Regis Philbin bid farewell to his longtime ABC daytime talk show "LIVE! with Regis and Kelly" on Friday, November 18, after serving as a host more than 28 years, during an emotional tribute episode.
The 80-year-old maintained his composure during his final regular appearance, which featured appearances from celebrities and members of his family, as well as words of praise from co-host Kelly Ripa, who fought back tears as she said on the air that her life "forever changed" when she joined the program more than a decade ago.
"It was very moving and I think well done," Philbin told WABC Television, which produces "LIVE!," after filming the episode. "We just sat back and enjoyed the whole thing - it brought back a lot of memories for us. (Tears) didn't start to flow but I did get choked up because it was very touching, what she was saying."
"That was really unnerving and kind of emotional for me," he added. "I wouldn't recognize people until I saw their face because there's a whole mass out there. But that ... was an extraordinary way to end the show. All these people who have been part of our lives all these years and my family as well, my two daughters and Joy."
Philbin's final regular appearance on the series began with a final walk with co-host Kelly Ripa from her dressing room to the stage.
"I know what he's meant to me and how these 43 steps - because I've counted them exactly - that we take together from my dressing room to the stage door changed my life so much," Ripa told WABC Television. "And then I realized - it's so selfish of me to think that he's just changed my life because he's changed everybody's lives in those 43 steps."
As Philbin and Ripa arrived to the stage, they were greeted with cheers from the audience members, which included the likes of his former co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, "Who's The Boss? actor Tony Danza, Donald Trump, ABC News personality Diane Sawyer and future ABC talk show host Katie Couric, as well as president of Disney-ABC Television Group Anne Sweeney and Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger.
A montage of guest hosts such as Neil Patrick Harris impersonating Philbin was then shown. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg then appeared on stage and jokingly offered him work.
"I stayed up all last night trying to find a job for you on the computer," he told Philbin. "I've come up with some things for you. No one knows the streets of New York City better than you. So why don't you be a cab driver?"
Bloomberg also joked that Philbin could become a member of the New York Yankees baseball team or even run for mayor. He then offered him the key to the city.
"Oh boy!" Philbin said.
More montages paying tribute to the talk show host were then shown. One featured celebrities such as Anne Hathaway, Justin Timberlake and Emma Stone, while another starred Philbin's family - his wife Joy and daughters, Joanna and JJ.
"I remember coming and sitting in the audience when I was 13 and I had such a great time," said Stone, who is 23 and stars in the new "Spider-Man" film.
Toward the end of Philbin's final show, performers sang a tribute song based on the track "Seasons of Love," which is from the Broadway musical "Rent." Iger then presented Philbin with a plaque, which showcases the talk show host's face, on the side of the building.
"Twenty-eight and a half years, and we've had a great time," Philbin said during the episode. "I'll never be able to answer all the cards and messages, especially in the last few weeks. Thank you very much for these years together. God bless you all, and I hope I see you again real soon."
Philbin had announced in January that he planned to leave the show, saying: "There is a time that everything must come to an end for certain people on camera, especially certain old people."
SEINFELD, 'SEX AND THE CITY' STAR AMONG GUEST HOSTS
Jerry Seinfeld, "Sex and the City" actress Kim Cattrall, "America's Got Talent" host Howie Mandel, television chef Jamie Oliver and Miss Piggy and Jason Segel are set to temporarily take over hosting duties later this month.
The "Seinfeld" comedian and actor will co-host the program with Ripa for three episodes, airing between November 21 and November 23.
ABC has said the show will continue with Ripa, who joined him as co-host about 10 years ago. The show will be called "LIVE! with Kelly" until a permanent replacement for Philbin is announced.
Philbin took time off from "LIVE! with Regis and Kelly" in 2010 to have a blood clot removed from his leg and to have hip replacement surgery. He also underwent a triple heart bypass procedure in 2007.
Celebrities who have stepped in for Philbin during his absences include actress Lisa Rinna and Ripa's husband, actor Mark Consuelos.
Philbin began his television career in Los Angeles, working for KABC Television, OnTheRedCarpet.com's parent company. He moved to New York in 1983 and co-hosted "The Morning Show" with Cyndy Garvey on local station WABC Television, which produces ""LIVE! with Regis and Kelly." Garvey was replaced by Gifford in 1985 and the show became nationally syndicated in 1988.
Gifford left the series in 2000 and Philbin co-hosted it with guests until Kelly Ripa joined the program full-time in 2001.
Philbin, a three-time Emmy Award winner who once hosted the ABC game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 2008.
Check out the WABC Television's interview with Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa below.