Chapter 7: The Private Side of Television's Most Public Man

by Michael Essany

This chapter is a free excerpt from Regis Philbin.

In January 2011, following Regis Philbin's much-publicized announcement that he would be leaving "Live with Regis and Kelly," speculation swirled that Philbin's health was the primary basis behind his decision.

And fans were mostly justified in their concerns.

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In January 2011, following Regis Philbin's much-publicized announcement that he would be leaving "Live with Regis and Kelly," speculation swirled that Philbin's health was the primary basis behind his decision.

And fans were mostly justified in their concerns.

After successfully undergoing angioplasty in 1993, Regis subsequently endured a triple bypass surgery in 2007.

"I don't want to do it," Philbin told viewers upon learning that surgery was necessary. "Nobody wants to do it, I guess... I did all those things [tests for heart disease], and so they [the doctors] are all in agreement that it should be the bypass. And so that's what I'm going to do" (Watch Philbin discuss his upcoming surgery here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rZMdnxS7go)

You can read the rest of Regis' interview here: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20015027,00.html

Ultimately, Philbin's open heart surgery was a success, although his lengthy recovery would keep the irrepressible television personality off the air for more than two months.

Following his extensive recuperation, Philbin returned in rare form and largely avoided the discussion of his health, except to say that his bypass surgery had been a success and that he simply felt fine most of the time.

Despite Philbin's well-known candor in front of the camera, when it comes to matters of a private nature, Philbin is uncharacteristically coy - particularly when discussion turns to his health or family.

The Philbin Family

Throughout his public career, it was widely believed - but rarely questioned - that Regis was an only child. But on February 1, 2007, Philbin announced on "Live with Regis and Kelly" that he did have a brother, Frank M. Philbin.

Born March 1, 1951, Frank Philbin passed away January 27, 2007.

According to the morning show host, Frank died following complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Regis revealed that his much younger brother requested to be kept out of the public spotlight and never referred to on television or in the media.

"I never talked about him because he was a very private guy," Philbin shared with the New York Post. "I've respected that all these years."

"It was quite a shock to the whole family . . . it was one of those things that's hard to explain," he said of his brother’s passing. "He was a lot younger than I was. I was at Notre Dame when he was born, so I kind of grew up not knowing him because I was out in Hollywood knocking on doors when he was in grammar school. He turned out to be a terrific young guy."

Although Regis Philbin didn't shield his own children from the spotlight as he did for his brother, Philbin's role as a father has been somewhat enigmatic in the press.

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Married twice, Philbin walked down the aisle for the first time with Kay Faylan in 1955. During their marriage, which lasted until 1968, the couple had two children, Amy (b. 1961) and Danny (b. 1967).

Philbin has often referred to Danny as his hero. Philbin's only son was born with severe birth defects - missing vertebrae and leg muscles. After having his legs amputated in childhood, Danny largely grew up at Angel View Crippled Children's Foundation in California.

Despite his physical impediments, Danny Philbin would go on to work for the United States government, even serving in the Pentagon on the morning of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Following Philbin's divorce in 1968, he met and eventually wed interior decorator Joy Senese in 1970. The couple had two children: Joanna Philbin (b. March 19th, 1973) and Jennifer Joy (aka J.J. Philbin, b. August 30th, 1974).

Joanna Philbin has experienced success as a writer and author, while her sister, J.J. has excelled as a screenwriter and television producer.

On February 18, 2008, People magazine reported that Regis and Joy Philbin became grandparents when daughter J.J. and husband Michael Schur welcomed the birth of their son William Xavier Schur. Two years later, the couple welcomed a daughter, Ivy Elizabeth.

You can read more about Regis' grandson here: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20178757,00.html

Slowing Down or Speeding Up?

Since enduing open heart surgery four years ago, a noticeable transformation has overcome Regis, as evidenced by the stories and experiences he has shared with viewers over time.

Today, it appears that Philbin's greatest joys come from the moments he spends with his grandchildren.

While the venerable broadcaster remains perpetually on the go with no shortage of family functions and getaways, time and persistent health issues have taken their toll on Philbin's ability to retain a robust work schedule.

On the November 23, 2009 installment of "Live with Regis and Kelly," Philbin announced another medical-related departure from the show as a hip replacement had become necessary.

"I'm allowed to announce I'm going into hip surgery. I'm going to have my hip replaced," Philbin admitted, according to TV Guide. “I've been limping around here. It's really painful."

You can read the rest of Regis' interview here: http://www.tvguide.com/News/Regis-Philbin-Taking-1012538.asp

Following successful surgery on December 1st, 2009, Philbin returned to morning television on Monday, January 4, 2010. But just five months later, on May 14, 2010, Philbin revealed that he would undergo the knife once again - though for a minor surgery - to have a blood clot removed from his calf.

Health Prompts Retirement from "Live"?

Despite incessant tabloid headlines suggesting that Regis Philbin's health has precipitously declined in 2011, Philbin maintains that his physical well-being isn't the cause of his announced retirement from morning television.

"Its not like I’m dying, I’m just retiring from the show," Regis tweeted on January 18th after being overwhelmingly blindsided by public support and messages of concern. "By the way do you have a job for me," he joked.
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