Audience members at Kathie Lee Gifford’s final Today episode this morning each got a Carnival Cruise — and the cruise line got some serious plugging — but Gifford herself got a sweet send-off after 11 years on the job from an old pal: Regis Philbin.
The 87-year-old Philbin — Gifford’s co-host on the syndicated Live with Regis and Kathie Lee from 1988-2000 — sent a video message to mark Gifford’s final day as co-host, with Hoda Kotb, of Today‘s fourth hour. (Jenna Bush Hager takes Gifford’s spot Monday.)
In a day of heartfelt tributes and copious tears, the kicker, no doubt, was Philbin, that once-ubiquitous TV presence little seen on screen these days. Kotb set up the moment by noting, “We couldn’t have a goodbye celebration without hearing from a very special person, so let’s take a look.”
Said Philbin, “Kathie Lee, you want to know the best part of my life? My TV life? Was in the 15 years I spent with you, from 1985 to 2000. We stayed friends throughout the entire game and it was a lot of fun.” (Philbin and the then-Kathie Lee Johnson, began co-hosting New York’s local The Morning Show in ’85, three years prior to the ’88 launch of their hugely popular re-named syndicated program).
Philbin continued: “I know you’re going to be moving on to a great new career, making movies. And since I’ve seen the first one, I know you’re going to be a great success. I really mean it. I want you to know how I will always remember the great times that we had working together and how you are as a person: just great.”
Gifford recently wrote and co-starred in the film Then Came You.
After the Philbin video, Gifford said, “He called me yesterday. He and [wife] Joy called me yesterday and we had a lovely talk. He’s coming back to Greenwich for the summer, so we’ll be seeing him.”
Among Kotb’s words of praise for Gifford today, she said that, “Two shows have worked really well in the history of daytime television. Regis and Kathie Lee and Kathie Lee and me. What’s the common denominator?”
Watch the Philbin video above, and see below for additional clips and tributes from Gifford’s final Today, which also included visits from Barry Manilow, John Cena, Ryan Eggold and Dean Cain.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.