Series 12: For the Love of TV | Episode 01
Kathie Lee Gifford: Getting Real with a Morning TV Icon
Put on your yoga pants and grab some popcorn, because today, ladies and gents, we start a brand-new series: For the Love of TV! And there’s no one better to hold court on our first episode than the Queen of Daytime TV herself, Kathie Lee Gifford! Swapping stories with Kathie Lee is a delight, and we hear about it all: Kathie Lee’s roots in the Christian music industry, her road to ratings darling Live! with Regis & Kathie Lee, her marriage with Frank Gifford, and some of Kathie Lee’s favorite moments from her storied 40+ year career (including one of the most cringe-worthy blunders on live TV). And Kathie Lee is not a one-trick pony: she dazzles with her theologian-level knowledge of scripture and lets us in on the inspiration behind her adorable new children’s book The Gift That I Can Give.
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Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people, every week, on this podcast. Thanks for listening. We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey guys, it’s Jen Hatmaker, your hostess of For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show. So glad that you are here.
We are having such a good time in this For the Love of TV series, not only talking with people from our favorite binge-worthy shows, but getting to know some of these real-life personalities behind the entertainment that we love so much.
So you guys, woo-hoo! Today’s guest, she cut her teeth during literally the golden age of television. She’s gonna talk about this a little bit, but she came up with all the legends. This lady has been in our home via television since back in the day, when we only had three channels. She has literally seen it all in the evolution of entertainment and television.
Of course, I am talking about the queen of morning television, Kathie Lee Gifford! Woo!
You’re gonna love this hour so much, you guys. Who doesn’t know Kathie Lee? She doesn’t even need to be introduced. I mean, we’ve seen her in the fourth hour of The Today Show with Hoda, our other best friend, for years. And then of course, if you’re like me, we watched her with Regis on Regis and Kathie Lee for so long, and it was so fun to have that show in our world for as long as we had it.
Obviously, Kathie Lee has interviewed everybody, you guys, everybody. And she’s got some stories that we’re gonna hear about today in this interview, some crazy moments, some good moments. I don’t know if you know her career, but she actually started dabbling in entertainment in the Christian space back in the day, cutting some gospel albums, being on Christian TV, and even had a short stint, like nine months or so, on Days of Our Lives as Nurse Callahan. That was my soap opera of choice, and my grandma watched it until she died. Nurse Callahan.
So she kind of moved on and upward from there, like commercials and spokesperson for Carnival Cruises and Good Morning, America, where she met Frank Gifford, and then Regis. And Regis loved her and loved who she was and how she was. She became his permanent co-host in 1985, and honestly the rest is history. Millions and millions and millions of us have started our mornings with her for years—and still do. Now that she’s over on The Today Show, that’s where she won her first Emmy after 11 nominations, all deserved.
So this is interesting. You’re gonna find this conversation interesting today because, obviously, Kathie Lee is so fun and frolicking, if you will. She is who she is. That’s the very real person that we see. But she’s one sharp lady too. Listen. She’s a renaissance woman, honestly. She’s written several books, including—and this really blew me away today, and I was not prepared for this during this interview about how rich and meaningful and deep this was gonna turn into—but she has just recently written a book in partnership with a Messianic rabbi in Israel. And I mean, her knowledge of the Bible from the Greek and Hebrew perspective is theologian level. I mean, she laid some stuff down today, you guys, about rightly understanding the Word of God and what it means to set people free instead of hold people back. I mean, you know me. She was singing my song. That was a wonderful moment in the interview today, and I can’t wait for you to hear it.
But obviously, she’s also a singer and recorded tons of albums and beautiful, beautiful stuff. Beautiful work. She’s been in entertainment for so long. We’ve watched her kids grow up, we’ve watched her emerge from the grief of losing her husband and handle so many national crises with grace and beauty and grit, and it’s just a joy to have her today.
I’m so honored that she took the time to be on the For the Love Podcast today. So, so, so honored. We’re gonna dish a little bit about history of TV, some of her favorite interviews, her favorite shows, her favorite people, and her amazing career in entertainment.
So everybody, please welcome Kathie Lee Gifford to the show.
