KATHIE LEE GIFFORD Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Name: Kathie Lee Gifford                                                                                 
Born: 16 August 1953 Paris, France                                                                       
Kathie Lee Gifford (born Kathryn Lee Epstein on August 16, 1953) is an American                         
playwright, singer-songwriter, and actress, famous for her 15 year stretch on                           
the television talk show Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, which she co-hosted                             
with Regis Philbin. She has received 11 Emmy nominations.                                               
Kathie Lee Gifford was born in Paris, France, to Aaron Leon Epstein and his wife,                       
Joan. Her father was serving in the United States Navy. She grew up in Bowie,                           
Maryland, in the United States where she was a cheerleader for Bowie High School.                       
She has been criticized in the Washington area for identifying her hometown and                         
current residence of her mother as Annapolis rather than Bowie.                                         
One of her grandparents was Jewish and her mother was a Methodist; Gifford grew                         
up in a culturally Jewish environment, but she became a born-again Christian at                         
the age of 12 (after seeing a Christian education film directed by Billy Graham),                       
and 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 on West 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City.                       
David and Kathie Lee have remained close through the years.                                             
Kathie Lee attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, studying drama                           
and music.                                                                                               
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 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 sitcom spinoff, Hee Haw Honeys.                                     
Gifford appeared in television advertisements for Carnival Cruise Lines                                 
beginning in 1984. The ads were the first cruise line ads to air on network                             
Following her divorce from Johnson in 1983, Gifford met sports commentator Frank                         
Gifford during an episode of ABC's Good Morning America; the couple married in                           
1986. Coincidentally they share the same birthday, 23 years apart.                                       
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                             
chemistry between the two provided stability to a show that had gone through a                           
series of titles and hosts (AM New York, The Stanley Siegel Show) during the                             
previous decade. The program went into national broadcast in 1988, as Live with                         
Regis and Kathie Lee (now Live with Regis and Kelly) 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), although Gifford has been gently ridiculed for constantly talking                             
about her children on the air. She has appeared as a spokesperson for Slim Fast                         
diet shakes after the birth of Cody.                                                                     
The inspiration for the name Cody (the first born child) is when Gifford was                             
watching Frank on a Monday Night Football game in 1989 featuring the Cleveland                           
Browns and Chicago Bears (the Browns went on to win 27-7 with Webster Slaughter                         
catching a 99-yard touchdown pass and therefore tying the NFL record). Cody                             
Risien was an offensive lineman for the Browns and got much attention during the                         
course of the contest because he was struggling with removing a piece of dirt or                         
other foreign object from his eye that forced him to the sideline. The                                   
announcers kept on panning the camera over to Risien and the name Cody was                               
indelibly etched on Gifford's brain.                                                                     
Gifford has stated that her religious faith has carried her through several                             
personal crises.                                                                                         
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 that "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 sweat shop 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 subsequently contacted Federal                         
authorities to investigate the issue, and worked with U.S. Federal legislative                           
and executive branch agencies to support and enact new U.S. laws to protect                             
children against sweat shop conditions. She appeared with President Clinton at                           
the White House in support of U.S. Federal government initiatives to counter                             
international sweat shop abuses.                                                                         
(Years later, on April 13, 2007, in an unrelated appearance at the National                             
Press Club, Gifford, in answer to questions, stated that Kernaghan had called                           
her three months after his first public allegations against her and apologized.)                         
In 1997, it was reported by the tabloid The Globe that Frank had engaged in an                           
adulterous affair with Trans World Airlines flight attendant Suzen Johnson.                             
After initially denying the allegation, Frank admitted the transgression after                           
it was revealed the entire episode was caught on videotape. A transcript of his                         
tryst indicated his desire to engage in anal sex. ESPN later reported that                               
Johnson was paid $75,000 by The Globe. The Atlantic put the figure at $125,000.                         
Johnson later appeared in a Playboy pictorial. Ironically, Kathie Lee had                               
performed a cameo in The First Wives Club the year before, praising the main                             
characters for rising above being cheated on and left for other women.                                   
Since Live, Gifford has made guest appearances in films and television series,                           
and has several independently released albums on CD, including 2000s The Heart                           
of a Woman, featuring standards from the Big Band era as well as Contemporary                           
Christian songs.                                                                                         
Since September 2005, Gifford is a special correspondent on The Insider, a                               
syndicated entertainment magazine television show although she no longer appears                         
regularly on the program.                                                                               
Kathie Lee also devotes time to Variety: The Children's Charity. She has also                           
sponsored and supported 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.