Kathie Lee Gifford
Kathie Lee Gifford
Kathryn Lee Epstein
August 16, 1953
|Alma mater||Oral Roberts University|
Kathryn Lee Gifford (née Epstein; born August 16, 1953) is a French-born American television presenter, singer, songwriter, occasional actress and author. She is best known for her 15-year run (1985–2000) on the talk show Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, which she co-hosted with Regis Philbin. She is also known for her 11-year run with Hoda Kotb, on the fourth hour of NBC's Today show (2008–2019). She has received 11 Daytime Emmy nominations and won her first Daytime Emmy in 2010 as part of the Today team. Gifford's first television role had been as Tom Kennedy's singer/sidekick on the syndicated version of Name That Tune only in the 1977–1978 season. She also occasionally appeared on the first three hours of Today and was a contributing NBC News correspondent. Kathie Lee married Paul Johnson, a composer/arranger/producer/publisher of Christian music, in 1976. After their divorce in 1982, she married sportscaster and former NFL player Frank Gifford in 1986. He died in 2015. Kathie Lee has released studio music albums and several books.
Early life and beginnings
Gifford was born Kathryn Lee Epstein in Paris, France, to American parents, Joan (born Cuttell; January 20, 1930 – September 12, 2017), a singer, and Aaron Epstein (March 19, 1924 – November 19, 2002), a musician and former US Navy Chief Petty Officer. Aaron Epstein was stationed with his family in France at the time of Gifford's birth. Gifford grew up in Bowie, Maryland, and attended Bowie High School.
Gifford's paternal grandfather was a Russian Jew from Saint Petersburg and her paternal grandmother had Native American ancestry. Her mother, a relative of writer Rudyard Kipling, was of French Canadian, German and English descent.
After seeing the Billy Graham–produced film The Restless Ones at age 12, Gifford became a born-again Christian. She told interviewer Larry King, "I was raised with many Jewish traditions and raised to be very grateful for my Jewish heritage."
During high school, Gifford was a singer in a folk group, "Pennsylvania Next Right", which performed frequently at school assemblies. After high school graduation in 1971, Gifford attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, studying drama and music. During a summer in the early 1970's, she was a live-in secretary/babysitter for Anita Bryant at her home in Miami. Her first regular appearances on national TV was as a singer on the game show "Name That Tune," hosted by Tom Kennedy in the late 1970s, in which she would sing small portions of songs that contestants would have to identify.
Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee
On June 24, 1985, Gifford 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. Throughout the 1990s, morning-TV viewers watched her descriptions of life at home with her sportscaster husband Frank, son Cody, and daughter Cassidy. Gifford left the show on July 28, 2000.
Philbin and Gifford were jointly nominated eight consecutive years in a row (1993 to 2000) for Outstanding Talk Show Host during the Daytime Emmy Awards.
Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda
On March 31, 2008, NBC announced that Gifford was to join its morning show, Today, as co-host of the fourth hour titled Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda, alongside Hoda Kotb. This marked her return to morning television; in many markets, she aired directly after her old show, currently called Live with Kelly and Ryan. Because the fourth hour of Today airs live at 10:00 am ET, and Live with Kelly and Ryan airs live at 9:00 am ET, Gifford's hour did not compete directly with her former show in most markets. Kotb and Gifford replaced Ann Curry and Natalie Morales. In the weeks prior to Gifford's arrival, ratings indicated 1.9 million viewers of the fourth hour of Today. As of 2014, the fourth hour of Today with Gifford and Kotb has averaged 2.15 million total viewers, an increase of 13 percent over the 2008 ratings. On December 11, 2018, it was announced that she would be leaving Today in April 2019. Her final Today Show appearance was on April 5, 2019 with a party, including a video by her children Cody and Cassidy Gifford. In 2019, they won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Informative Talk Show Host.
Other media appearances and projects
Gifford has made guest appearances in films and television series, and has several independently released albums on CD, including 2000's The Heart of a Woman, featuring the single "Love Never Fails".
She appeared as a spokesperson for Slim Fast diet shakes after her son Cody was born. She also was the face of Carnival Cruise Lines in the late 1980s and early 1990s, singing "If my friends could see me now!" In 1991 she christened the Carnival Ecstasy, the 2nd of the Fantasy Class of cruise ships. In 1994, she appeared as herself in an episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld.
In September 2005 she became a special correspondent on The Insider, a syndicated entertainment magazine television show, ending her relationship with that program upon her co-hosting role with Today.
On an episode that aired March 27, 2010, she guest starred on The Suite Life on Deck, along with her real-life daughter, Cassidy.
She appeared as herself in the 2015 television film Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!.