It is just, I’m tickled and I am delighted to welcome to the show Kathie Lee Gifford. Hello!
Kathie Lee: Hello, Jen. How are you, darling?
Jen: You know what’s funny is, I’ve been on The Today Show a few times, but it’s always been in the first half of the show, the first two- or three-hour chunk. And every single time I’m there, I have said I wanted to meet you. And I just kind of ask people next to me, “Maybe I’ll just stick around and just stay back here.”
And they’re like, “Get out of here, lady.”
Kathie Lee: No!
Jen: They are! They are like, “Scram! You’ve had your segment.”
Kathie Lee: No, they’re not like that. No, you’ve got to wait around for the fun and the happy hour, that ten o’clock. My gosh, it’s just all bad news before we get on, you know?
Jen: Don’t I know it. That’s my lane. I mean, you’re my queen.
Kathie Lee: I can tell.
Jen: Yes, I obviously wasn’t being forceful enough, but next time I will.
I’m so delighted to have you. You’ve been such a part of our entertainment lexicon for so many years. Every one of us feels like we know you. Every one one of us feels like we love you, and you love us.
Kathie Lee: Well, thanks.
Jen: We’ve listened to your life for so long, and so I wonder a lot about like little Kathie. Did you know you were going to do this? Did you dream about this?
Kathie Lee: No.
Jen: Could you have imagined you were going to be a part of everyone’s life like this?
Kathie Lee: You know what? What I do, and have been doing for all these decades, wasn’t done then. So a girl, it would be a dream that didn’t exist back then when I was a little girl.
Jen: That’s so true.
Kathie Lee: No, when I was a little girl, I was writing letters to Walt Disney because I wanted to be in movies.
Jen: Oh, sure.
Kathie Lee: That’s all I ever wanted to do was be a singer and an actress. There was no such thing as talk shows back then.
Jen: That’s true.
Kathie Lee: And certainly no female talk show hosts, the way they’ve come to evolve. So, no. And that’s kind of the cool thing is that we can’t outdo God. I mean, this is not what I chose for my life, ever. But, it was His plan along. I believed that. I still get to do the other things that matter a great deal to me that I love, like movies, like music, like books, and all the other things that I’m interested in.
But, yeah. I mean, television, when Regis and I started out in 1985, nobody had ever done on national television what the two of us ended up doing.
Kathie Lee: Talking about our lives, without a script, without a writer, without a net to fall into because you were walking a high-wire, basically. But I was blessed to have Regis in my life all those years because I trusted him and he trusted me. The world was a different place.
Jen: It sure was.
Kathie Lee: No social media. I mean, if somebody hated our guts, we found out about it the next time when our ratings came in.
Kathie Lee: We’d lost about 10 people in Baltimore.
Jen: Right. Right.
Kathie Lee: You don’t know what they said, and you don’t know how cruel they could be, so it didn’t matter. “So we’ll pick up 20 more next month.” You know, that kind of thing. It’s so personal now.
Jen: That’s so true. It was a little bit of a safer time. Yeah, a safer time to sort of come into a genre like that, that had no precedence.
Kathie Lee: Yeah.
Jen: And because you gave us this beautiful opportunity to feel personally connected to you because you shared so much of your own personal lives, and so much of it was stream of consciousness, and it was honest. And so we got this connection.
Kathie Lee: But you could back then.
Jen: That’s true.
Kathie Lee: You could back then. And you’d get the occasional letter from somebody that was offended, or you’d get something . . . but I mean, we didn’t question it when we set out every single morning. We just thought, What stories can we tell that will entertain people, that will make them laugh, that they’ll see themselves? And we’ll look like an idiot, so they feel not so bad about being an idiot too?
I mean, we’re living these kinds of lives that were incredible to both of us—going here, going there, going to every premiere, interviewing all the top stars. But we always felt like we were the ones who were going to get kicked out of the party if anybody realized that we really didn’t have a ticket, you know?
Jen: Like these Charlatans who snuck in the side door.
