"Some people ask, 'Why has the show stayed on so long?' " Regis Philbin said on his final broadcast of Live! with Regis and Kelly Friday. "People tell me why they watch it ... because it makes them feel better. And it can't get any better than that. It makes them happy. "
After 28 years on Live!, Regis Philbin signed off for the final time Friday in front of a studio audience filled with family, friends and celebrities, as well as a nationwide TV viewership.
"Every morning, I'll think about this," he told co-host Kelly Ripa as they walked down the hallway to the studio for their final show together. "Thank you for everything," said a teary Ripa as they embraced before the show. "I love you."
It's a sentiment shared by many viewers – and a relationship that Philbin, 80, took seriously. "I wanted this to be a show where people would feel better about themselves, would look at life in maybe a different way, a funnier way," said Philbin on Friday's episode. "I think that's what we've accomplished ... I'm going out a pretty proud and happy guy."
But first, he had a tribute-packed final broadcast to get through, in which stars shared their memories of working with him and video montages abounded. "Too long, but okay," he quipped good-naturedly of one of them.
Donald Trump, Kathie Lee Gifford and Tony Danza were in the audience, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg popped in to present him with a key to the city.
Then things got really emotional.
Cue The Tears"Your light is what shined around all of us and made us look so bright for so long," Ripa told her co-host with a shaky voice in a speech about how Philbin changed people's days during his time on air.
"As you go forward, I'm thinking about the people at home who are suffering from cancer, and a nursing mother who's been up all night feeding her baby, and the little boy who's taking a math test and he's afraid to go to school so he stays home and watches you. And your story makes [them] feel better."
With just 10 minutes of his final hour on air to go, the off-Broadway cast of Rent performed a personalized rendition of "Seasons of Love" for Regis, who looked to be on the verge of tears for the first time during the broadcast.
Disney big boss Bob Iger (the company owns ABC) also announced that a plaque commemorating Regis's years at the network had been attached to the entrance of the ABC studios on Manhattan's West Side to greet all who come there.
"We've had a wonderful show and a great time," Regis said, thanking everyone who's worked with him. Of viewers telling him over the years that the show makes them happy, Regis added, "I'll never be able to top that."
"I'll always remember spending these mornings with all of you," he said, addressing the audience. "Thank you very much for these great years together, God bless you all and I hope I see you again real soon. Thanks everybody."
And then he blew a kiss to the camera and mouthed the words "bye bye."