By Donald Wittkowski
At 85, Regis Philbin says he’s pretty much accomplished everything he’s wanted to do in his personal and professional life.
He’s teamed up with Kathie Lee Gifford and Kelly Ripa in his celebrated role as morning talk show personality, helped to make contestants rich as host of the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and spent more time in front of a TV camera than anyone else, according to Guinness World Records.
So, after a 61-year career in show business, what possibly is left for Philbin to add to his entertainment resume?
On Saturday night, he’s going to join some guys who are pretty much like him – mature entertainers who are eager to display their talent, good looks and on-stage presence in front of an audience.
Philbin will host Ocean City’s Mr. Mature America Pageant, a contest for men 55 and older that mixes self-deprecating humor, nostalgia and talent. Ten contestants will vie for the title of Mr. Mature America, including one who is 88 and another who is 85.
“Some of the people are in their 80s. Let’s see what they’ve got and what they have to offer,” Philbin said in a conference call Monday with the news media to promote the pageant.
During his time in Ocean City, Philbin will pull double duty by also serving as grand marshal of Saturday’s Doo Dah Parade, a wacky procession highlighted by a brigade of hundreds of basset hounds. The parade will get underway at noon on Asbury Avenue at Sixth Street, head down to 12th Street and then turn onto the Boardwalk to finish up at the Music Pier at Moorlyn Terrace.
Michael Hartman, the city’s special events coordinator, noted that the Doo Dah Parade, entering its 32nd year, celebrates “the madness of Ocean City.”
Meanwhile, the fourth annual Mr. Mature America Pageant will start at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Music Pier. Philbin made it clear that, as the pageant’s host, he doesn’t plan to offer the contestants any advice on performing in front of a crowd.
“I’d like to hear why they’re coming out there, what they have done and how do they feel about winning this thing,” he said. “I think a lot of them are going to be trying very hard to walk away with the title.”
He didn’t take the bait when one reporter on the conference call playfully questioned whether Philbin thought he would win if there was a celebrity version of the Mr. Mature America Pageant.
Instead, he spent much of the call looking back on all of his years in show business. His entertainment career began in the 1950s, when he was 24. He has also been an actor and a singer, in addition to his best-known roles as TV talk show personality and game show host.
“I feel like I have done what I wanted to do in all of those years, especially in the last 20 years, 25 years. A lot came up,” he said, reflecting on his career.
Part of his career has been spent performing in New Jersey, including at the Atlantic City casinos. He indicated he was in Ocean City about 11 years ago, but didn’t provide details.
“It’s a great little place to be in,” he said.
He believes his appearance in Ocean City this week should help to rejuvenate him, reviving the energy he had about 50 years ago as a young performer.
“I got up in this area and feel like it was 50 years ago – that I felt the same way,” he said. “I just have a good feeling about it. I was happy to be asked to come down for this thing Saturday night. I’m looking forward to it.”