Kathie Lee: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, even in our home that I live in now, after 25 years living here, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my whole life. Frank and I used to think all the time, Gee, we hope the people that really live here don’t come back and want us to leave, because we’ve felt like squatters all these years. It’s just too good. It’s just too good. It can’t be forever, anyway.
Jen: That’s so precious.
I want to ask you this because you’re so highly recognized. I mean, you’re just so well-known, and you’re in televisions every day. So all of this real-life that you’re talking about, it’s completely entangled with what you do on TV in front of so many people. We’ve watched it. We’ve seen your marriage to Frank. We’ve watched your kids grow up. We’ve seen the details of your life revealed. We’ve watched your music unveiled and all the other talents that you have sort of come to bear. I’m fascinated with how you, being so present in media and for so long, I mean, the longevity of your career is rare. It’s special.
Kathie Lee: Yeah. I’m blessed.
Jen: How do you balance it? How do you balance this sort of authenticity, this vulnerability that you bring to the table, letting people inside your world with a job as an entertainer? How does this exposure work for you just as a human person, as a mom and as a woman?
Kathie Lee: Wow. Well, you just want to start out on the big stuff, don’t you?
Jen: I do.
Kathie Lee: You know, I don’t think about it. It’s always just come so naturally to me.
I remember when I first got the call to host. I was thinking about it today because I was in the car listening to the news in this monsoon, trying to get home to get to the phone to be able to speak with you. They announced the fact that Bill Cosby had just been found, well, he had been found guilty, but now he’s been sentenced to between three and ten years in prison. I just remember that when I got the call, the first time to host on talk show, it was AM Los Angeles, and it was 1981, fall of 1981, and I had just been on a three-week tour with Bill Cosby.
Kathie Lee: Opening up for him. For two years I opened for him, and many, many others. But this particular time, I had just been all over Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, yeah, for three weeks. I remember getting home and my agent called me and said, “Regis has left AM Los Angeles, and they’re looking for somebody to sit in tomorrow.”
And I said, “Well, I’m not a talk show host.”
They said, “No, but, you can talk to people.”
Kathie Lee: So I went in, and you know, I had nothing to lose because I certainly wasn’t auditioning for anything.
Kathie Lee: I just showed up and I was myself because I didn’t have anything to relate it to. I didn’t know what a talk show host did.
Kathie Lee: I just showed up, found something clean to wear. They did my hair and makeup, and I sat down and people talked. I remember thinking, Geez, people get paid for this?
Kathie Lee: Yeah. And then they said, “Gosh, can you come back the next day, and the next day, and the rest of the week?”
And I go, “Well, no, I’m going back with Cosby to Atlanta on Friday.”
And they said, “Well, we’ll take you for as long as we can get you this week.”
And I said, “Oh, that’s so nice.”
I remember enjoying it, but never thinking of it as a career. Then, it turns out that a very, very big muckety-muck at the network, at ABC, was on the lookout for Joan London’s replacement at Good Morning, America. He called up the producer and he said, “Stop looking, I found her.”
And she said, “Where is she?”
He said, “I just saw her on AM Los Angeles.”
Kathie Lee: And he said, “Call her. Come out and meet her because she’s your girl. Don’t even audition, don’t even audition people.”
And I went. So when I got the call to do Good Morning, America, I said, “Why? What do they want me to do?”
Kathie Lee: “Do they need a singer? Is it turning it into a soap opera?” It made no sense to me, but somebody saw something in me I didn’t even see in myself.
We became friends through the years, that gentleman. I just recently saw him. You just show up and be authentic, and people will either like or dislike you, but at least it will be on an authentic basis.
Jen: Oh, that counts.
Kathie Lee: And, you won’t be having to fake something. Yeah, I can’t imagine having had this career all my life, and having of the burden of thinking, Oh, no, now who did I say I was? Who do I have to be? That, you’re never going to last if you’re faking it.
Jen: I really love that.
Kathie Lee: You’ve got to be your true self.
Jen: Well, you know what? You’ve given us that.
Kathie Lee: I started out that way.
Jen: We believed you. We believe you, all these years. And, I think as somebody, you know, you can pull anything off in a fake way for a short amount of time, but not for the longevity of a career.
