In the Bronx area of Morris Park, a street sign on Cruger Avenue between Sagamore Street and Bronxdale Avenue honors the legacy of Regis Philbin, the legendary broadcaster who passed away last Friday. Often considered the hardest working man in show business, Philbin grew up near the intersection of Cruger and Bronxdale Avenues and the street that bears his name, Regis Philbin Avenue.
Unlike most street name dedications, like those given posthumously to scientist Nikola Tesla, rapper Notorious B.I.G, as well as fellow Bronx Native and Batman creator Bill Finger, Philbin’s street name was dedicated while he was still alive. The honor was bestowed in 1992 to celebrate the broadcaster’s first thirty years in the television industry.
Philin is best known for hosting popular network shows like “Regis and Kelly” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” but he came from humble beginnings on Cruger Avenue. That street was named for John Cruger Sr., a mayor of New York City in the 18th century. Born on August 25, 1931, Philbin grew up in a modest two-story brick building for much of his childhood. The building was demolished in 2010. He attended Cardinal Hayes High School in the south Bronx, graduating in 1949. He would pay back the school for his education by later covering renovation costs for a new auditorium.
Earlier in his career, Philbin often alluded to his childhood in the Bronx. Philbin once said, “You know, I never knew if I had any talent when I started in this business. My first job was being a page at ‘The Tonight Show.’ I saw Jack Paar come out one night and sit on the edge of his desk and talk about what he’d done the night before. I thought, ‘I can do that!’ I used to do that on a street corner in the Bronx with all my buddies.”
Philbin maintained his Bronx pride throughout his career, attending the formal unveiling of the Bronx Ball in 1997 and accepting a spot in the first inductee class honored on the Bronx Walk of Fame. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Philbin holds the world record for most hours on television; a milestone achieved over his fifty-two-year career. He was known to frequent bakeries in the Van Nest and Belmont areas of the Bronx and made his final public appearance in his hometown in 2011 when he visited Will Smith on the set of “Men In Black 3” in Morris Park.
Regis Philbin Avenue in the Bronx commemorates not only an award-winning television personality but also someone committed to preserving and honoring his home city. In a statement his family released following his death, they wrote, “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. We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss.”