Regis Philbin is getting emotional. But then, so is his loyal, long-watching TV audience.
Today marked Reeg's finale as the self-referential coffee-klatsch mainstay on Live With Regis and Kelly as he signed off at the undeniably amazing age of 80 after 28 years as the lead host.
Fittingly retrospective, touching and funny, the hourlong swansong included not only Philbin's current cohost, Kelly Ripa, but a walk down memory lane with a veritable all-star audience.
The show began with a throwback black-and-white behind-the-scenes look at Regis' preshow routine—his final one, of course—where he picks up Ripa from her dressing room and, with voices already cracking with emontion, they head out to the stage together for the final time. There, they're greeted by an all-star audience of friends of the show—Kathie Lee Gifford, of course, along with Meredith Vieira, Tony Danza, Caroline Rhea, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Donald Trump and Bryant Gumbel.
Shortly after greeting the crowd, Regis cut right to the chase by answering the question he's been most asked: "Where's Regis going? Regis don't know! Stop asking me!"
With that, the celebrations began, starting out with a montage of all the famous impressions of the ever-inimitable Philbin over the years.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was next on stage, and paid tribute to Regis' longtime devotion to the Big Apple. "You have been New York's biggest fan for years and I'm here to say, New York feels the same about you."
With that he reeled off a couple comedy potential job options—hot dog vendor, Yankee recruit, cab driver, Calvin Klein billboard model, the Naked Cowboy 2.0, mayoral successor—and then went on his merry way, but not before presenting Philbin with an appropriate parting gift.
"On behalf of 8.4 million New Yorkers, to a kid from the Bronx, I want to give you the key to the city."
Then came time to roll out the young ones, with a montage of goodbyes from Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez, Emma Stone, Shia LaBeouf, Anne Hathaway, all rattling off a line or two about how much they appreciated Regis' kindness at important junctures in their careers, before a lengthy reminiscing session by Reeg's family, including Joy Philbin and daughters J.J. and Joanna.
When it was Kelly's turn to reminisce, the near-tears cohost but highly emotional, with her voice wobbling throughout her short speech.
"For 11 years I have had the great fortune of starting my day sitting next to you," she said, near tear. "Regis, you took this soap actress and plopped her behind the desk with you and made her your host chat partner in crime, and my life was forever changed.
"How many steps does it take to change the course of a person's day? I happen to know it is 43 exactly," she said, referring to their walk from the dressing room to the stage. "On that journey of 43 steps you are all mine…you always want to make me feel like a million bucks. Always.
"Your light is what shined around all of us and what made us look so bright for so long…I look forward to the next 43 steps and may they fill you with the joy you've filled us with all these years."
How do you follow that? With a specially version of Rent's "Seasons of Love" dedicated to the "995,600 minutes" of Regis' Live career, during which he began to get outwardly emotional.
Following that touching tribute, the president and CEO of Disney, Bob Iger, came out as a representative of the company that Regis has served for nearly three decades.
"As a colleague and a friend, I thank you very much," he said, before bringing revealing his gift for Regis: a newly installed plaque on the side of the building honoring Philbin's career.
When it came time for Philbin's goodbye, he kept it short.
"This was the last chance I had in this business, to make it here in New York…I guess it was fate that it would happen this way, and it did," he said.
"Some people ask why has this show stayed on so long, and I think it's answered to me every time people tell me why they watch it. They watch it, they say, because it makes them feel better. It makes them happy. I'll never be able to top that.
"I'll always remember spending these morning will all of you. Thank you very much for these great years together, God bless you all, and I hope I'll see you again real soon."
We're not sure of Regis' next plans—he's obviously not sure, either, but a reality show is always a possibility—but we know he'll bounce back. Just like he did last night after taking a spill on Late Night With David Letterman. Dave put him on a scooter and after much buildup, he drove about five yards before toppling over—only to immediately bounce immediately back up with a flourish.
"He's got one show left and we nearly kill him," Letterman said.
Nah, you can't keep a good man down. Meanwhile, the show will go on, and Jerry Seinfeld has been enlisted to fill in as the first guest host on the newly titled Live With Kelly.