She has written three autobiographical books, Just When I Thought I'd Dropped my Last Egg: Life and Other Calamities in 2010, The Rock, the Road and the Rabbi in March 2018, and It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life in 2020. Her book regarding the Christian faith, The Jesus I Know: Honest Conversations and Diverse Opinions about Who He Is was released in 2021. She has also written a number of children's books.
Gifford left Today in order to pursue a movie career as an actress, director, and producer. In 2018, she filmed Then Came You in which she co-stars with Craig Ferguson. That same year, she also filmed a Hallmark Christmas movie for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries called A Godwink Christmas. Gifford intends to make movies about the experiences of losing a loved one and being a widow, which she considers an underrepresented topic in Hollywood. Gifford has several projects in the works including sequels to Then Came You.
On April 28, 2021, Gifford was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to the television industry. Her star is located at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard, only five stars away from that of her former co-host Regis Philbin.
In the late 1990s, Gifford began working in musical theatre. She contributed a number of musical numbers to Hats, and wrote and produced Under The Bridge, based upon the children's book The Family Under The Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. In 2000 she released the album The Heart of a Woman on Universal.
In 2007, she premiered Saving Aimee, a stage musical about evangelist Aimee McPherson, at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. The premiere starred actress Carolee Carmello in the lead role. The show, now titled Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, ran on Broadway from November 15, 2012, through December 9, 2012, with Carmello reprising her role as McPherson. On April 30, 2013, Carmello received her third Tony Award nomination for the performance.
In 2008, Gifford and David Friedman wrote a junior high school musical entitled Key Pin It Real. The play depicts a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Key Pin. The first production took place in December 2008 in Kendallville, Indiana, at East Noble High School.
Gifford is a celebrity ambassador for the non-profit organization Childhelp. She regularly makes appearances at fund raisers and events for the child abuse prevention and treatment organization and is an ardent supporter.
Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford raised the money to build and continued to financially support two shelters in New York City for babies born with HIV, or a congenital crack cocaine addiction. These shelters were named in honor of her children, Cody and Cassidy.
Labor rights activity
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 Wal-Mart. 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. One of the workers, Wendy Diaz, came to the United States to testify about the conditions under which she worked. She commented, "I wish I could talk to [Kathie Lee]. If she's good, she will help us."
Labor activist Charles Kernaghan spoke to the media and accused Gifford of being responsible for the sweatshop management activity. Gifford addressed Kernaghan's allegations on the air during Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, explaining that she was not involved with hands-on project management in factories.
Gifford later contacted federal authorities to investigate the issue and worked with US federal legislative and executive branch agencies to support and enact laws to protect children against sweatshop conditions. She appeared with President Bill Clinton at the White House in support of the government's initiatives to counter international sweatshop abuses.
Kathie Lee married Paul Johnson a composer/arranger/producer/publisher, in 1976. They gained fame in Christian music, appearing on covers of Christian magazines. But the marriage was strenuous from the start and in 1981, Johnson moved out. The couple divorced in 1982.
On October 18, 1986, Kathie Lee married a second time, this time to Frank Gifford, an American football player and television sports commentator. It was his third marriage after marriages with Maxine Avis Ewart and Astrid Lindley. With Ewart he had three children.
Kathie Lee was 23 years younger than Frank. They had two children together, Cody Newton Gifford (born March 22, 1990) and Cassidy Erin Gifford (born August 2, 1993). They also shared a birthday: August 16. Frank died on August 9, 2015, from natural causes at their Greenwich, Connecticut, home at the age of 84. In 2017, she released "He Saw Jesus", a very personal song Kathie Lee co-wrote (with songwriter Brett James) and dedicated to her husband. All proceeds from the song went to the international evangelical Christian humanitarian aid charity Samaritan's Purse.
(as Kathie Lee Gifford except where indicated)
- 1978: Finders Keepers (as Kathie Lee Johnson)
- 1993: It's Christmas Time
- 1993: Christmas Carols
- 1993: Sentimental
- 1993: Christmas With Kathie Lee Gifford (double album)
- 1995: Dreamship: Lullabies for Little Ones
- 1995: Kathie Lee's Rock 'N' Tots Cafe: A Christmas "Giff"
- 2000: Heart of a Woman (as Kathie Lee)
- 2000: Born For You (as Kathie Lee)
- 2001: Goodnight, Angel (as Kathie Lee)
- 2004: Gentle Grace
- 2009: Everyone Has a Story (as Kathie Lee Gifford & Friends)
- 2009: My Way Home
- 2010: Super Hits
- 2017 The Little Giant
- 2020: Then Came You (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack with Brett James & Sal Oliveri)
Credits from Kathie Lee Gifford IMDb page.
