Television personality Kathie Lee Gifford was left heartbroken when her sportscaster husband, Frank Gifford, died in August 2015. Indeed, by all accounts, the now 64-year-old actress, author, TV host and singer-songwriter had a pretty hard time coming to terms with her private loss in the public glare. But now, almost three years on, Kathie Lee has some uplifting news to share with her many fans.
Kathryn Lee Epstein was born in Paris, France, on August 16, 1953, to American parents. Following their move back to the States, the young girl attended Bowie High School in Maryland where she became a born-again Christian at the tender age of 12. This was despite being born into the Jewish faith. Still, after studying drama and music at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kathie Lee got her start in TV as the sidekick to host Tom Kennedy on Name That Tune in 1974. Two years later, she married Christian composer Paul Johnson. But unfortunately, the couple split in 1981 following five years of marriage and divorced shortly afterward.
The TV presenter went on to become Regis Philbin’s co-host on ABC’s The Morning Show from 1985 to 2000. And as Kathie Lee’s career took off, her love life started looking up as well. But it would be another ABC morning show that would be responsible for this turnaround. Yes, during an appearance on Good Morning America in 1983, Kathie Lee was introduced to the former NFL player and sports commentator Frank Gifford.
After his successful football career for the New York Giants had ended in 1964, Gifford had developed a second career as a seasoned sportscaster. And by the time Kathie Lee arrived on his sofa, he was acting as a guest host on Good Morning America. Then, after a leisurely courtship, the couple got married in October 1986. It was Gifford’s third union and his wife’s second. He brought three children to the marriage, and he subsequently had two more with Kathie Lee: Cody, now 28, and Cassidy, 24.
Having been born in Santa Monica, California, on August 16, 1930, Gifford was exactly 23 years older than Kathie Lee. Nevertheless, the female TV personality maintained in an interview with People magazine in 1992 that there was a lot of passion in their relationship from the very beginning. “[Frank] is a traditional guy, and his attitude was, ‘You’re mah woman,’” she explained. “Some women regard that as a Neanderthal approach and find it appalling; I found it appealing and sexy.”
In 1988 The Morning Show went nationwide under its new title, Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. The broadcaster subsequently presented the show for the next 12 years. Following a break from regular daytime TV appearances, Kathie Lee next popped up as co-host with Hoda Kotb for an hour-long segment of the news magazine program Today for NBC in 2008. Kathie Lee has been working on the morning show ever since. However, one summer Sunday in 2015, tragedy struck.
Sadly, Gifford passed away from natural causes at the couple’s home in Greenwich, Connecticut, on August 9, 2015. This was just one week before his 85th birthday and his wife’s 62nd. At the time of his death, he and Kathie Lee had been happily married for more than 28 years.
Unfortunately, it had been Kathie Lee who had found her husband’s lifeless body that Sunday morning. Nonetheless, she had displayed real resilience. Indeed, evidently a believer in the old maxim “The Show Must Go On,” the widow returned to Today in the week following Gifford’s death. Kathie Lee had always shared details of her private family life with her audience, and now the grieving star issued a tearful tribute to her departed spouse.
In an understandably emotional address on August 17, Kathie Lee reassured viewers, “He would want you to know that he died in complete peace. He knew every sin he had committed was forgiven.” She went on to add, “I want to thank everybody for your love and your texts and your tweets, and just the outpouring has been extraordinary.”
Indeed, the veteran broadcaster appeared to be genuinely moved by the support shown to both herself and the Gifford clan. Kathie Lee continued, “It’s a heck of a way to find out how loved you are. Believe me, my family and I got strength and comfort [from] it.” She added that both Cody and Cassidy were by her side for her first day back on set.
Although the loss was clearly difficult for Kathie Lee, her Christian faith had evidently helped her come to terms with the emotional upheaval. “When the Lord calls you home, you go home,” she told People later that month. “What are you going to do, argue with the Lord? I don’t think so.”
Yet while Frank Gifford may have been the love of Kathie Lee’s life, she revealed some uplifting news almost three years after his death. The sexagenarian appeared on NBC’s entertainment show Access Live in March 2018 to promote her biographical book, The Rock, The Road, And The Rabbi. During her interview, the widow gave a heartwarming response to the question of whether she was hoping to find love again following the death of her husband.
With a broad smile on her face, Kathie Lee answered, “Who doesn’t want to find love again?” However, she was still being realistic, adding, “I think my probability is less, obviously. Some men are afraid of strong women. I wouldn’t be interested in men like that anyway.” And she went on to say that she thought perhaps her potential suitors feared they had big shoes to fill.
Nonetheless, she was quick to allay any anxieties on that score. “Some men are afraid of living up to the mantle of Frank Gifford, and there’s no reason for that,” she stated. “Frank was just a flawed man, like anybody else is. I didn’t know him as an eight-time Hall of Famer. He was my husband, and he was my friend for four years before we fell in love.”
And Kathie Lee confided to fans that while she was not hitting “singles bars” or experimenting with online dating, her heart was still very much open to romance. The star also revealed that she had been on a date in the years since Gifford died, but admitted that it “didn’t go so well.” Indeed, it turned out that this was because there was a major difference between the potential pair.
Moreover, it had been a cut-and-dried decision for the long-standing Christian. “He didn’t share my faith, and he didn’t understand why I didn’t want to be with him,” she explained to the Access Live audience. “And I said, ‘My faith isn’t something I do on Sunday mornings for an hour. My faith is me, and I’m not going to share my life with somebody – or even another hour of my life on a date with you – if you don’t share the same passion for your faith as I do.’”
As we have seen, a strong belief in God runs like a thread through Kathie Lee’s life. Raised a Jew, she had been born-again before she hit her teenage years. Then, after graduating from the Christian Oral Roberts University, Kathie Lee had released religious music with her devout first husband. And, along with his many other attributes, Frank’s Christian beliefs had also been strong. However, while a lack of faith may be a deal-breaker date-wise, Kathie Lee insists that she is not fussy otherwise.
Indeed, on Access Live, Kathie Lee joked that romantically she is willing to consider “anybody that has their own teeth.” And it seems that her one bad date has not put her off meeting other men in the future. She said, “If that’s part of God’s will for me, I’m certainly open to it.”
However, in an interview the following month, Kathie Lee may have revealed who had played cupid for her ill-starred date. Yes, Kathie Lee claimed to Goodhousekeeping.com that her co-host was attempting to play matchmaker. “[Hoda] tried to set me up with one date. It did not work out. He wasn’t for me,” she said in April 2018. She then quickly added that he was “a lovely gentleman.”
And while Kathie Lee admitted that moving on with someone else is “possible,” she knows that it wouldn’t be easy. “The world has changed so much. I was married to Frank for almost 30 years,” she explained. “My heart is open to love again. I just don’t know what that looks like anymore.”