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The Golden Era of Kathie Lee Gifford

CBN.com Terry Meeuwsen [reporting]: Kathie Lee Gifford became a household name during her 15-year run on morning television with Regis Philbin.  Her personal life was often thrust onto the public stage as well, sometimes painfully.  Last year Kathie Lee returned to morning TV on The Today Show, and recently, she released a new book, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg.  She invited us to her home recently where we found her zest for life stronger than ever.

Meeuwsen: Well, let’s start talking about the book. It’s so much fun to read. I found myself laughing out loud, then looking around to see what people thought. What do you want people to come away with?

Gifford: If they haven’t cried and laughed through the whole thing, then I haven’t done my job. because that is really what life is. The title of the book is basically a commentary on our culture. It’s a cruel culture for women anyway, historically. It’s especially cruel for women of a certain age.  What our culture says is, when you’ve dropped your last egg and you can’t have babies anymore -- which is your purpose on this earth -- then thank you very much, but you who are ovulating, please step to the front. We’re supposed to hoist our heiny onto the gurney and go into the sunset. I’m not ready for that!

Meeuwsen: In some ways, you have much more to share at this point.

Gifford: Yes, much more. That’s so true and especially if you’re a woman of faith. At least that gives you the power to say, I’m not going to let the world define me.  I may be 55 years old, 56 or 82, but I’m here by the grace of God. If I still have a pulse, I still have a purpose. The Lord will take me when my purpose is no longer on this planet.

Meeuwsen: Talk a little bit about your mom and dad, both so unique, both so significant in your life.

Gifford:  They both came from very dysfunctional, alcoholic homes. My mother was actually an orphan. Just tragedy, a lot of tragedy. Yet when they got married, my mom was only 19 years old. My dad was 25. They said, “We’re going to make family everything, because we never had it ourselves.”

Meeuwsen: You’ve been through some very difficult things in your life. You became a believer at a very young age. Has your faith always stayed strong? Did you ever have times where you doubted, questioned, walked away or got lukewarm?

Gifford: I went through a period after my first marriage ended, where I lost my moral compass for awhile. It was never God who left me. It was me who moved away. I never, ever stopped loving God, but during that sweat shop stuff, I felt like God stopped loving me.

Meeuwsen [reporting]: In 1996, Kathie Lee was accused of knowingly exploiting children in sweat shops overseas, where her clothing line was produced. 

Meeuwsen: What did you do then?

Gifford: I just held on tighter to the hand I was already holding. Thank God I knew it wasn’t true. The man who accused me of the sweat shop stuff apologized to me publicly. But not one newspaper carried the apology. Not one magazine carried it. Not one television show, because that didn’t sell.

Meeuwsen: You share a conversation with Cardinal O’Connor that I think was very powerful where he talked to you about the value of suffering, and how God does use that. He gave you a great word on wisdom.

Kathie Lee GiffordGifford: He smiled at me and just said my name so tenderly. I fell apart. He looked at me, and he said, “Kathie, remember that our Lord did not change this world so much through His miracles as through His suffering." I got my eyes on Jesus.  He said, "If you are willing to suffer this injustice for His sake, imagine how God can use you to change the suffering of people who really are in sweat shops around the world." I’ve never felt so ashamed of myself in my life.

Meeuwsen: Talk about forgiveness, because in every situation, whether it’s something you’ve personally gone through in your family or it’s something that you’ve gone through in the public arena like that, you have to let go of it.  But you have to do more than that. You really have to forgive.  How have you done that?

Gifford: Every time there’s been a dilemma in my life all I have to do is look in the Scripture and say, "What did Jesus say about this?"  He was very clear about forgiveness.   The crazy thing that happens is the minute you pray for someone else, it lifts. You can’t hate them. It chemically doesn’t work. It’s like oil and water. Love can’t live where hate does, and vice versa. It’s like an enema for your soul.

Meeuwsen: There’s a word picture!

GIfford: It’s a tonic. It saved me. It saved our marriage, and it’s nothing that’s not available to absolutely everybody that’s going through a tough time.

Meeuwsen [reporting]: Even before leaving Regis and Kathie Lee, she was passionate about musical theater.  She’s now written lyrics for hundreds of songs and was producing one for The Today Show while we were there.

Meeuwsen: I know that you have done so many things that you’ve wanted to. At this point, what haven’t you done that you’d still like to do?

Gifford: I’ve been off Broadway with my first musical, Under the Bridge, and I am very much trying to get that made into a film. I’ve been writing a musical about one of the controversial, celebrated female faith healers/evangelists of the 1920s and 30s named Aimee Semple McPherson. Of everybody I’ve ever met in my life, interviewed or read about, nobody ever lived a life like Aimee.

Meeuwsen: Did it ever occur to you that you would go back to a daily program in the city?

Gifford: Never. Never in a million years. I didn’t want to. I spent 15 years with Regis. I was at Good Morning America for three years before that. I felt like I had done the best television I could do. I said, "The only way it’ll work is if you let me bring the passion I have for theater and bring it to television."

Meeuwsen: If you had to just overall summarize the impact that your faith has had on this multitude of things that you’ve done, what would you say?

Gifford: Without forgiveness, without faith in my life, I’d be in rehab. Frank would be dead (I’d be in jail for killing him), or my kids would be a wreck because we would have gotten a divorce. I can’t even imagine the scenario. If I hadn’t had a place to take all of the pain, all of the hurt... That’s always at the foot of the cross.

Meeuwsen: For your children, what do you hope for them?

Gifford: I’ve taught them the best thing you can ever do is teach your children that God loves them even more than you do.  They would look back, I hope, after a very gnarly life, and see the lives that they have impacted for the kingdom along the road. And I pray to God they never write a book about me, because it will be a bestseller!

