Kathie Lee Gifford
She's the definitive "woman of the '90s," Kathie Lee Gifford is an entertainer, business woman, wife and mother. And every weekday, she shares her secrets for surviving it all with millions of viewers as the co-host of the popular morning talk show "LIVE with Regis & Kathie Lee."
Though it may look easy to occupy the stool next to daytime television's hyper funnyman, it isn't. The live, unrehearsed and unscripted format would challenge even veteran performers trained in the art of improvisation, yet Gifford rises to the occasion every morning.
Gifford's training in performing arts began early, as she and her siblings were constantly staging some backyard theatrical activity, typically casting their beloved family dog in the starring role.
Four years of piano lessons provided Gifford with the only formal music training of her childhood. However, her parents took the family to most of the stage productions that toured through the area, and those outings proved to be a major influence on her later performing career.
At the age of 14, Gifford's professional singing career began when she and her sister organized a folk group called Pennsylvania Next Right. They gained experience in various aspects of the music business - booking gigs, arranging the music and making costumes.
At 17, Gifford won Maryland's Junior Miss title, and the national competition's Kraft Hostess Award, which included the opportunity to do a paid commercial After high school, she studied communications, drama and the arts in college, then headed straight to Los Angeles at the age of 20.
While Gifford was visiting a friend on the set of the daytime soap "Days of Our Lives," a producer happened by and asked if she could act. For the next year, she played a minor character known as Nurse Callahan. While a regular on "Days," she continued her work in commercials (often singing the jingles), and she shot numerous network television pilots.
In 1977, Gifford became the featured singer on the game show "Name That Tune" and later a co-star in the musical situation comedy "Hee Haw Honeys," a spin-off of "Hee Haw."
Gifford's nightclub career skyrocketed as a result of her exposure on "Name That Tune," giving her the opportunity to display her talents as the opening act for such headliners as Bill Cosby, Rich Little and Bob Hope. Realizing the importance of singing properly to ensure longevity in her career, Gifford began formal, weekly voice training that she continues today.
After spotting her guest-hosting on "A.M. Los Angeles" (Regis Philbin's old show), the producers of "Good Morning America" offered her a job. Soon she was serving as substitute anchor for Joan Lunden and traveling more than a quarter-million miles a year as a special correspondent covering human-interest stories.
Three years later when the position as Regis Philbin's co-host on "The Morning Show" became available, Gifford auditioned with a bevy of others. From the first moment she sat on the stool next to the veteran "talkmeister," it was obvious that Gifford was the natural choice for the job.
Gifford added the co-hosting job to an already grueling schedule and found herself literally sprinting between the two studios each morning. After a year, she realized something had to give and chose to leave "Good Morning America" for the permanent slot on "The Morning Show."
When the show debuted in syndication in 1988, its name was changed to LIVE with Regis & Kathie Lee to reflect the growing popularity of the co-hosts.
Five years ago, Gifford and Philbin decided to combine their considerable talents as performers and developed a nightclub act. They have become so popular as entertainers that they regularly sell out major venues such as the Grand Palace in Branson, Missouri; Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza and Trump Castle in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Bally's Las Vegas, and others.
Gifford also performs solo with symphonies across the nation. She set a new house record with her two-week engagement at New York's prestigious Rainbow and Stars showroom in 1991.
Gifford's singing career continues to skyrocket, as witnessed at the 1995 Superbowl with her sparkling rendition of the national anthem. She also has recorded two songs for an album celebrating Winnie the Pooh's 69th anniversary for Walt Disney Records, and has completed work on an album of lullabies for children on the Warner Bros. label. She previously recorded two albums for Warner Bros. Records: "Sentimental," a collection of standards; and "It's Christmastime."
Despite their busy schedules, Kathie Lee and her husband, Frank Gifford, devote a great deal of time to numerous charitable causes such as Variety Club International's "The Children's Charity" and the Association to Benefit Children, which spawned the Cody Foundation. The resources from the foundation continue to support Cody House and Cassidy's Place - facilities that provide shelter and care to H.I.V.-positive and crack-addicted children.
In an effort to provide her favorite non-profit charities with a continuing source of funding, Gifford has developed a clothing line, the Kathie Lee Collection at Wal Mart, and has written a best-selling book with her 5-year-old son, Cody, titled "Listen to My Heart." Proceeds from these and other Gifford projects continue to support various charities.
Gifford's desire to help others also led her to write "I Can't Believe I Said That," a book detailing her personal and professional triumphs and tragedies.
Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford were blessed with a baby boy, Cody Newton, on March 22, 1990. Cody's arrival was followed some three and one-half years later on August 2, 1993 by the birth of his sister, Cassidy Erin. The Giffords reside in Connecticut
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