After years of pseudo threats to quit the syndicated morning talker "Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee," Kathie Lee Gifford is finally doing it -- and in a confessional manner that's truly apropos to the talk-show format.
Kathie Lee Gifford No, none of that impersonal press conference or press release stuff for Kathie Lee. Gifford took the news straight to her beloved fans, announcing on today's "Live!" that she'll depart the show in July when her current contract ends.
Clad in a bright red, tight clinging dress that helped lighten the solemnity of the occasion, Gifford told co-host Regis Philbin that "it's time."
And when Reeg asked if she was kidding, Gifford said no.
End of question.
Given the gravity of Gifford's decision, one would expect a little melodrama or sentimentality in the form of exaggerated emotions. One would be wrong. Not a single tear was shed during the whole Gifford farewell spiel. And the best that Reeg could come up with was a little peck on his longtime partner-in-crime Kathie Lee's cheek.
Still, goose-bump-inducing platitudes were exchanged. For those who missed the show, a couple of transcribed classics follow:
-- Gifford to Philbin: "I have loved my years with you. You've been the greatest professional partner a person could ever, ever have."
-- Philbin to Gifford: " It's been a lot of fun. We'll miss you tremendously. It's going to be a very tough pair of shoes to fill."
The New York Daily News first broke the news of Gifford's latest round of wishy-washiness. In an interview last week, Gifford, 46, told the New York tab that personal reasons, including the pursuit of other showbiz opportunities (she's doing Broadway part-time these days) and wanting to spend more time with her children, had rekindled her desire to leave the talk show.
Kathie Lee first went live with Regis in 1985 on local New York television. In 1988, "Live!" went into national syndication. The show is currently ranked No. 4 in the syndicated talk-show market, trailing only formidable yakking behemoths Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer and Rosie O'Donnell.
Coincidentally, Gifford's defection comes right at a time when contract talks are being hammered out between "Live" co-host Philbin and Buena Vista Television, a Disney production wing. No reaction yet from the people at Disney on Gifford's bowing out. Also no word on what will become of a Kathie Lee-less "Regis & Kathie Lee."
Gifford's publicist couldn't be reached for comment. Same goes for her "Millionaire" partner Philbin.
ILLINOIS IS HELL: Seems that "Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire" groom Rick Rockwell isn't the only person with a checkered past.
USA Today reports that Darva Conger, Rockwell's erstwhile bride currently fighting for annulment, is under attack for erroneously saying that she is a Persian Gulf War vet.
According to the paper, her military records state that Conger was actually nowhere close to the battlegrounds of Iraq and/or Kuwait in 1991. Instead, she was stationed at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois from 1990-95, those same records show.
An oversight, on behalf of Conger, that many people consider to be an outright lie.
When asked about the discrepancy on TV's "Inside Edition," Conger refused to back down from her bio, asserting: "Anyone on active duty at the time of that war is considered a Gulf War veteran."
RANDOM BITS: According to Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd, the aforementioned Regis Philbin has finally wrapped new contract talks with ABC for "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." And Reeg tells Archerd it's not at the rumored $100,000-per-show price tag. No word on if it's more. ....
Watchdog gay-activist organization Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation took out a full-page ad in today's Hollywood Reporter, upping its battle with Paramount Television over the planned TV talk show with radio moralist Dr. Laura Schlessinger. The ad, which features a compendium of anti-gay remarks made by the titular doctor during her radio show, aims to enlist viewers' collective voice in telling Paramount to reconsider airing the show.