- Days of Our Lives: Nurse Callahan (1978, credited as Kathie Lee Johnson)
- Hee Haw Honeys: Kathie Honey (1978-1979, credited as Kathie Lee Johnson)
- Evening Shade: Stephanie Rodgers (1994, 1 episode)
- Seinfeld: (1994, 1 episode)
- Coach: (1995, 1 episode)
- The Cosby Mysteries: (1995, 1 episode)
- Women of the House: (1995, 1 episode)
- The First Wives Club: (1996, Movie)
- Second Noah: (1997, 1 episode)
- Mother Goose: A Rappin' and Rhymin' Special: Jill (1997, TV Movie: Voice)
- Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child: Jill (1997, 1 episode: Voice)
- Spin City: (1997, 1 episode)
- The Tom Show: (1997, 1 episode)
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show: (1997, 1 episode)
- Style & Substance: (1998, 1 episode)
- Diagnosis Murder: Mary Montgomery (1998, 1 episode)
- Soul Men: (1998, 1 episode)
- Caroline in the City: (1998, 1 episode)
- The Simpsons: (1998, 1 episode: Voice)
- Hercules: Echidna (1998, 4 episodes: Voice)
- LateLine: (1999, 1 episode)
- Hercules: Her to Zero (1999, Direct-to-VHS release: Voice)
- Dudley Do-Right (1999, Movie)
- Hey Arnold!: Jackie Lee (1999, 1 episode: Voice)
- The Famous Jett Jackson (1999, 1 episode)
- The Wonderful World of Disney: Dierdre (2000, 1 episode: Voice)
- Touched by an Angel: Wendy/Jolene (1996-2000, 2 episodes)
- The Amanda Show: Princess Whiff (2001, 1 episode)
- Spinning Out of Control: Amanda Berkley (2001, TV Movie)
- Just Shoot Me!: Allison Spencer (2001, 1 episode)
- The Drew Carey Show: Vanessa Bobeck (2001, 1 episode)
- Hope & Faith: Marge (2004, 1 episode)
- Higglytown Heroes: Mail Carrier (2004-2005, 2 episodes)
- That's So Raven: Claire (2005, 1 episode)
- Handy Manny: Mrs. Hillary (2006, 1 episode)
- Lipstick Jungle: (2009, 1 episode)
- 30 Rock: (2010, 1 episode)
- The Suite Life on Deck (2010, 1 episode)
- Adventures of Serial Buddies (2011, Movie)
- Hot in Cleveland: Christal (2011, 1 episode)
- The Mysteries of Laura (2015, 1 episode)
- Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!: (2015, TV Movie)
- Difficult People: (2015, 1 episode)
- Donny!: (2015, 2 episodes)
- Come to the Garden: Reader/Singer (2016, Movie: Voice)
- Younger: (2016, 1 episode)
- Nashville: (2017,1 episode)
- Sharknado 5: Global Warming: (2017, TV Movie)
- Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: (2014-2017, 3 episodes)
- A Godwink Christmas: Aunt Jane (2018, TV Movie)
- The Baxters: Lillian (2019, 3 episodes)
- The Other Two: (2019, 1 episode)
- A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love: Olga (2019, TV Movie)
- Then Came You (2020)
- Kathie Lee Gifford's Celebration of Motherhood (1993)
- Kathie Lee's Rock n' Tots Cafe: A Christmas "Giff" (1995)
- A Godwink Christmas (2018)
- The God Who Sees (2019)
- A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love (2019)
- Then Came You (2020)
- The $100,000 Name That Tune (1977)
- Constantinople (1977)
- The Funniest Joke I Ever Heard (1984)
- Miss America (1985)
- The New Hollywood Squares (1987)
- Regis and Kathie Lee: Special Edition (1988)
- The Pat Sajak Show (1988)
- The Morning Exchange (1989)
- Hee Haw (1989)
- Donahue (1990)
- Children's Miracle Network Telethon (1990)
- Victory & Valor: Special Olympics World Games (1991)
- Walt Disney World's 20th Celebration (1991)
- The Bikini Open 5 (1991)
- All My Children (1991)
- ABC After School Special (1992)
- Kathie Lee Gifford's Celebration of Motherhood (1993)
- A Musical Christmas at Walt Disney World (1993)
- The Crusaders (1994)
- Glenn Miller's Greatest Hits (1994)
- The Annual Friars Club Tribute Presents a Salute to Barbra Walters (1994)
- All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! (1994)
- The 10th TV Academy Hall of Fame (1994)
- Walt Disney World Inside Out (1994)
- CBS This Morning (1994)
- 1994 Holiday at Pops! (1994)
- Kathie Lee Gifford...Looking for Christmas (1994)
- Kathie Lee's Rock n' Tots Cafe: A Christmas "Giff" (1995)
- Intimate Portrait (1995)
- Super Bowl XXIX (1995)
- Regis and Kathie Lee: Mom's Dream Come True (1995)
- Miss North America (1995)
- Kathie Lee's Rock n' Tots Cafe: Kathie Lee's Big Surprise (1996)
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1996)
- The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story (1996)
