The Bronx was the place to be for Regis Philbin in his early years. Simply put, he was the man.
Philbin died on July 24 at the age of 88. His memory will not disappear anytime soon, though, because his impact on the lives of others will continue for decades to come.
His national fame grew thanks to the start of The Morning Show in 1982, becoming Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee six years later with Kathie Lee Gifford. And his career took off from there. Philbin is largely credited with increasing ABC’s morning ratings, and the success continued from 2001-11 when the show was renamed again to Live! with Regis and Kelly, featuring Kelly Ripa.
My mom and I were huge fans of Live!, and we were determined to get tickets. Come 2009, we finally received a pair of tickets in the mail. But that also meant an early morning. We made the trek into Manhattan, waiting on the line to see the man who has more hours in front of a television camera than anyone else in history.
It was worth the trip.
Turns out that the day we headed over to the ABC studio just happened to be the one when Philbin was receiving word about whether or not he had sleep apnea.
“Good luck, Regis,” I shouted during a commercial break.
“Thanks, I need it,” he said, looking at me with a worried look on his face.
Evidently, he was indeed diagnosed with the condition after undergoing treatment on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
But my interaction with him, nonetheless, showed how beautiful of a human he is. Here was a celebrity who stopped in the middle of a hectic morning to interact with a teenager. That’s oh so rare.
When Philbin’s contract expired in 2011, he took some time off before heading to Chelsea Piers to host Crowd Goes Wild, a brand-new show to mark the launch of Fox Sports 1.
As a loyal fan, I obviously tuned in for the first episode. And plenty of episodes after that.
So one day, I’m watching Crowd Goes Wild, which often boasted a plethora of panelists from different sports. As a budding NASCAR reporter at the time, I saw a man named Tom Bowles appear on the show. Bowles owns a highly popular NASCAR publication called Frontstretch. His interaction with Philbin is etched in my memory to this day.
A few months later, I attended an event at Pocono Raceway, and I saw Bowles walking down the pit road. So what did I do? I chased after him, and I’m still not totally sure why I did it. But it led to a whole series of opportunities.
“I saw you on Regis Philbin’s show, and I’d love to work with you,” I told him.
The rest, as they say, is history. To this day, every writing opportunity I’ve had over the years is because of that interaction. Without watching Philbin growing up, who knows, maybe I wouldn’t have even ended up with the opportunities I’ve been blessed to have.
I’m certainly not the only person who Regis inadvertently impacted in a positive way, and I’d love to hear stories of those who were fortunate enough to have meaningful conversations with this beautiful man.
May his memory be a blessing.