Spoilers ahead for the July 28 episode of 20/20 on ABC, centered on Regis Philbin.
Beloved TV icon and longtime daytime host Regis Philbin passed away on July 24 due to natural causes, just shy of his 89th birthday. It didn't take long for some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry to honor Philbin. Kelly Ripa, who hosted Live with Regis and Kelly from 2001-2011, appeared in a 20/20 special honoring Philbin, and she shared what she feels his legacy will be.
Visibly emotional as she reflected on Regis Philbin's life and career, Kelly Ripa said:
It’s hard to measure Regis’ legacy, because I still think of him as still here. I think that Regis’ legacy is his contribution to humanity in terms of it’s just okay to be yourself. And also, I think his love of people will also be his legacy. He just loved people. And he just wanted to be a part of it. He wanted to be a part of something. And he never let any of it go to his head. So I guess his ultimate legacy is his humility.
Regis Philbin's long career makes it no surprise that Kelly Ripa found it difficult to measure his legacy. After spending ten years in front of the camera by his side as his final Live co-host, Ripa has a unique perspective on his "contribution to humanity." He certainly worked many years to bring laughter to viewers.
He spent decades working his way up through showbiz, starting as an announcer for The Tonight Show back in 1962 and getting his big break more than 20 years later. In 1985, Regis Philbin was paired with Kathie Lee Johnson (who would become Kathie Lee Gifford after marrying Frank Gifford) for The Morning Show, which would ultimately become nationally syndicated and retitled as Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.
When Kathie Lee Gifford left the show in 2000, she was replaced by then-All My Children star Kelly Ripa, with whom Regis Philbin shared hosting duties until he ended his time on Live in 2011. During his daytime TV work, he also served as host of America's Got Talent Season 1, immortalized the phrase "Is that your final answer?" as host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, had a Bronx street renamed in his honor, and more.
Kelly Ripa showed off what she learned during her time with Regis Philbin when she continued on the show with some new co-hosts. Although Live with Kelly and Michael didn't last too long before Michael Strahan left, Ripa found more success with current co-host Ryan Seacrest. She took to social media to pay tribute to Philbin on behalf of both her and Seacrest with a festive photo. Take a look:
Regis Philbin built a legacy of humility and love of humanity that will surely last, and not just because Live has continued. Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest deliver entertainment in a format that Philbin made popular, and enough celebrities have honored him that it's clear he'll be missed.
Our thoughts here at CinemaBlend are with the friends, family, and loved ones of Regis Philbin in this difficult time. New episodes of 20/20 following the special Regis Philbin tribute broadcast air Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.