What You Didn't Know About Regis Philbin

Fans and industry friends alike were deeply saddened to learn that Regis Philbin passed away at the age of 88 on July 24. While the ebullient TV star was best known for his role on Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, and as the host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, what many people don't know about Philbin is that he started out as a stagehand and delivery boy (via Fox News). The former navy man's life was fascinating from beginning to end, starting with how he got his unusual name. Apparently, the legend was named after his father's high school: Manhattan's Regis High School.

The Bronx native was born in 1931 (via People). He would go on to enroll at Notre Dame. According to Bleacher Report, Philbin was a lifelong fan of the college football team — in fact, the outlet named him the number one fan of the Fighting Irish. He even included a recording with the Notre Dame Glee Club on his 2005 Christmas album.

What else you don't know about the legendary TV personality

Philbin's big break came when he was offered a role as a sportscaster. After a local news job, and sidekick role on The Joey Bishop Show, the natural-born star would land a job at The Morning Show, where he met Kathie Lee Gifford. This program would become Live!, and the rest is history. 

In Philbin's personal life, he was married twice — first to Catherine Faylen, with whom he shares two children: Amy and Daniel (via Inquisitr). The star then married Joy and the couple remained together for 50 years until his death. They share two daughters named Joanna and Jennifer, who is better known as J.J. Sadly, Daniel, who was born with a spinal cord defect, passed away in 2014 (via Radar Online). He enjoyed a career at the Pentagon and was considered a hero after 9/11 due to acts of bravery.

Philbin's health was a challenge later in life

The TV personality with an unmistakable inflection reportedly first experienced chest pains in 1992 during a work trip with Gifford (via AOL). "I was rushed to the hospital where I was shocked to learn I had a blocked artery and would need an angioplasty right away," Philbin recounted. He went on to share that in 2007, he required a triple bypass. "The experience made me realize I needed to take my heart health seriously," he said. Philbin changed his diet later in life, and attempted to also integrate cardio exercises. He would support the Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign as a way to raise public awareness about heart health given his own experience.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Philbin also had a hip replacement, a blood clot removal surgery, and struggled with high cholesterol and acid reflux.

Philbin's modesty and genuine niceness will be his legacy

When asked in an interview what made him likable, Philbin said, "I don't know. It's a hard thing to answer about yourself. I guess it's good genes. My parents brought me up well, to have pleasure when making people happy." Joking about the media's tendency to twist words, he went on to joke, "Oh, no! I can see the headlines now! 'Regis Thinks He's a Nice Guy! Who Does He Think He Is?!'"

Reportedly, Philbin's nice guy routine was no act. Michael Gelman, longtime producer at Live! told the outlet that Philbin was exactly the same on, and off-camera. And New York Times journalist Alex Witchel once wrote about Philbin's success on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire: "the X factor of 'Millionaire's' success seems to be — besides the money, of course — that Mr. Philbin genuinely wants the contestants to win" (via The Washington Post).