Kathie Lee: Yeah.
Jen: When we get to watch you each decade, there’s that you bring that to the table, which feels like, She’s telling us the truth. This is who she is. This is how she loves.
Kathie Lee: Yeah. And sometimes, the truth is ugly. I was going through things that were really painful, really, really difficult things. But I just knew that the people that I was doing my show for were not my critics. They were people like you, Jen. People who did get me. People who did believe in me, and a lot of people who prayed for me every day—and still do. I mean, I owe so much to all of these incredibly faithful friends of mine, most of whom, 99% of whom I’ll never meet and never know their name, but I’m deeply grateful to them.
Jen: I really admire you. We watched you weather storms. We watched you do it with a lot of faith. Your faith has always been like a really obvious, key part of who you are and how you live in this world.
Kathie Lee: Everything. I had a big disappointment today on something professionally, and I just said, “Kathie, you know what you need to do. You need to say, ‘Thank you, Lord. You’ve got this.'” As disappointed as I am, humanly, and I let myself feel it, because God knows I’m feeling it. He knew I was going to feel it before I even heard about it, you know?
Kathie Lee: You let yourself feel it. There’s no condemnation in Him. Then you say, “Okay, but as usual, I can’t see His bigger plan in this. He’s going to do something cool with this.” That just comes from years and years and years of experience. That’s really all that is.
Jen: It does. It does.
Kathie Lee: He takes our ashes and brings beauty out of it.
Jen: The years give us that. They give us that solid ground.
You know, I lead in a faith space. I lead a community of faith. The older I get, people regularly come to me and ask for more systems. “Can you formulize this a little bit more for us? Can you give us the steps towards a vibrant spiritual life and how to navigate life’s incredible sorrows and disappointments?” The older I get, it’s more like what you said. It’s just a little bit more like the air we breathe. I don’t know how to wrangle it down into a list. It just is.
Kathie Lee: No. Yeah.
Jen: The way that I feel like I walk with God and connect with Him and speak to Him and pray with Him and work with Him and live with Him—it’s just life. It’s not a system.
Kathie Lee: Exactly, and life consists of nanoseconds. Days consists of minutes and hours. They all add up. The way you live one moment of your life is basically what your life is.
I love Jesus and I love relationship with the living God. But I find, in my experience in life, the religious people, the deeply, deeply religious people, those who are very dogmatic tend to be the most self-righteous and the most unhappy of all the people I’ve ever met in my life.
The people Jesus had the most trouble with were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They were very proud of how they kept the law, boy, but they didn’t keep God in their heart. They didn’t have any tenderness or mercy for somebody who needed to be healed on the Sabbath, or somebody that was hungry or somebody that was . . . anybody. They had no mercy. What’s the point to have a religion that doesn’t give you any love for your fellow man or your fellow woman?
Jen: You are singing my song. I am standing on my chair waving my white hanky. This is my life’s work, everything you just said. If it doesn’t give us joy and life, if there is no human flourishing under its umbrella, what is the point? What am I doing?
Kathie Lee: An hour, one day in a week out of 52 weeks in a year. That’s supposed to be what you base your life on? No. I can’t do that.
That’s why I did this book this past year called The Rock, the Road and the Rabbi, because it was really a lifetime of learning Scripture and learning where it all came from and going to the Holy Land and studying.
I think people will find the book interesting. I’m not a Biblical scholar by any means. I’m a student of the Word, but I did the book with a friend of mine named Rabbi Jason Sobel, he’s fantastic. He’s obviously a Jew, obviously a rabbi, but he is a believer in Yeshua as the Messiah. He’s a Messianic Jew.
Then the rabbis take you 10 layers, 20 layers deeper into the Scriptures in what every number means, at what time of the year something happened means.
Kathie Lee: If you really want to know the Scripture and you want to build your life on something that’s true, you have to know what it really says. Really says. And that’s why people aren’t growing. They aren’t growing because they don’t have access to the real Word of God.
Jen: Frankly, that’s a very lazy approach to something so important, when at the end of some of these misinterpretations is human suffering. It is causing people harm.
Kathie Lee: Tremendous human suffering.
