Kathie Lee Gifford

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Kathie Lee Gifford

Gifford at the 2008 Emmy Awards
Born Kathryn Lee Epstein
August 16, 1953 (1953-08-16) (age 60)
Paris, France
Alma mater Oral Roberts University
Occupation TV presenter
Talk show host
Actress
Singer-songwriter
Years active 1970–present
Spouse Paul Johnson (April 1976–1983; divorced)
Frank Gifford (October 18, 1986–present; 2 children)
Children Cody Newton (b. 1990)
Cassidy Erin (b. 1993)
Website
kathieleegifford.com

Kathie Lee Gifford (born August 16, 1953) is an American talk show host, singer and actress who is best known for hosting Live with Regis and Kathie Lee from 1985-2000 with Regis Philbin. Now, she co-hosts the fourth hour of NBC's Today show. She has received 11 Daytime Emmy nominations and won her first Daytime Emmy in 2010 as part of the cast in The Today Show.

Before she hosted talk shows, Gifford's first television appearance was Tom Kennedy's singer/sidekick on Name That Tune, from 1974-1978.

She also appeared in television advertisements for Carnival Cruise Lines since 1984.

Early life[change | change source]

Kathie Lee Gifford was born in Paris, France. Her birthname is Kathryn Lee Epstein. She is the daughter of Joan (née Cuttell; born January 20, 1930), a singer, and Aaron Epstein (March 19, 1924 – November 19, 2002), a musician and former U.S. Navy officer. Aaron Epstein was stationed with his family in France when Gifford was recently born.[1] Gifford grew up in Bowie, Maryland, and attended Bowie High School.[2] When she was in high school, Gifford was a singer in a folk group, "Pennsylvania Next Right," which performed frequently at school assemblies. As a senior in high school she dated and went to the prom with Michael Bray.[3] After her graduation in high school, Gifford attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In Oral Roberts University she studied drama and music.

Gifford's paternal grandfather was of Russian Jewish descent and her paternal grandmother was of Native American ancestry. Her mother was a relative of Rudyard Kipling, was of French Canadian, English and German descent and was raised in a snake handler family.[4][5] After seeing the Billy Graham produced film, The Restless Ones at age 12, Gifford became a born-again Christian. She told Larry King, "I was raised with many Jewish traditions and raised to be very grateful for my Jewish heritage."[6] Her brother, Rev. David Paul Epstein, is an evangelical Baptist preacher and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New York City.

The 1970s[change | change source]

Gifford represented Maryland in America's Junior Miss Pageant in 1970.[7]

During one summer in the early 1970s, she was a live-in secretary/babysitter for Anita Bryant at her home in Miami. Gifford's career took off in the 1970s (during her first marriage to Christian composer, arranger, producer and publisher Paul Johnson) as a vocalist on the game show Name That Tune with Tom Kennedy (she performed the "sing a tune" segment as Kathie Lee Johnson). In 1978, she joined the cast of the short-lived Hee Haw spinoff, Hee Haw Honeys.

Live with Regis and Kathie Lee[change | change source]

After she was divorced from Johnson in 1983, Gifford met sports commentator Frank Gifford (born August 16, 1930) during an episode of ABC's Good Morning America; they both married in 1986. By that time she was several months into her most famous television role, as a full-time morning talk show personality. On June 24, 1985, she replaced Ann Abernathy as co-host of The Morning Show on WABC-TV with Regis Philbin. The program went into national broadcast in 1988 as Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, and Gifford became well-known across the country. In the 1990s, millions of morning-TV viewers watched her descriptions of life at home with her husband and their two children. She appeared as a spokesperson for Slim Fast diet shakes after her son, Cody, was born. She also was a celebrity of Carnival Cruises in the late 1980s and early 1990s, singing "If my friends could see me now!" Gifford left Live with Regis and Kathie Lee on 2000 after 15 years to focus on spending time with family and continue her singing career.

1996 sweatshop controversy[change | change source]

In 1996 the National Labor Committee, a human rights group, reported that sweatshop labor was being used to make clothes for the Kathie Lee line, sold at Walmart.[8] The group reported that a worker in Honduras smuggled a piece of clothing out of the factory, which had a Kathie Lee label on it.[9] One of the workers, Wendy Diaz, came to the United States to testify about the conditions under which she worked. Diaz commented, "I wish I could talk to [Kathie Lee]. If she's good, she will help us."[10]

Labor activist, Charles Kernaghan, spoke on media. He accused Gifford of being responsible for the sweatshop management activity. Gifford addressed Kernaghan's allegations on the air during Live, explaining that she was not involved with hands-on project management in factories.[11]

Gifford later contacted Federal authorities to investigate the issue and worked with U.S. Federal legislative and executive branch agencies to support and enact laws to protect children against sweat shop conditions. She met with President Bill Clinton at the White House in order to support of the government's initiatives to counter international sweatshop abuses.[source?]

Today[change | change source]

On March 31, 2008, NBC announced that Gifford was to join its morning show, Today, as co-host of the fourth hour, alongside Hoda Kotb. This marked her return to morning television; in many markets, she now airs directly after her old show, now called Live! with Kelly and Michael. Because the fourth hour of Today airs live at 10:00am ET, and Live! with Kelly and Michael airs live at 9:00am ET, Gifford's hour does not compete directly with her former show in most markets.[12] Kotb and Gifford replaced Ann Curry and Natalie Morales.

She hosted Today since April 7, 2008 with Hoda Kotb.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Kathie Lee Gifford Film Reference biography". Filmreference.com. http://www.filmreference.com/film/88/Kathie-Lee-Gifford.html. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  2. George Rush and Joanna Molloy (1996-05-13). "Daily News". New York. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/gossip/1996/05/13/1996-05-13_kathie_lee_s_high-school_cla.html. Retrieved 2013-03-26.[dead link]
  3. Juergensmeyer, M., "Soldiers for Christ", Terror in the Mind of God, p. 22
  4. "New York Magazine - Google Books". Books.google.ca. 1996-07-22. http://books.google.ca/books?id=OuECAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA39&dq=%22Her+grandfather,+Meyer+Epstein,+was+a+snake-charmer+and+carnival+barker%22&hl=en#v=onepage&q=%22Her%20grandfather%2C%20Meyer%20Epstein%2C%20was%20a%20snake-charmer%20and%20carnival%20barker%22&f=false. Retrieved 2013-3-26.
  5. "Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg". Worldcat.org. 2007-11-16. http://www.worldcat.org/wcpa/servlet/DCARead?standardNo=9780345512062&standardNoType=1&excerpt=true. Retrieved 2013-3-26.
  6. "What's Next for Kathie Lee?", Transcripts.cnn.com
  7. Kathie Lee Gifford profile at Yahoo! Movies
  8. "The Man Who Made Kathie Lee Cry", Washington Post, July 31, 2005
  9. "Zoned for Slavery: The Child Behind the Label", 1995; a Crowning Rooster Production[dead link]
  10. "Keeper of the Fire". Motherjones.com. http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2003/07/ma_447_01.html. Retrieved 2013-3-26.
  11. Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line and its connection to sweatshop work
  12. "Kathie Lee Gifford returns to morning TV at Today". Today.msnbc.msn.com. 2008-03-31. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/23871853. Retrieved 2013-03-26.