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Kathie Lee Gifford won over TV audiences with her on-screen chemistry with co-anchor Regis Philbin on The Morning Show. She now co-anchors the Today show.
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Born Kathryn Lee Epstein on August 16, 1953, in Paris, France, Kathie Lee Gifford spent several years pursing a career as a Christian singer. She was invited to Good Morning America when a producer heard her host an A.M. radio show. She joined Regis Philbin on The Morning Show in 1985, and the duo became an instant hit for their banter and chemistry. She now co-hosts the Today show with Hoda Kotb.
Television personality. Kathryn Lee Epstein was born on August 16, 1953, in Paris, France. Her father, Aaron Leon Epstein, was an American naval officer and weekend jazz saxophonist, and her mother, Joan (nee Cuttell), was a former Naval secretary turned radio singer.
Kathie Lee and her two siblings, David and Michelle, grew up in France and several other European countries where their father was stationed. The family returned to the United States in 1957 and eventually settled in Bowie, Maryland, where Aaron Epstein worked as a newspaper distributor and insurance agent. He and his wife later became proprietors of a resort hotel.
One of her grandparents was Jewish and Kathie Lee grew up in a culturally Jewish environment. But she attended Methodist Sunday school in Bowie and became a born-again Christian at the age of 12 after watching a Christian film entitled The Restless Ones, which depicted the tragic results of a young girl doing drugs and having sex.
At 17, Gifford won her state Junior Miss pageant and traveled to Mobile, Alabama, to represent Maryland in the nationwide competition. There she met Anita Bryant, a prominent Christian singer and co-host of the pageant. Bryant immediately saw Gifford's potential as a Christian entertainer and invited her to live and work with her and her husband, Bob Green, at their home in Key Biscayne, Florida. Gifford agreed and spent a disillusioning year babysitting, doing secretarial work, and occasionally singing in Southern Baptist churches. She realized that the couple's loveless marriage was merely a front for their careers and that their family life lay in shambles. Wanting no part of the hypocrisy, Gifford opted to leave.
However, Bryant had already secured a full scholarship for Gifford at the evangelical Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as a place in Roberts' World Action Singers. Beginning in 1972, Gifford sang on Oral Roberts' television show broadcast from Burbank, California, and traveled throughout the Bible Belt attending revival meetings. Gifford quickly became aware of the manipulation going on behind Roberts' charismatic veneer and dropped out of the university during her junior year.
Experiencing her own form of spiritual awakening, Gifford used the remainder of her scholarship money to rent an apartment in Tulsa. There she spent a few weeks scribbling down her spiritual thoughts, which she eventually published as The Quiet Riot in 1976. In April of that year, Gifford married Paul Johnson, her Bible study group leader and owner of a Christian music publishing company.
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