Kathie Lee Gifford

Kathie Lee Gifford

Gifford at the 2008 Emmy Awards
Born Kathryn Lee Epstein
(1953-08-16) August 16, 1953
Paris, France
Alma mater Oral Roberts University
Occupation TV presenter
Talk show host
Years active 1970–present
Spouse(s) Paul Johnson (m. 1976; div. 1983)
Frank Gifford (m. 1986; d. 2015)
Children 2 including; Cassidy Erin (b. 1993)
Website www.kathieleegifford.com

Kathryn "Kathie" Lee Gifford (née Epstein, previously Johnson; August 16, 1953)[1] is an American television host, singer, songwriter, comedian, and actress, best known for her 15-year run (19852000) 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 team.

Gifford's first television role was that of Tom Kennedy's singer/sidekick on the syndicated version of Name That Tune, from 1974 to 1978.

She also appeared in television advertisements for Carnival Cruise Lines beginning in 1984. Gifford was married to sportscaster and former NFL player Frank Gifford from 1986 until his death in 2015.

On April 7, 2008, Gifford began co-hosting the fourth hour of Today alongside Hoda Kotb. She also occasionally appears on the first three hours of Today and is a contributing NBC News correspondent.

Early life

Gifford was born Kathryn Lee Epstein in Paris, France, to American parents, Joan (née Cuttell; born January 20, 1930), 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.[2] Gifford grew up in Bowie, Maryland, and attended Bowie High School.[3] During high school, Gifford was a singer in a folk group, "Pennsylvania Next Right", which performed frequently at school assemblies. After high school graduation, Gifford attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, studying drama and music.

Gifford's paternal grandfather was Russian Jewish from Saint Petersburg and her paternal grandmother was of Native American ancestry. Her mother, a relative of writer Rudyard Kipling, was of French Canadian, English and German descent.[4][5] 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."[6]


During a 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. In 1978, she joined the cast of the short-lived Hee Haw spinoff, Hee Haw Honeys.

Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee

Following her divorce from Johnson in 1983, Gifford met sports commentator Frank Gifford during an episode of ABC's Good Morning America; they were married from 1986 until his death in 2015.

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 son and daughter, Cody Newton Gifford (b. March 22, 1990) and Cassidy Erin Gifford (b. August 2, 1993). Gifford left the show on July 28, 2000.

She appeared as a spokesperson for Slim Fast diet shakes after 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!"

1996 labor rights efforts

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.[7] 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.[8] 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."[9]

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.[10]

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 sweatshop conditions. She appeared with President Bill Clinton at the White House in support of the government's initiatives to counter international sweatshop abuses.[11]

Current career

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".[12][13]

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.[14]

She played the role of Miss Hannigan in a concert performance of Annie at Madison Square Garden in December 2006.[15]

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, formerly called Live! with Kelly. Because the fourth hour of Today airs live at 10:00am ET, and Live! with Kellyl airs live at 9:00am ET, Gifford's hour does not compete directly with her former show in most markets.[16] 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.[17] As of 2014, the fourth hour of Today with Gifford and Kotb has averaged 2.148 million total viewers, an increase of 26 percent over the 2008 ratings.[18][19]

On an episode that aired 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.[20]

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.[21] Frank and Kathie Lee also shared a birthday, August 16.

She appeared as herself in the 2015 television film Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

Musical theatre

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,[22] 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.[23][24] The premiere starred actress Carolee Carmello in the lead role.[25] The show, now titled Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, ran on Broadway from November 15, 2012, through December 9, 2012,[26] with Carmello reprising her role as McPherson. On April 30, 2013, Carmello received her third Tony Award nomination for the performance.[27]

On April 16, 2007, Gifford was a guest presenter at the Washington, D.C. Helen Hayes Award Ceremony, honoring contributions and professional accomplishments in theatre.[28]

In 2008, Gifford and David Friedman wrote a junior high school musical entitled Key Pin It Real.[29] 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.[30]

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.[31]


  1. "Kathie Lee Gifford Biography". Bio. Retrieved 29 June 2016.
  2. "Kathie Lee Gifford Film Reference biography". Filmreference.com. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  3. George Rush and Joanna Molloy (May 13, 1996). "Daily News". New York. Archived from the original on June 19, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
  4. New York Magazine - Google Books. July 22, 1996. Retrieved December 10, 2011 via Google Books.
  5. "Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg". Worldcat.org. November 16, 2007. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  6. "What's Next for Kathie Lee?", Transcripts.cnn.com
  7. ""The Man Who Made Kathie Lee Cry", ''Washington Post'', July 31, 2005". Washingtonpost.com. 2005-07-31. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  8. "Zoned for Slavery: The Child Behind the Label", 1995; a Crowning Rooster Production Archived December 5, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. "Keeper of the Fire". Motherjones.com. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  10. Kathie Lee Gifford's clothing line and its connection to sweatshop work
  11. "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 ..."
  12. Love Never Fails video on YouTube
  13. "website". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  14. TV.com (2005-08-16). "Kathie Lee Gifford lands role on ''The Insider''". Tv.com. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  15. BWW News Desk. "Kathie Lee Gifford plays Miss Hannigan in MSG production of ''Annie''". Broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  16. "Kathie Lee Gifford returns to morning TV at Today". Today.msnbc.msn.com. March 31, 2008. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  17. "Forthright or Clueless? Kathie Lee Draws Fire"
  18. "TODAY is the No. 1 Morning Program for 797 Weeks Straight and Counting" Archived June 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ""Kathie Lee Gifford, more than just a pretty face", The Knoxville Journal, Nov. 9, 2012". Theknoxvillejournal.com. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  20. Shayna, Kathy (2009-01-03). "Childhelp goes Hollywood for fundraiser". Azcentral.com. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  21. "Charities, Assoc. to Benefit Children". KathieLeeGifford.com. November 4, 2008. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  22. "Under The Bridge". KathieLeeGifford.com. November 4, 2008. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  23. "Saving Aimee". KathieLeeGifford.com. May 15, 2007. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  24. Horwitz, Jane (April 25, 2007). "Kathie Lee Gifford's Leap of Faith". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  25. "Carmello Is Famed Evangelist in Kathie Lee Gifford's Saving Aimee Musical". Playbill.com. 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  26. . Internet Broadway Database.
  27. Tony Awards Official Website. Tony Award Nominees 2013. tonyAwards.org. Retrieved May 1, 2013.
  28. "Celebrating the Stars at the Helen Hayes Awards".
  29. "Kathie Lee: At home on Today". Allday.msnbc.msn.com. Retrieved December 16, 2009.
  30. www.tradingmarkets.com
  31. "Meet John McDaniel, Director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis' The Daughter of the Regiment - St. Louis Magazine - June 2011 - St. Louis, Missouri". Stlmag.com. Retrieved December 10, 2011.

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Gary Collins and Phyllis George
Miss America Pageant host
1991-1995 (co-host with Regis Philbin)
Succeeded by
Eva LaRue and John Callahan
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