin is an American media personality and occasional actor and singer, known for hosting talk and game shows from the 1950s to the present. Philbin is often called “the hardest working man in show business” and holds the Guinness World Record for the most time spent in front of a television camera. With each TV appearance, he adds to his record for most hours logged. His trademarks include his excited manner, his New York Bronx accent, his wit, and irreverent ad-libs. He is most widely known for Live with Regis and Kelly, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Million Dollar Password, and for hosting the first season of America’s Got Talent.
Philbin was born in 1931. His father, Francis “Frank” Philbin, a U.S. Marine who served in the Pacific, was of Irish heritage. His mother, Filomena “Florence”, was of Albanian heritage. They lived at 1990 Cruger Avenue in the Van Nest section of The Bronx. Philbin was raised Roman Catholic. It was long believed that Philbin grew up an only child, but on the February 1, 2007, broadcast of Live with Regis and Kelly, Philbin announced that he did have a brother, Frank M. Philbin, who had died from non-Hodgkin lymphoma several days earlier. He said that his brother, 20 years younger than he, had asked him to not speak of him on television or in the press.
Philbin attended Our Lady of Solace grammar school in the Bronx. He went on to graduate from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx in 1949 before attending the University of Notre Dame, where he graduated in 1953 with a sociology degree. He later served in the United States Navy and went through a few behind-the-scenes jobs in television and radio before moving into the broadcasting arena.
His first talk show was The Regis Philbin Show on KGTV in San Diego, California. For budgetary reasons, he had no writing staff, leading him to begin each show with what has become his hallmark, the “host chat” segment, where he engages his audience in discussions about his life and the day’s events.