Regis Philbin said goodbye to morning television Friday, ending his 28-year reign on the show he co-hosted for 28 years.
"I'll always remember spending these mornings with all of you," Philbin said, signing off from his final appearance as the host of "Live! With Regis and Kelly."
At 80 years old, Philbin has logged more than 17,000 hours on television in a career that dates back to the 1960s. He gained prime-time fame as host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" a decade ago. But his enduring impact was as a morning show host, and his way of weaving something from nothing, turning stories about a dinner out on the town into compelling viewing.
Philbin began his final appearance as host with cameras following his walk from his dressing room to the stage, stopping to knock on co-host Kelly Ripa's door and walking out with her. "I love you," she said quietly as the lights went up.
The audience for his final show was stacked with celebrities, too, including his former host Kathie Lee Gifford, Katie Couric, Donald Trump, Tony Danza, Alan Alda and Meredith Vieira. Others like Justin Timberlake and Anne Hathaway offered brief filmed tributes.
Ripa fought tears as she recalled how terrified she was on her first day as Philbin's partner and how he put her at ease.
"You always want to make me feel like a million bucks, always," she said.
The Broadway cast of "Rent" performed a personalized version of "Seasons Of Love," replacing the line "five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes" with the amount of Philbin's on-air time, "nine hundred ninety-five thousand six hundred minutes."
The show was otherwise devoted to emotion-filled clip sequences of hijinks with Ripa and celebrities like Dana Carvey trying their Regis impersonation. Earlier in the week, David Letterman and Vice President Joe Biden had stopped by to pay respects.
Philbin has been careful to say he's not retiring, and his immediate plans include a tour to promote his new book, "How I Got This Way."
"Where's Regis going?" he said. "Regis doesn't know. Stop asking me!"
The show will continue with Ripa. Similar to when she replaced Gifford, a succession of co-hosts will join her, some essentially trying out for the permanent job.
Philbin's parting gifts were a key and a plaque. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared to thank Philbin for making the city a big part of his show, and offered a symbolic key. Walt Disney Co. chief executive Bob Iger showed a plaque honoring Philbin that had been installed on the outside of the building where the show's studio is located.
"I wanted this to be a show where people would feel better about themselves, to look at life in a different way, a funnier way," Philbin said.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.