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Regis And Joy Philbin Married 41 Years

February 14, 2012 by staff 

Regis And Joy Philbin Married 41 Years, “Mom, Dad-don’t say anything. You’ve waited a long time for this, so now I’m going to tell you what it is I want to do for the rest of my life. Come with me.”

It was these words that greeted Regis Philbin’s parents as they arrived on the Notre Dame campus on a stormy spring day in 1953. Twenty-one-year-old Regis Francis Xavier Philbin had been anticipating their arrival and was eager to break the news that, after four years spent pursuing a sociology degree at one of the most prestigious universities in the country, Philbin wanted to be a singer.

Specifically, he wanted to be Bing Crosby.

And so began a somewhat tense walk across the Notre Dame campus for the three Philbins, ending outside of a rehearsal room that Regis had spent the last two weeks in, practicing for this big moment. Once inside, he began to sing the chorus of “Pennies from Heaven” . . . and his mom started to cry. Things were looking good.

The song ended, and the silence in the room began. And just like any worthwhile story, the day would eventually end drastically different than what Philbin had pictured. In fact, he would end up going to the Navy before ever reaching the doorstep of Hollywood.

But what did occur in that room was substantial, because it was in that rehearsal room that Philbin says he finally mustered up the confidence to change the trajectory of the rest of his life, and begin the journey of one of the most storied careers of any entertainer.

Since then, Philbin has accomplished much and continued to thank all who have helped him get to where he is today. But out of all the celebrities and dignitaries he has come to know, perhaps no one person has received as much credit for his success as has the hallowed halls of the University of Notre Dame.

You see, anyone who knows “Reege” knows he loves Notre Dame.

Scratch that.

He’s passionate about it . . . and with over five decades in show business, he’s been eager to share his love for Notre Dame with anyone who would listen. Granted, his love transcends many people’s understanding. Yet, Philbin continues on with his vocal gratitude for everyone from the coaches that taught him to the classrooms where he made the crucial decisions that would affect the rest of his life.

After leaving the wildly successful Live with Regis and Kelly this past November, Philbin once again finds himself at a crossroads of sorts. At an age when most men have stored their ties away and gotten to know their recliner as well as the wife and family, Philbin remains in the public eye, constantly looking forward to what still just might be on the horizon.

During a recent book tour in support of his new memoir How I Got This Way, Philbin sat down with Shore magazine to talk about all that he has learned, and now . . . what he wants to teach the rest of us.

“I am the beneficiary of a lot of amazing things that I learned at Notre Dame, but unfortunately I didn’t take advantage of my college career,” he explains from a cramped room filled with television cameras and print journalists. “I just didn’t have the confidence. I couldn’t tell anyone back then what I wanted to do with my life . . . and having no confidence certainly was a tough way to start out a career in television. But through it all, I’ve always been proud that everything that has occurred in my life is because I went after it myself. I worked like a dog and slowly things began to develop on all different levels of my life.”

At the age of 80, Philbin is still the epitome of class and integrity. He has a wrinkled, yet still sculpted face and a perfectly tied tie. But in recent years, Philbin has struggled physically. A triple-bypass heart surgery in 2007 and a hip replacement in 2009 could have been reason enough to slow down. Yet, despite it all, Philbin says that daily workouts and his nightly escapades are his key to staying young, both physically and mentally.

“I think working out has really paid off for me through the years,” says Philbin, who has been married to his wife Joy for the past 41 years. “When I was doing [Live with Regis and Kelly], those first 20 minutes partly relied on me telling the viewers what I had been up to the night before. So, there were many times that that would be the reason that I would force myself to go and enjoy a show on Broadway or go out to dinner somewhere. I was always looking for something to talk about the next day.”

Indeed, stories have long made up the fabric of Philbin’s incredible life, with many focusing on his longtime friend and Hoosier, David Letterman. When asked who would win in a celebrity boxing match, Philbin’s eyes lit up. “I’d cold c**k him . . . BANG!” he says in his recognizable and emotion-filled voice. “Aw, who am I kidding? He has the range and the reach . . . plus he can run five miles and I can’t.”

And while he continues to have the uncanny ability to make any story funny, Philbin does have a serious side, seldom seen by many. In fact, he often refers back to a story regarding childhood hero Bing Crosby that seemed to teach him one of his most important, yet painful lessons. “As a little boy, I was crazy about the voice of Bing Crosby,” he recalls. “I loved the sound of his voice and when I met him, it meant a lot to me. He inspired me to get into show business. He was once a guest on The Joey Bishop Show and I really couldn’t believe I was sitting next to him.”

In 1977, Bing Crosby dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 74. “You know what? I never took the opportunity to thank him for what he did for me, and that’s one lesson that I can highly recommend to everyone. Thank the person that you have learned from, because once they die, you will feel terrible that you didn’t.”

Silence suddenly fills the room. Philbin stops for a moment. “Let’s talk about Notre Dame again, huh?” he asks.

Indeed, while some may assume that the life lessons he learned in South Bend were via the teachers who taught him, it was really the coaches that gave him the nuggets of advice that he has carried in his suit pocket all of these years. “I have found that many times, the coaches mean more to the students than the actual teachers themselves,” Philbin explains, citing Notre Dame legends such as Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz. “Now you can say that that’s unfortunate and it certainly doesn’t mean they were bad teachers, but it’s just that there were certain coaches at Notre Dame that, during their time, meant a great deal to those students. They taught them more about being good students and how it was important to take advantage of their education. Even in my later years, I can appreciate what they were teaching me.”

Undoubtedly, the shaky Notre Dame football program of late has caused Philbin much frustration. “When I talk about Notre Dame, most of the time it has been about their football program,” says Philbin, who visits the university two or three times a year. “But for the last twenty years or so, it’s been a bit of a problem since Lou Holtz left, but they are getting a little better. This new coach [Brian Kelly] seems as if he might able to do something for them.”

These days, Philbin says he’s thankful that his new memoir allowed him the time to look back at all he has accomplished. But rest assured, there is much more ahead for this dynamic personality. “Hindsight can be a great gift,” he concludes. “All of us have met people in our lives that impress us and that make a difference in the way you live your life.”

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