Jen: It is harming relationships. It is patriarchal and hierarchical. It’s actually a source of a lot of sorrow. How dare we not take it that seriously? I mean, if we are going to begin prescribing faith paths for people groups and genders and whatever, then we better darn well make sure we understand what the text says. I think our Jewish teachers have so much to teach us here. I mean, they are some of our best teachers on how to learn from and interpret Scripture.
Kathie Lee: Well, I’ve learned so much. I really encourage people to go on a Rock, Road and Rabbi tour with Jason, or anyone like him. There are many that do teach the rabbinical way, because otherwise you’re going to get a nice picture with Kojak the stinky camel on the Mount of Olives. You’re going to make it your Christmas card. You’re going to say, “Look at me, I went to the Holy Land!” But you’re not going to come back with life tools, with new knowledge that is going to inform your every, every moment of your life and transform you. We did some videos early in the year, two that are available. I think we did a six-part series in Israel based on the book. And people are getting excited again about the Word of God.
Jen: I love this. I’m going to have all this linked. Everybody listening, I’ll have every bit of this linked over on the Podcast page at jenhatmaker.com. I’m excited about that. I cannot wait to dig into your work here, and bravo to you for bringing something so important there.
Kathie Lee: Awesome.
Jen: Let me switch gears with your for a second. You have had one of the most storied careers as an interviewer. I mean, you’ve literally sat across from everybody, just everybody. You have had the most fascinating people across from you that you’ve gotten to talk to.
Kathie Lee: Yeah.
Jen: We’ll just see if some of these come to mind. You can just say, “Pass,” if you can’t think of one, or you don’t want to say one.
Okay. In your career as this amazing interviewer, somebody who has hosted every kind of change agent and celebrity and interesting person on your shows, if you just had to pick—and we’ll just go through this list—what’s been your favorite interview of an actor? Do you have one?
Kathie Lee: They’re tied, and they were many, many, many years ago. The first one was Audrey Hepburn, and the second was Paul Newman.
Jen: Oh my gosh. I mean, gosh.
Kathie Lee: They were among some of the first interviews I did, and the most powerful and the most impactful, because both of them changed my life. I have such respect for both of them and their body of work. I also thought that even then, they were using their lives and their celebrity to impact the world, to just change the world.
When I interviewed Audrey Hepburn, she had just flown all night from Ethiopia, working for the U.N. She was dying of colon cancer and nobody knew it, and yet she was still serving humanity.
Jen: Whoa. Whoa!
Kathie Lee: I never got over that.
Paul Newman, with all of his Oscars and everything else, taught me about whatever power you have, you use it to feed somebody or take a sick kid and put him in camp. Do something. Do something. Bless somebody. You’re blessed, and we make a lot of money doing what we do. How can you live with yourself if you’re not using that in some way to really make the world a better place, with individuals, not just “I send your checks.”
Jen: That’s great. That’s great.
Kathie Lee: Send your checks. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with sending checks and everybody needs money, but that man got into the trenches and built camps for dying children. He did it until he was dying.
I loved him. I was grateful to become a friend of his later in life. Those are my two favorite actors.
Jen: What about a favorite ensemble, a favorite ensemble interview? You do some of those from time to time, and they’re fun.
Kathie Lee: Oh. Ensemble . . . Harvey Korman, Tim Conway and Carol Burnett.
Kathie Lee: All of them.
Jen: No, you can’t top that. That’s not toppable.
Do you have a favorite musician, an artist, that you’ve interviewed?
Kathie Lee: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Jen: You’ve seen them all.
Kathie Lee: I have. I adore Bette Midler. I don’t agree with her on a lot of things, but I just flat-out adore her. She’s just real. She’s about as real as you can be as an entertainer.
Lena Horne, before she passed. That was unbelievable.
Jen: Of course. Yeah.
Kathie Lee: I love the old timers, you know. Gosh, I also got to interview . . . Gosh, you’re right. Now I start to think about all these people.
