About Kathryn Lee "Kathie" Gifford (Epstein)
Kathie Lee Gifford (born Kathryn Lee Epstein, August 16, 1953) is an American television host, singer, songwriter and actress, 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 has received 11 Daytime Emmy nominations and won her first Daytime Emmy in 2010 as part of The Today Show team.
Before her long stint in talk shows, Gifford's first television exposure was that of Tom Kennedy's singer/sidekick on Name That Tune, from 1974-78. On April 7, 2008, Gifford began co-hosting the fourth hour of NBC's Today Show, alongside Hoda Kotb.
Kathie Lee Gifford, born Kathryn Lee Epstein in Paris, France, 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 at the time of Gifford's birth. Gifford grew up in Bowie, Maryland, and attended Bowie High School. During high school, Gifford was a singer in a folk group, "Pennsylvania Next Right," which performed frequently at school assemblies. During her senior year at high school she dated and went to prom with Michael Bray, who would later become an anti-abortion activist who was convicted for acts of terrorism. After high school graduation, Gifford attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, studying drama and music.
Gifford's paternal grandfather was of Russian Jewish descent and her paternal grandmother was of Native American ancestry. Her mother, a relative of writer Rudyard Kipling, was of French Canadian and German descent and was raised in a Methodist family. 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." Her brother, Rev. David Paul Epstein, is an evangelical Baptist preacher and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New York City.
In 1970, Gifford represented Maryland in America's Junior Miss Pageant.
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/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.
She also appeared in television advertisements for Carnival Cruise Lines beginning in 1984. The ads were the first cruise line ads to air on network television.
Live with Regis and Kathie Lee
Following her divorce from Johnson in 1983, Gifford met sports commentator Frank Gifford (born August 16, 1930) during an episode of ABC's Good Morning America; the couple 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. Throughout the 1990s, millions of morning-TV viewers watched her descriptions of life at home with her sportscaster husband and their two children: son Cody Newton Gifford (born in 1990) and Cassidy Erin Gifford (born in 1993). She appeared as a spokesperson for Slim Fast diet shakes after Cody was born. She was also the face of Carnival Cruises in the late 1980s and early 1990s, singing "If my friends could see me now!"
Countering international sweatshop abuse
In 1996, the National Labor Committee, a human rights group, reported that sweatshop labor was 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, 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 U.S. Federal legislative and executive branch agencies to support and enact laws to protect children against sweat shop conditions. She appeared with President Bill Clinton at the White House in support of the government's initiatives to counter international sweatshop abuses.
Since Live, 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".
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.
She played the role of Miss Hannigan in a concert performance of Annie at Madison Square Garden in December 2006.
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 Regis and Kelly. Because the 4th hour of Today airs live at 10:00am EST, and Live with Regis and Kelly airs live at 9:00am EST, Gifford's hour will not compete directly with her former show in most markets. Kotb and Gifford replaced Ann Curry and Natalie Morales. The show's ratings decreased after Gifford's arrival, having drawn 1.9 million viewers the weeks before her arrival and 1.7 million a few months after, although the network maintains that the drop in viewers was seasonal and unrelated to the on-air talent. More recently, the 4th hour of Today has averaged 2.148 million total viewers, an increase of 26 percent over those 2008 numbers.
She is a recipient of the Mousecar Award (as in "Oscar"), a silver Mickey Mouse statue award that was personally designed by Walt Disney himself. The award was presented personally by Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, who said that only five had been given out previously.
On March 27, 2010, she guest starred on The Suite Life on Deck, along with her real-life daughter, Cassidy.
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 continue 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.
On July 1, 2008, Gifford appeared on NBC's Celebrity Family Feud. She and her friends and family competed against the cast of Dog The Bounty Hunter for their favorite charity. Gifford's family won the $50,000 for The Association to Benefit Children.
Title Release Record label
Sentimental 1993 Warner Bros. Records
It’s Christmas Time 1993 Warner Bros. Records
Heart of a Woman 2000 Umvd Labels
Born For You 2000 Valley Entertainment
Goodnight, Angel 2001 On the Lamb
Party Animals 2001 On the Lamb
Gentle Grace 2004 Maranatha
My Way Home 2009 LML Music
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 2007, she premiered Saving Aimee, a play about evangelist Aimee McPherson, at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. The premiere starred Tony-nominated actress Carolee Carmello in the lead role.
On April 16, 2007, Gifford was a guest presenter at the Washington, DC Helen Hayes Award Ceremony, honoring contributions and professional accomplishments in theatre.
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 currently working on a musical adaptation of It's a Wonderful Life with John McDaniel; McDaniel is composing music while Gifford is writing lyrics.