Kathie Lee Gifford

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Kathie Lee Gifford bigraphy, stories - Television presenter/talk show host/actress/singer-songwriter

Kathie Lee Gifford : biography

16 August 1953 –

Kathie Lee Gifford (born Kathryn Lee Epstein on 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.

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

On April 7, 2008, Gifford began co-hosting the fourth hour of NBC’s Today, alongside Hoda Kotb.

1970s

Gifford represented Maryland in America’s Junior Miss Pageant in 1970.

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.

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. She appeared as a spokesperson for Slim Fast diet shakes after her son, Cody, was born. She also was the face of Carnival Cruises 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. 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 sweatshop conditions. She appeared with President Bill Clinton at the White House in support of the government’s initiatives to counter international sweatshop abuses."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 Aug 2, 1996 with talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford and a delegation of leading executives from the apparel industry to announce …"

Early life

Gifford was born Kathryn Lee Epstein in Paris, France to 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 the prom with Michael Bray (who later became an anti-abortion activist convicted for acts of terrorism).Juergensmeyer, M., "Soldiers for Christ", Terror in the Mind of God, p. 22 After high school graduation, Gifford attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, studying drama and music.