I mean Streisand I’ve never interviewed, but I got to meet her and know her. She’s the reason I wanted to be a singer. I heard her sing “People” one day on the radio, and I said, Okay, I’m gone. I’m done. I will never sing like that. I knew that. I wasn’t gifted with that kind of a voice, but I wanted to be in an industry where people like that made people happy and made you cry and stand in your tracks and not be able to move for the sheer beauty of it. The sheer beauty of it.
Jen: That’s a great description.
Kathie Lee: Yeah.
Jen: That’s just iconic and unmatchable. Unmatchable, but inspired a million young artists, no doubt, you being one of them.
Kathie Lee: Yeah.
Jen: What about . . . this is maybe a hard one to answer, but I wonder if it comes right to mind. What is the best surprise moment during an interview? Something you were not expecting, the thing took a turn, something happened, and all of a sudden you were kind of back on your heels?
Kathie Lee: Oh gosh. One time I was interviewing Harrison Ford with Regis, and we were talking about, “Will there be another Indiana Jones?” There was talk.
He goes, “Well,” and he’s just the most charming guy, such a sweet guy. He says, “Well, you know, Steven Spielberg and I were talking about the minute we can get Kathie Lee available, then we’re going to make it.”
Jen: That’s amazing.
Kathie Lee: I remember thinking, Harrison Ford just said that to me. Of course this isn’t happening.
Jen: I mean, that’s it.
Kathie Lee: Just being charming. Just the nicest man. I mean things like that, where you just . . . Do you know what? It isn’t in the cards. It’s not going to happen. Nobody expects it. That’s the real beauty of live television, when you throw away your notes. I never, ever cared about our notes. I mean, I read them, just so I know the basics.
But other things can happen that are terrible. And the worst thing that’s happened to me a couple of times is that I would ask on the air how somebody was, only to find out, because I just didn’t know, that whoever I asked about was gone. They’d passed.
Jen: Oh, no.
Kathie Lee: I did it with Martin Short. I didn’t know his wife had died. I did it with, oh gosh, James Taylor. I said how is, “Alex, your brother?”
He goes, “He’s dead.”
And I went “What?” You just want—
Jen: And of course, this is live, right?
Kathie Lee: Oh, it’s live. And I want to die. And the last thing in the world, that I would ever do, is hurt somebody. Then that’s when I realized, there are two different kinds of ignorance in the world. There’s ignorance, and you just didn’t know.
It wasn’t in any of my notes. You never saw it on Entertainment Tonight that Martin’s wife had passed away, or else I was out of the country, so I never knew it. I never knew it. And every time I’d been with them, I was so impressed by their love affair. My question was basically, “How do you guys do this? All these years, and in Hollywood, where it’s so hard and all we see is failures in marriages.” And I didn’t even notice him blink or anything, and at the end, he didn’t say a word.
He took me aside afterwards and he said, “Kathie, I didn’t want to say anything to you on the air.” He’s the nicest guy in the world. He said, “But Nancy passed away last year.”
And I went, “Oh, my God. Oh my God, Marty,” and you want to die. You want to die.
Jen: Aw, I feel that in my stomach.
Kathie Lee: Yeah, because you just . . . oh my gosh, though. You just do what you can do. I went right on the air and I said, “Marty just took me aside and told me that his wife has passed. And I am sick about this, but I’m just human. I didn’t know.” And people will forgive you when you’re human, because they are too.
Jen: They do.
Kathie Lee: The thing that bothers me in this world, Jen, is the willful ignorance. It’s like when you know the facts or you’re presented with facts, and you just choose not to pay any attention to them because it doesn’t fit your agenda. It’s an inconvenient truth, and I don’t mean it in—
Jen: Totally, or you cast them in a certain light. Or even as communicators, we can tilt the information.
Kathie Lee: Sure we can.
Jen: We can massage the facts to make it say what we want it to say or look a certain way.
Kathie Lee: Oh, it happens all day long every day now.
Jen: All the time. Every single day. And I think what the world is craving right now, so much—
Kathie Lee: Is authenticity.
Jen: Are people who are telling us the truth. Yes, yes. We just are craving authentic leaders that we feel like we can trust in some way, and who are decent and honest and kind and good.
Kathie Lee: Yep.
