Chapter 2: The Roots of Regis

by Michael Essany

This chapter is a free excerpt from Regis Philbin.

In his bestselling 1995 autobiography, "I'm Only One Man," Regis Philbin revealed the ultimate driving force in life and work: his mother.

As a young man, whenever buoyant self-confidence crept into Regis' words and actions, his mother, according to an LA Times report, would habitually utter a phrase that never left the future broadcasting legend: "The poorhouse is just around the corner, Mr. Big Shot."

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In his bestselling 1995 autobiography, "I'm Only One Man," Regis Philbin revealed the ultimate driving force in life and work: his mother.

As a young man, whenever buoyant self-confidence crept into Regis' words and actions, his mother, according to an LA Times report, would habitually utter a phrase that never left the future broadcasting legend: "The poorhouse is just around the corner, Mr. Big Shot."

You can read the rest of the article here: http://articles.latimes.com/2000/feb/28/entertainment/ca-3394/2

Today, Philbin confirmed in his book, that same street "around the corner" has been renamed "Regis Philbin Avenue" in honor of the the man whose humble beginnings never strayed from his thoughts.

Often dubbed "Mr. New York," Philbin was born in the Bronx on August 25, 1931. His parents were Francis “Frank” Philbin, a U.S. Marine of Irish heritage, and Filomena Philbin (née Boscia) of Italian heritage.

Regis was named after his father's alma mater, Regis High School in Manhattan.

Though incredibly close to his parents, Philbin has rarely revealed much insight into his upbringing, except when praising the job Frank and Filomena did when raising him.

Once asked by famed Esquire journalist Bill Zehme "What makes you so likeable?" Philbin responded: "I don't know. It's a hard thing to answer about yourself," he revealed, visibly embarrassed to answer such a direct question. "I guess it's good genes. My parents brought me up well, to have pleasure when making people happy."

You can read the rest of the interview here: http://articles.latimes.com/2000/feb/28/entertainment/ca-3394/2

“My father Francis Philbin was born on the Upper East Side in the Yorkville area. His father had come from Ireland,” Philbin recalled in a 2010 interview with Irish Central.

“To make a long story short,” he summarized, “there were many members of the Italian family, so my poor father was outnumbered. He was a good guy about it. My mother’s sisters would descend on our little house in the Bronx, and every Sunday there would be a big chicken dinner and lots of spaghetti and meatballs. In those days it was rather common for the Irish to marry someone outside of their own background.”

You can read the rest of the interview here: http://www.irishcentral.com/ent/Regis-Philbin-dishes-on-his-Irish-roots-Bing-Crosby-and-Notre-Dame-87182962.html?page=

Raised Catholic, Philbin attended Our Lady of Solace grammar school in the Bronx before later graduating from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx in 1949.

In 1953, without the faintest hint of show business aspirations, Philbin graduated with a sociology degree from the University of Notre Dame. Afterwards, he enlisted in the United States Navy as a Supply Officer.

Not wanting a long-term career in the military, Philbin returned home to New York where he quickly found work as a page at NBC.

"I never knew when I was a page right here in this studio... I never knew what I wanted to do," Philbin admitted in a 2006 interview with CNBC television. "I never thought I had any talent."

You can read more of the interview here: http://www.eisner.cnbc.com/transcripts/regisphilbin.pdf

Even as a boy, show business never crossed his mind as a potential career choice, Philbin revealed, adding that radio - not television - was the medium that primarily captured his fascination in youth.

"My hero was Bing Crosby," Philbin admits, recalling that he would go to sleep every night after listening to an uninterrupted half-hour of Bing's music on the radio starting at 9:30 pm. “I fell in love with his voice. It was just a clear, beautiful voice, and it was so friendly that I began to think he was my friend."

Years later, Regis Philbin's key to success was that he could make TV viewers feel as though he was their friend. Having done through television what Bing Crosby accomplished through radio, Regis Philbin is widely considered American television's friendliest face.

But for much of his first twenty years in television, a barrage of hurdles, challenges, and setbacks almost prevented Regis Philbin’s ultimate rise to stardom.
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