When it was announced that Kathie Lee Gifford would be leaving Today, it felt like the end of an era. Gifford was such an iconic presence on the daytime program, and she's been on our television screens for as long as we can remember. Even when she was on with Regis Philbin, Gifford was keeping us entertained.
Gifford announced she was leaving in December of 2018, making an emotional speech on the show.
I have something to share with everybody, and it’s bittersweet as these things always are. It’s an exciting time for me, and I’m thrilled about all the projects that are coming up. But it’s also hard … because I love everybody here so much.
I’ve been in this business 120 years and never worked with a more beautiful group of people who just give, give, give, every day. Four hours of live television every day, five days a week. We have fun and we laugh and we support one another and we know each other’s kids names and we know when someone’s having a colonoscopy.
We know everything! We do life together.
Gifford credited her major life changes, such as losing her husband and mother so close together, as to why she's ready to move on.
“I thought I’d stay a year and here it is 11 years later,” Gifford said. "And in those 11 years a lot of life has happened. I experienced huge changes. I’ve become a widow, an orphan and an empty-nester all at once. There’s nothing really keeping me in this part of the country anymore except for my job."
On her last episode of Today, Gifford faced off against her co-host, Hoda Kotb, to answer some trivia questions about the pair. John Cena showed up to read the questions, and perhaps the most interesting one was this: “Approximately how many glasses of wine have been served on this show in 11 years?”
Gifford and Kotb were given three options: 2,500 glasses, 5,300 glasses, or 10,800 glasses.
Gifford guessed 10,800, but it was Kotb who guessed right when she answered 5,300.
"That’s not a lot over 11 years,” Gifford reflected.
Cena noted that some of the glasses they were served should technically count as two servings, because they were pretty big!
It was an emotional goodbye for Gifford, who turned to the Bible to help end off the show.
“I have 30 seconds to say what has taken me a lifetime to say,” Gifford said, getting emotional. “Jeremiah: 29 says, ‘I know the plans I have you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.’ That’s not just true for me you guys. That’s true for everybody watching. Trust him. Let him love like he wants to love you, like I am loved by all of you. Thank you.”
Kotb had previously spoken about her co-host's departure, saying she's gone through more than we can imagine, and that we should all take note.
“Kathie Lee’s been through all the phases of her life in front of America and sharing it for the world, really," Kotb said of her co-host. "I don’t think we have seen that before: Someone who met their husband and had her children and then we witnessed the loss. You realize, you have watched every phase of life and now she’s in this new act, where she is pursuing new dreams. Kathie Lee is proof to everybody that it’s not too late.”
As for what Gifford will be doing next, there's really no end to the possibility.
“I am an artist, I’m an actress, I’m a writer, I’m a songwriter, a director now," she pointed out. "That’s the stuff that feeds my soul and I know that I’m running out of time to do those things.”
Gifford will be leaving her home and moving to Nashville, where she's excited about the overall atmosphere.
“Even if you’re just having a dinner party there, invariably people end up at your piano or taking your guitar off the wall, and next thing you know, you’ve written a song and you’re in the studio the next week doing a demo,” she said.
Today certainly won't be the same without Kathie Lee, but her replacement, Jenna Bush Hager, should bring something special to the show.