Jen: I feel like those win every time. They are messier and a little sloppier and sometimes they go sideways, but I think those are the things that will last.
Kathie Lee: Yeah.
Jen: Those are the things that we can really build on.
Okay, just two more questions. I know your time is so precious.
Kathie Lee: It really is.
Jen: It is. It’s precious.
Kathie Lee: I’m actually editing this new movie of mine, so I do have to get going in a little bit, but go ahead.
Jen: You do everything. You just do it all. It is insane.
Kathie Lee: You know the old saying, “If you want it done right . . .” and even then it doesn’t happen, but anyway, go ahead.
Real quick, you are in the entertainment world and have been. This is your life’s career. So I wonder—because this series on my podcast is about TV and shows and Netflix and all the things we love to watch and all the people we love to watch doing it—what would you say if you had to just tell us a couple of your favorite all-time shows? The one that you love the most, that you would go back to, that you draw from? What do you love? What are your shows?
Kathie Lee: I don’t watch hardly any television anymore. Number one, I don’t have any time. Number two, they aren’t compelling to me. And I can’t afford to fall in love with something that I don’t have time to truly give myself to, so I don’t start.
Jen: Good. Yes.
Kathie Lee: In fact, I laugh about it with everybody that everybody’s crying because of some season finale, some all-time series finale. And I go, “Well, I’m not crying because I never saw one of them, so I’m fine.”
But mine go back to I Love Lucy. Mine go back to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, mine go back to Carol Burnett. Those are all my heroes in this industry, and I’ve been blessed to know so many of them.
I did a terrible, terrible, terrible television show in Nashville in 1978 called Hee Haw Honey.
Kathie Lee: Yeah. TV Guide called it “one of the ten worst television shows ever, ever, ever.”
Jen: That is amazing.
Kathie Lee: All I know is I was making a fortune doing it when I was 21 years old, so I was thrilled.
Kathie Lee: Maybe I was 23? Yeah, probably, 23. Anyway, I met Dolly Parton, I met Kenny Rogers.
Jen: Oh, she’s my dream.
Kathie Lee: I met Larry Gatlin. And all of those people are my friends to this day. So you may not be in something that’s gonna take the world by storm, but it leads to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. That’s what I try to teach my daughter, who’s an actress. “Honey, you may not get this audition. Somebody’s gonna see you at this audition and is gonna remember you for the next one.” You build on these stepping stones in life.
Jen: That’s good.
Kathie Lee: It’s a ladder, and every one of them leads to the next step and when you’re in too much of a hurry to get to the top of the ladder, you’re gonna miss some really important steps that you’re gonna pay for in big ways. Big ways. Experientially.
Jen: That’s so lovely. That’s so lovely and also this lovely approach of just cherishing every new person you meet and they are special and wonderful and they’re not to be just used.
Kathie Lee: No.
Jen: But rather they might be your friend in 35 years from now, still.
Kathie Lee: Yeah.
Jen: If you play your cards right, if you are loyal and faithful and good.
Kathie Lee: When I started writing music, Dolly Parton and Neil Sedaka and Barry Manilow, they were the three people that did nothing but support me in my earliest days of writing. Meant the world to me. They would listen to every song I would send them. They would give me feedback on every one. I’ll never forget that.
You try to forget the cruelties of certain people, but I never forget the kindnesses, and that’s the type of person I’ve tried to be ever since. I can be that for another person who’s starting out in this business.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathie Lee: I just had a lunch today with somebody that’s going through that very same thing, and you try to pass it on.
Jen: That’s so beautiful.
Kathie Lee: Why not? Pass it on.
Jen: One last thing before I let you go, because you do so much, you just mentioned, “I’m editing a movie.” Just this side hustle you’re doing.
You’re a writer, a singer and an actor. You’re charitable and you’re in movies. And you have written just a darling children’s book. I’d love for my listeners to hear about it.
Kathie Lee: Thank you.
Jen: Can you just tell them about it really quickly?
Kathie Lee: Yeah. Basically, it’s based on the story of David and Goliath that I made a musical out of for children last year called “The Little Giant” with a friend of mine named David Pomeranz. We wrote a half-hour musical for kids. It was fun.
