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Regis Philbin Called Disabled Son His ‘Hero in Life’ Yet Ex-daughter-In-Law Said He Neglected Him

Titi Dokubo
Mar 31, 2022
12:20 P.M.
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Regis Philbin and his second wife were married until he died on July 24, 2020. The host of television shows was a proud father of four kids, including two children from a previous marriage.


Regis Philbin had a heavy heart for his only son Daniel, and throughout his life, the press unjustly accused him. Daniel was born with health defects that caused him to lose both legs.

After his only son died, the well-known television personality lived for less than six years. Here are all the details about Regis Philbin and his son's lives and relationship.

Regis Philbin at a press conference as he departs from "LIVE! with Regis and Kelly" on November 17, 2011, in New York [left], Regis Philbin on the set of "Lou Wants to Be a Millionaire" on November 7, 2019 [right] | Source: Getty Images


Regis was the television legend who was most famous for being the host of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" the co-host of the "Live" morning program, and "Live With Regis & Kelly."

In 1955, he married actress Catherine "Kay" Faylen, and they welcomed their first child, Amy, in 1961. She pursued a career in singing, and there is very little information about her.

Regis Philbin and Catherine "Kay" Faylen circa 1965 | Source: Getty Images


Regis became a father for the second time with the arrival of his son, Daniel, in 1967. Despite his disabilities, Daniel worked successfully at the Department of Defense.

Unfortunately, Regis and Faylen divorced a year after the arrival of Daniel. In 1970, he remarried a television personality, Joy, and welcomed two children together.

In 1973, Regis welcomed his third child, Joanna Philbin. Like her father, the accomplished author received her master's from the University of Notre Dame.

Joy Philbin, Regis Philbin, and Joanna Philbin at the American Celtic Ball in New York on October 10, 1990 | Source: Getty Images


Regis welcomed his fourth child, Jennifer Joy, in 1974, who also attended his alma mater. Popularly known as J.J, she is a Hollywood producer and screenwriter best known for her work on "Single Parents" and the drama series The O.C.

Even though he likened having children to being a tricky piece of business, Regis loved his kids, wanted the best for them, and even had his daughters Joanna and J.J. join him on air on several occasions.

Regis Philbin and Joy Philbin with their daughters Joanna and Jennifer at the premiere party for "The Monster Squad" on June 3, 1987, in New York | Source: Getty Images



In 1988, he became the co-host of "Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee" with Kathie Lee Gifford. Their working relationship was uneasy, but they coexisted by not taking themselves too seriously and being able to have fun at each other's expense.

Just as Regis was settling into the show, he started receiving negative and embarrassing publicity. The first press in 1989 claimed that Regis had abandoned his only son.

Regis Philbin ready to host the 1981 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade | Source: Getty Images


The reports also stated that Daniel lived with his mother in the projects. Regis disputed the rumors and claimed his son was living comfortably and, at the time, was working as a political intern.

His daughter-in-law, Judy, also claimed that Regis had abandoned them, and at some point, she and Daniel were too broke to eat.

Judy and Daniel had to borrow money. Even though Regis reached out to them, she said he never visited them. Judy also claimed that his second family wanted nothing to do with them.

Regis Philbin arriving "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" on September 19, 1990 | Source: Getty Images



Shortly after Westinghouse fired Regis, Daniel was born with missing vertebrae and leg muscles. The occasion, which should have been joyous, was dampened by Daniel's congenital disabilities.

Regis's misery became compounded by trying to hold his marriage together. With no sacrum, Daniel underwent over 60 surgeries over the years.

Photo of Regis Philbin after he received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 10, 2003 | Source: Getty Images


After one of Daniel's procedures, he developed gangrene, and the hospital had to amputate both his legs as he would never walk and attempts to use artificial limbs failed.

The situation was challenging for Regis as he would never be able to play a game of tennis with his son or an impromptu game of football.

Regis Philbin at the inaugural Discovery Health Channel Medical Honors on June 23, 2004 | Source: Getty Images


With this news, Regis said he was heartbroken. He said,

"A wrench dug deep into my heart and it stayed there ever since. I felt profoundly sorry, frustrated and angry."

He remembered visiting Daniel in the hospital for one year straight, and every time he went there, he felt like a knife had gone through his heart. Regis even wished he was the sick one and not his son.

Regis Philbin as the host of "America's Got Talent" on June 21, 2006 | Source: Getty Images


However, Regis was hopeful at first and tried everything from faith healers to specialists, but no one could save his son. He gradually pulled away emotionally because he could not deal with the agony.

At some point, Regis could no longer talk about it with friends even though they had good intentions. He believed he should have handled it better and smiled through the pain, but he could not.

Regis Philbin as he received the 2008 Andy Anselmo Lifetime Achievement Award on April 28, 2008 | Source: Getty Images


Having a physically disabled child eventually brought his marriage with Faylen to the brink, and they could not work things out. Soon, Regis got back on national television, which acted as a temporary salve to his problems.

Despite his disabilities, Daniel attended Palm Spring High School and eventually graduated with two college degrees. In 2004, Daniel was a featured speaker at the Angel View Foundation's 50th-anniversary celebration.

Regis Philbin as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 35th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on June 20, 2008 | Source: Getty Images



In 1992, Daniel was a summer intern with the Directorate for Defense Information, and because he did a great job, they invited him for another internship after graduate school.

He then worked full-time for the Department of Defense, became a writer-editor, and in December 2002, they awarded Daniel for his outstanding contributions after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Regis Philbin at the 2009 Disney and ABC TV Summer Press Junket on May 30, 2009 | Source: Getty Images


At 46, Daniel died in 2014 of natural causes. Twenty years before his death, Regis called Daniel his hero. He said,

"He's my hero in life. For him to overcome all this disability, to graduate from college, work on his master's program — he's just dynamite, a remarkable kid."

Although Daniel died in November 2014, his family did not share news of his death with the public until 2015.

Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford captured on the set of "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" on April 25, 1988 | Source: Getty Images



On July 24, 2020, Regis died of natural causes at 88. The chief medical examiner's office said he died from "myocardial infarction," commonly known as a heart attack, as he had coronary artery disease and hypertension.

His former co-host Gifford said Regis had been depressed because of the COVID-19 lockdown as he could not perform anywhere because nobody was out and about.

Also, Regis had lost one of his dearest friends to the virus, which was a difficult time for him. Shortly after his death, they sold his multi-million dollar home.

Regis was loved by many and also loved by one of his alma maters, the University of Notre Dame, which eventually became his final resting place.