Over the past 25 years, Regis Philbin has become such an entertainment legend and living symbol of New York that it’s hard to think of a time when he wasn’t in the city’s cultural consciousness. And yet Mr. Philbin, who’s become known as “the hardest-working man in show business” (with apologies to James Brown), was in his mid-50s and had already been in the TV biz for more than a quarter-century before he broke big on the national stage, in 1988.
But once this Bronx boy found the spotlight, he wasn’t giving it up. Live! quickly became the world’s most iconic morning show, due in no small part to Mr. Philbin’s often excitable and always infectious on-camera manner. No less an authority than David Letterman dubbed him the funniest man on television. And as host of the prime-time smash-hit Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, Mr. Philbin proved that his outer-borough work ethic could garner ratings, no matter the time of day. (We’ll just forget about that unfortunate style trend he spawned while on the game show.)
When Mr. Philbin set the Guinness World Record for most hours on camera in 2004, he was a mere pup of 72. Today, the record stands at some 17,000 hours, but you’d be a fool to assume that’s where it’ll stay.