THR Flashback: Regis Philbin's Other High-Profile TV Exit

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Camera West/Zuma Press/Newscom

Regis Philbin and Sally Field on "The Joey Bishop Show" in 1968.

Decades before he left "Live! With Regis and Kelly," the TV personality host set off a PR nightmare for ABC when he quit "The Joey Bishop Show" during a 1968 taping.

Regis Philbin, who at 80 is leaving Live! With Regis and Kelly (though not retiring from TV), found himself at the center of a media storm in 1968 when he was the Ed McMahon-type sidekick to Joey Bishop. The previous year, Philbin had landed the job with Bishop -- whose 11:30 p.m. ABC talk show competed with Johnny Carson -- but he quit 15 months later during a taping.

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The Hollywood Reporter's Rambling Reporter column said Philbin, then 36, heard "an ABC exec or two had been bum-rapping him and urging Joey to replace him 'for the good of the show.' So Regis told Joey he liked him too much to jeopardize his show and walked off." The network was deluged with letters after the telecast, and Philbin returned.

Bishop told Newsweek then that his announcer was "like a son to me" and "one of the nicest persons I've ever met." Thirty years later, however, he told The Dallas Morning News that Philbin's motivation for quitting was a salary dispute, called him "an ingrate" and said "he gives lots of hope to people who have no talent." Bishop died in 2007.

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In a 2006 Archive of American Television interview, Philbin spoke about the incident. "I didn't know how it was going to go," he said. "I was hoping that would be the way it turned out, and I was glad it did."

Bishop's show was canceled in 1969. Philbin went on to host myriad local talk shows before his daily program with Kathie Lee Gifford entered national syndication in 1988.