- Maury (1992-1996)
- Kathie Lee Gifford: We Need a Little Christmas (1996)
- Kathie Lee Gifford: Just in Time for Christmas (1996)
- Oops! The World's Funniest Outtakes 5 (1997)
- The 25th Annual Daytime Emmy's (1998)
- Biography (1996-1998)
- Wheel of Fortune (1999)
- Millennium Chorus: The Greatest Story Ever Sung (2000)
- 31st Annual Gospel Music Association's Dove Awards (2000)
- The 27th Annual Daytime Emmy's (2000)
- The 54th Annual Tony Awards (2001)
- Late Night with Conan O'Brien (2001)
- The 28th Annual Daytime Emmy's (2001)
- AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Barbra Streisand (2001)
- ESPN SportsCentury (2001)
- Primetime Glick (2001)
- See How They Run (2001)
- The Rosie O'Donnell Show (1996-2002)
- Late Night with David Letterman (1993-2002)
- Star Search (2003)
- The Wayne Brady Show (2003)
- The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2003)
- The Jamie Kennedy Experiment (2003-2004)
- Hollywood Squares (2000-2004)
- Controversy (2004)
- Good Day Live (2005)
- The Tony Danza Show (2004-2005)
- The Daily Buzz (2005)
- Larry King Live (2000-2006)
- The Reichen Show (2006)
- The O'Reilly Factor (2008)
- Celebrity Family Feud (2008)
- Books Equal Gifts Commercial (2008)
- Plymouth Rock Studios: The Series (2009)
- Jimmy Kimmel Live (2004-2009)
- VH1 Divas Live 2009 (2009)
- Talk Stoop (2011)
- CMT: 40 Greatest Love Songs (2011)
- The Annual 2011 Actors Fund Gala Awards (2011)
- Keeping Up With the Kardashians (2011)
- Live With Kelly and Ryan (1998-2011)
- The Lennon Sisters: Same Song, Separate Voices (2011)
- The Apprentice (2009-2012)
- The Soup (2012)
- The Wendy Williams Show (2012)
- Weekend Today (2012)
- 2012 CMT Music Awards (2012)
- The Daily Show (2011-2012)
- Theater Talk (2013)
- Chelsea Lately (2013)
- Steve Harvey (2013)
- Chasing the Saturdays (2013)
- Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (2009-2013)
- After Lately (2013)
- Smash (2013)
- Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (2013)
- Kris (2013)
- Top Chef Masters (2013)
- The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson (2013)
- The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1994-2013)
- Bethenny (2014)
- Late Night with Seth Meyers (2014)
- The Michael J. Fox Show (2014)
- The View (2004-2014)
- Howard Stern Birthday Bash (2014)
- Dateline NBC (2014)
- Rachael Ray (2006-2014)
- WWE Raw (2014)
- The Insider (2006-2014)
- The JBL & Cole Show with Renee Young (2014)
- Inside Edition! (2014)
- A Toast to 2014! (2014)
- 73 Questions (2015)
- Whose Line is it Anyway? (2015)
- The Kitchen (2015)
- Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things (2015)
- Good Morning America (2015)
- The Meredith Vieira Show (2015-2016)
- A Toast to 2016! (2016)
- Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce (2017)
- Home & Family (2017)
- Talking Live with Dr. Robi Ludwig (2017)
- The National Christmas Tree Lighting (2017)
- Paula Abdul/Today Show (2017)
- Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey (2018)
- Access Hollywood (2018)
- Today Show: An Insider's Guide to Italy (2018)
- Harry (2018)
- Megyn Kelly Today (2018)
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2019)
- Extra with Billy Bush (2014-2019)
- Entertainment Tonight (2003-2019)
- The Dr. Oz Show (2015-2020)
- Celebrity Page (2017-2020)
- Today Show (2004-2020)
- 2010: Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg: Life and Other Calamities
- 2018: The Rock, the Road and the Rabbi
- 2020: It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life
- 2021: The Jesus I Know: Honest Conversations and Diverse Opinions about Who He Is
- 2010: Party Animals
- 2011: The Three Gifts: A Story About Three Angels and the baby Jesus (co-written with Michael Storrings)
- 2011: The Legend of Messy M'Cheany
- 2020: Hello, Little Dreamer
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- "Companies agree to meet on 'sweatshops'. The Washington Post, John F. Harris, Peter McKay. August 3, 1996, Page A10. "Pres Clinton stood side-by-side at the White House August 2, 1996 with talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford and a delegation of leading executives from the apparel industry to announce ..."
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