It seems like everyone has an opinion about Kathie Lee Gifford. You either love her or you hate her - or you love to hate her or hate to love her. But history will call her one of the most influential female talk show hosts in recent history. And if there was a Talk Show Hall of Fame, she'd be in it.
She was born in 1953 in Paris, France, as Kathryn Lee Epstein. Her mother was a singer and her father a U.S. Navy officer, which explains her penchant for song and her feisty personality. Soon after her birth, the family moved back to Maryland where Kathie Lee grew up.
Kathie Lee attended Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma and studied music and theater. After college, she achieved her first broadcasting success as the singer on Name That Tune, a game show asking contestants to recognize a song in the fewest notes possible.
But her greatest success to date came in 1985 when she replaced Ann Abernathy as co-host of The Morning Show on ABC in New York City. Her co-host was Regis Philbin and their chemistry was so great that the show went national in 1988 as Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. She left Live in July 2000 and was later replaced by Kelly Ripa after an extensive search.
Kathie Lee pursued her own interests after leaving Live, including music and musical theater. And she continued her support of charities and organizations focused on children and children's causes, helping found and fund shelters that support HIV positive babies.
Then came the call to return to morning television and the talk show world, joining journalist Hoda Kotb on a fourth hour of The Today Show. The fourth hour is almost a separate show from the traditional Today and more like Live.
- Sung in the folk group "Pennsylvania Next Right" in high school.
- Her brother is the Rev. David Paul Epstein of the Calvary Baptist Church in New York City.
- Considers herself a born-again Christian.
- Represented Maryland in America's Junior Miss Pageant in the 70s.
- Married sports commentator and former NFL star Frank Gifford in 1986.
- Mother of Cody and Cassidy, whose lives she described in great detail on Live.
- Was caught up a firestorm of controversy when a human rights group alleged that sweatshop labor was responsible for making clothes sold under Kathie Lee's brand at Wal-Mart. She turned the accusation around and now champions legislation eliminating child labor around the world.