November 18th, 2011
02:51 PM ET
After 28 years, Regis Philbin has vacated his chair as co-host of "Live! With Regis and Kelly," leaving behind the effervescent Kelly Ripa to man the "Live!" ship with a series of guest hosts - at least for now.
Friday's episode of "Live!" was a farewell celebration, with big names like Donald Trump, Katie Couric, Tony Danza and of course Philbin's former "Live!" co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford, all in the audience.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg also made an appearance, presenting 80-year-old Bronx-bred Philbin with the key to the city "on behalf of 8.4 million New Yorkers."
Philbin said in his good-bye speech, "This was the last chance I had in this business, to make it here in New York. I guess it was fate that it would happen this way, and it did. Twenty-eight and a half years, and we've had a wonderful show and a great time. And now the show continues with Kelly."
He went on, "Some people ask why the show has stayed on so long, and I think it's answered to me every time people tell me why they watch it. They watch it, they say, because it makes them feel better. And it can't get better than that...I'll always remember spending all of these mornings with all of you. Thank you very much for these great years together. God bless you all, and I hope I'll see you again real soon."
Kelly Ripa gave a speech of her own, a sentimental send-off to Regis that had the 41-year-old actress/TV personality visibly holding back tears.
"I've had the privilege of walking 43 steps with you from my dressing room to the studio floor five days a week for the past 11 years," she said, adding as the audience laughed, "except for when you have off on Fridays. And Fridays and Mondays in the summer."
As they were taking their last 43 steps together, she went on, "I thought back to our first 43 steps, and I was terrified. I was absolutely filled with fear. And you grabbed my hand, and we walked down the hallway and came out of the door, and the audience leaped to their feet, cheering and screaming, and you did something for me, you pulled me in and you said, 'You see that, sweetie? That's all for you. All those people are here for you.'"
While Ripa doubted the veracity of his statement, it was his intent that made the statement a memory. "It wasn't true, but what I wanted to say is that your light is what shined around all of us and made us look so bright," she continued. " As you go forward...I look forward to the next 43 steps, and may they fill you with the joy that you've filled all of us with for all of these years."
CNN caught up with Philbin after the show, and he told us that he was feeling positive.
“I feel pretty good. I feel relieved we got through it, I think we did good shows, we said goodbye to everybody," he said. "I thought it was just wonderful...with the audience filled with friends of mine that I’ve known, that I’ve made here in New York, and family, and kids that I grew up with in the Bronx 100 years ago, I mean it was a great way to say goodbye.”
Regis still doesn't know what he's going to do next, but his former co-host Kelly will be back on Monday, alongside guest host Jerry Seinfeld as the show searches for a replacement.
Ripa told CNN of losing Philbin as her co-host that she'll "never be able to express to him my gratitude for everything he’s done for me and for my family and for my career." She also added that she doesn't see herself ever hosting the show on her own, because Philbin's legacy is in the two-host format.
"It's really a format that he set up, and to do anything different would be sort of not serving his message in what this show is," she said. "I think that it really needs two people."
But who could possibly fill Rege's shoes? Sound off in the comments.
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