Former ‘GMA’ Host Joan Lunden Fondly Remembers Her Good Friend Regis Philbin

With the death of television great Regis Philbin, whose career spanned six decades, an outpouring of love, grief, and praise has been expressed from his fans and friends.

Former Good Morning America anchor and Philbin’s fellow ABC family member, Joan Lunden, could very well fall into both categories of fan and friend, and said so recently as she shared her sadness at his loss.

Joan Lunden, Regis Philbin, and Kathie Lee Gifford in 1994
Joan Lunden, Regis Philbin, and Kathie Lee Gifford in 1994 | Ida Mae Astute /American Broadcasting Companies via Getty Images

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How Joan Lunden has been keeping busy

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Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, Lunden, now 69, is a survivor and since leaving GMA in 1997 has kept busy writing books and tending to her seven children.

She frankly spoke with Parade in 2013 about having been removed from the morning show.

“The executives made a decision that younger was better,” she said. “They replaced me and Charlie Gibson with 30-something versions of ourselves. I agreed to say I was going on to do other things, and then I did them. I think they lost about 4 million viewers in a week. It was a calculated risk and it didn’t work.”

Lunden’s most recent book, released in March 2020, is Why Did I Come Into This Room? As Lunden says on the book’s website, “I held nothing back in this book, I share how I have experienced all of these things and how many affected and isolated me . . . Because aging, while it can be stressful, is also beautiful, joyful, liberating, and exciting!”

Regis Philbin’s sudden death

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The television host died on July 24, 2020, at the age of 88. His decades-long career in entertainment touched so many lives, with the tributes expressed for him after his death reflecting the wide age range of his admirers and fans of his work.

His family, devastated at his loss, announced his death saying “We are deeply saddened to share that our beloved Regis Philbin passed away last night of natural causes, one month shy of his 89th birthday.”

According to CNN, his family’s statement continued, “His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him — for his warmth, his legendary sense of humor, and his singular ability to make every day into something worth talking about.”

What Joan Lunden had to say about Regis Philbin

Speaking with GMA after Philbin’s death, his former colleague expressed her sadness at his passing and commented on his remarkable legacy. She and Philbin were frequently partnered for holiday parades throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

“My fondest memory of working with him…I worked with him, you know, on all the Christmas parades and Easter parades,” she said. “He was kind of an everyman’s man, he never tried to elevate himself to be bigger, to be a big star. On social media I posted [her condolences to Philbin’s family], and everyone said, ‘We feel like we lost a friend.’ Because that’s how you felt because he was so personable. He wasn’t someone on the air that was reading lines.”

“He was always fun to be around,” she added.

Lunden explained what set Philbin apart from other talk show hosts.

“I think to be a good talk show host,” she continued, “you have to be a real fan, you have to revel in your fans’ success…He never did it at anyone’s expense. I don’t think we have anyone like him these days.”