One of the songs in it was called “What is Your Stone?” based on one of my rabbinical trips to Israel, where our teacher made us go down to the Brook of Elah, where David picked out his five smooth stones. And then our teacher looked at us and said, “What is your stone? Where are you gonna throw it? At the chaos? Where are you gonna throw your shalom? Everything you know about the Lord, or at the chaos of this world?”
So we wrote a little song that goes, “What is your stone? Where will you throw it? What is your gift? How will you know it? What is the one thing that you can do that no one else can do but you? What is, what is, your stone?”
It dawned on me that we ask our children the wrong questions from the time they’re little. We ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” When I think the better question to ask our children is, “What has God already created you to be?”
Jen: So good.
Kathie Lee: You have every gift already in you, wondrously and fearfully made in your mother’s womb. God has already given you those gifts. Now it’s up to you to find and discover them, mine them, use them, build them up in you. Make them excellent for God’s service.
I think when you see what little kids do naturally, and they love naturally, that’s because God made them that way. And I really think if more parents would encourage what they see their children naturally have rather than force them into something that they’re not interested in or are bored by, can’t stand, and then they wonder why their kids aren’t getting good grades in school, they’re bored to death or they hate it . . . if they’re good at fixing things, let them go to a trade school and learn how to become the best engineer or the best plumber.
Jen: That’s right.
Kathie Lee: So be what God has created you to be, and find joy in that. It’s really about that. It’s a little book about, What is my gift? God will reveal it to me, but it’s already there. It’s exciting for kids to realize that. It’s already there, and they set out on a little journey to discover what it is.
People are responding to it. I think it’s gonna have a nice impact. It’s getting beautiful reaction from people and it makes me happy. It really does.
Jen: And rightly so. It is a beautiful book. I have a copy sitting right here on my desk.
Kathie Lee: Thank you.
Jen: I appreciate it as a parent because not only is it a relief to kids to hear, it’s a relief for us parents to hear that we are not responsible for crafting some version of our kids that we think the world wants, but rather allow them to flourish who they are and how they are created.
Kathie Lee: Amen.
Jen: To me, that is amazing, amazing news.
Listen, I want to tell you, thank you for being who you are. Thank you for being so important, not just to so many of us, but to me specifically, thank you for this example that you have set for me for years in the public eye. I just think you are amazing and phenomenal.
Kathie Lee: Thank you.
Jen: I believe in you, and I love you. You are a joy and a gem and a delight. Thanks for being on the show today.
Kathie Lee: Oh, you are so precious. You are a blessing to me. Thank you so much. And to all of your listeners, God bless you, every one. Each one of you is precious to God. Let’s rejoice in that. You know, the first letter of unique is U, so there you go.
Jen: That’s good. Much love to you, sister.
Kathie Lee: Take care, darling.
Jen: You too.
Kathie Lee: God bless you. Bye bye, honey.
Jen: She’s a good one. She is a good one. That was so fun. I really love her, and I’m just grateful for all she’s done for all these years, and just kind of being a delight to so many of us in so many ways, and being the same in front of the camera as she is behind it. Gosh, that matters to me. So I hope you loved that conversation.
All the things that Kathie Lee mentioned—her work, her songs, her albums, her music, her books, all the places you can find her on social media—as always, we will have that linked over at jenhatmaker.com underneath the Podcast tab, where the amazing Amanda will have built out a whole page for you to enjoy, including everything we referenced—links, video clips, everything you need. If we talked about it, you’ll find it over there, if you kind of want to build out a little bit of capacity around this interview.
Anyhow, thanks for listening and coming in with so much fun and enthusiasm for this series. I am enjoying it too, you guys, of course. I am so lucky. What is this lucky job I get to have? I am so rotten. Spoiled rotten. We have the best guests and the most amazing listening community, so thank you for being here. Thank you for subscribing. If you like it, share it with your friends. That’s so fabulous. We love new listeners, we always have room for more.
Much more to come in this fun series, so come back next week. Hope to delight and entertain you as well. So everybody, have a great one and I’ll see you next time.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!