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Terry Meeuwsen [reporting]: Kathie Lee Gifford became a household name during her 15-year run on morning television with Regis Philbin. Her personal life was often thrust onto the public stage as well, sometimes painfully. Last year Kathie Lee returned to morning TV on The Today Show, and recently, she released a new book, Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg. She invited us to her home recently where we found her zest for life stronger than ever. Meeuwsen: Well, let’s start talking about the book. It’s so much fun to read. I found myself laughing out loud, then looking around to see what people thought. What do you want people to come away with? Gifford: If they haven’t cried and laughed through the whole thing, then I haven’t done my job. because that is really what life is. The title of the book is basically a commentary on our culture. It’s a cruel culture for women anyway, historically. It’s especially cruel for women of a certain age. What our culture says is, when you’ve dropped your last egg and you can’t have babies anymore -- which is your purpose on this earth -- then thank you very much, but you who are ovulating, please step to the front. We’re supposed to hoist our heiny onto the gurney and go into the sunset. I’m not ready for that! Meeuwsen: In some ways, you have much more to share at this point. Gifford: Yes, much more. That’s so true and especially if you’re a woman of faith. At least that gives you the power to say, I’m not going to let the world define me. I may be 55 years old, 56 or 82, but I’m here by the grace of God. If I still have a pulse, I still have a purpose. The Lord will take me when my purpose is no longer on this planet. Meeuwsen: Talk a little bit about your mom and dad, both so unique, both so significant in your life. Gifford: They both came from very dysfunctional, alcoholic homes. My mother was actually an orphan. Just tragedy, a lot of tragedy. Yet when they got married, my mom was only 19 years old. My dad was 25. They said, “We’re going to make family everything, because we never had it ourselves.” Meeuwsen: You’ve been through some very difficult things in your life. You became a believer at a very young age. Has your faith always stayed strong? Did you ever have times where you doubted, questioned, walked away or got lukewarm? Gifford: I went through a period after my first marriage ended, where I lost my moral compass for awhile. It was never God who left me. It was me who moved away. I never, ever stopped loving God, but during that sweat shop stuff, I felt like God stopped loving me. Meeuwsen [reporting]: In 1996, Kathie Lee was accused of knowingly exploiting children in sweat shops overseas, where her clothing line was produced. Meeuwsen: What did you do then? Gifford: I just held on tighter to the hand I was already holding. Thank God I knew it wasn’t true. The man who accused me of the sweat shop stuff apologized to me publicly. But not one newspaper carried the apology. Not one magazine carried it. Not one television show, because that didn’t sell. Meeuwsen: You share a conversation with Cardinal O’Connor that I think was very powerful where he talked to you about the value of suffering, and how God does use that. He gave you a great word on wisdom. Kathie Lee GiffordGifford: He smiled at me and just said my name so tenderly. I fell apart. He looked at me, and he said, “Kathie, remember that our Lord did not change this world so much through His miracles as through His suffering." I got my eyes on Jesus. He said, "If you are willing to suffer this injustice for His sake, imagine how God can use you to change the suffering of people who really are in sweat shops around the world." I’ve never felt so ashamed of myself in my life. Meeuwsen: Talk about forgiveness, because in every situation, whether it’s something you’ve personally gone through in your family or it’s something that you’ve gone through in the public arena like that, you have to let go of it. But you have to do more than that. You really have to forgive. How have you done that? Gifford: Every time there’s been a dilemma in my life all I have to do is look in the Scripture and say, "What did Jesus say about this?" He was very clear about forgiveness. The crazy thing that happens is the minute you pray for someone else, it lifts. You can’t hate them. It chemically doesn’t work. It’s like oil and water. Love can’t live where hate does, and vice versa. It’s like an enema for your soul. Meeuwsen: There’s a word picture! GIfford: It’s a tonic. It saved me. It saved our marriage, and it’s nothing that’s not available to absolutely everybody that’s going through a tough time. Meeuwsen [reporting]: Even before leaving Regis and Kathie Lee, she was passionate about musical theater. She’s now written lyrics for hundreds of songs and was producing one for The Today Show while we were there. Meeuwsen: I know that you have done so many things that you’ve wanted to. At this point, what haven’t you done that you’d still like to do? Gifford: I’ve been off Broadway with my first musical, Under the Bridge, and I am very much trying to get that made into a film. I’ve been writing a musical about one of the controversial, celebrated female faith healers/evangelists of the 1920s and 30s name Aimee Semple McPherson. Of everybody I’ve ever met in my life, interviewed or read about, nobody ever lived a life like Aimee. Meeuwsen: Did it ever occur to youthat you would go back to a daily program in the city? Gifford: Never. Never in a million years. I didn’t want to. I spent 15 years with Regis. I was at Good Morning America for three years before that. I felt like I had done the best television I could do. I said, "The only way it’ll work is if you let me bring the passion I have for theater and bring it to television." Meeuwsen: If you had to just overall summarize the impact that your faith has had on this multitude of things that you’ve done, what would you say? Gifford: Without forgiveness, without faith in my life, I’d be in rehab, Frank would be dead (I’d be in jail for killing him), or my kids would be a wreck because we would have gotten a divorce. I can’t even imagine the scenario. If I hadn’t had a place to take all of the pain, all of the hurt... That’s always at the foot of the cross. Meeuwsen: For your children, what do you hope for them? Gifford: I’ve taught them the best thing you can ever do is teach your children that God loves them even more than you do. They would look back, I hope, after a very gnarly life, and see the lives that they have impacted for the kingdom along the road. And I pray to God they never write a book about me, because it will be a bestseller!

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