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Kathie Lee Gifford's 'Life And Other Calamities'

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Kathie Lee Gifford's 'Life And Other Calamities'


Kathie Lee Gifford's 'Life And Other Calamities'

Kathie Lee Gifford's 'Life And Other Calamities'

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Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg: Life and Other Calamities by Kathie Lee Gifford. Courtesy Random House hide caption

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Courtesy Random House

Most people probably know Kathie Lee Gifford best from her days as Regis Philbin's sassy co-host on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. But the singer, TV host, philanthropist and businesswoman has played gigs from cruise ships to Broadway, stage to studio — and she has shown she has the ability to persevere in the tough world of show business.

One night during the 1999 run of Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together, a looming stagehands strike threatened to dim the entire New York Theater District. Gifford was slated to fill in for Carol Burnett that night, and she recalls telling Sondheim, "If I never get my Broadway debut, I will have gotten everything I could have ever hoped for from this experience." There was no strike, and Gifford opened to positive reviews. "The best reviews of my life!" she says — and, she quips, "I'm not used to good reviews."

A few years before that, Gifford faced negative publicity for licensing her name to a clothing line sold at Wal-Mart. That clothing had been manufactured under sweatshop conditions in Honduras, which Gifford says shocked her.

"It wasn't something I was personally guilty of," Gifford says. In 1996, she lobbied the New York State Assembly for better monitoring of the working conditions in overseas factories, and, as a result of the scandal, President Clinton formed a task force to protect workers in foreign factories.

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A couple of generations have grown up with Gifford. Some can remember when she was Tom Kennedy's singing sidekick on the 1970s game show Name That Tune. Others remember her singing in Carnival Cruise Lines commercials during the 1980s. That's about the time when she started working with Philbin on a New York metro-area program called The Morning Show. The program was so successful it went national as Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Now, after an eight-year hiatus from TV, she's returned to co-host the fourth hour of NBC's Today show.

But her day job isn't keeping her from other projects. In her new book, Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg: Life and Other Calamities, Gifford confronts everything from the embarrassment of discussing sex with her kids to the indignities of celebrity aging.

Writing isn't new to Gifford, who credits long-time friend Dolly Parton for getting her started in songwriting. "She is one of the first people who just encouraged my writing career," Gifford says. Parton sang back-up on the song "Only My Pillow Knows" on Gifford's album Born for You.

Their friendship began with a stint on Hee Haw Honeys, the short-lived spin-off of the country music sketch-comedy show Hee Haw. After that show ended, Gifford kept showing her songs to Parton, who would write back with criticism and advice.

Years later, when Parton was a guest on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Gifford found a tender surprise in her dressing room. "She had written in lipstick, on my mirror, 'Kathie Lee, you are a writer. Love, Dolly.' And I left it there for six months."

Excerpt: 'Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg'

Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg
By Kathie Lee Gifford
Hardcover, 304 pages
Ballantine Books
List Price: $22


Since the beginning of time the same question has been asked over and over again: What came first? The chicken or the egg? Well, I'm happy to say that I finally have the answer.

It's neither. The chicken's mother came first.

That's right. The mother dropped an egg and the first chicken was hatched.

And that's what we chicks have been doing ever since.

So, if you're reading this, I have obviously not dropped my last egg yet.

Oh, sure, I dropped my last reproductive egg a few years ago. But my fertility eggs? Fuhgidaboutit.

I'm Fertile Myrtle now. I'm back to a daily grind on the Today show after an eight-year hiatus from television, I'm producing my fourth musical for the theater, I'm in development for two screenplays to be made into films, I'm halfway through writing my first novel, and I'm under deadline to finish this book by Christmas.

In other words, forget about a pig in mud. I'm more like a pregnant pig in placenta!

I share none of this information in a bragging way -— on the contrary, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that I still find joy and wonder and inspiration and challenge each day that I want to encourage everybody else to understand that the same sense of creative fertility is possible for them.

For years our society has perpetrated the perverse notion that once nature is done with us -— especially women —- we're done, too! "ONLY THOSE WHO OVULATE ALLOWED!" But it's a lie, and we don't have to cooperate with it. Who says we have to hoist our beefy carcass onto the gurney and disappear into the sunset? Not me. Because you know when we're really done? When we drop dead, that's when. And even then it's a whole different discussion about where we go from there.

But until that day comes, I believe we can experience creativity far beyond our wildest expectations. We can give birth daily to something beautiful and meaningful in ways we've never dreamed. Because when we're older, we are free from raising young kids, building careers, and managing households, all the while battling Midol headaches. I don't bloat anymore! Now it's just fat, but that's another essay. Think how much money we're all saving because we bypass the feminine hygiene shelves at the drugstore. Okay, you argue, but what about all the hormone replacement stuff and edamame we need now?

You're right, nothing's perfect. But that's really my point. Our lives stopped being perfect the moment we slipped out of the womb and got our heinies smacked.

Right then we should have realized that those days of sloshing around safe and sound in that amniotic fluid without a care in the world were over.

But, no. Then society started reinforcing that other ridiculous lie: that "happily ever after" crap.

We'd no sooner finish reading those fairy tale books when we'd start dreaming of our own Prince Charming, riding up on his Harley and carrying us away.

Oh, he rode up and carried us away all right. To a life of cooking, cleaning, birthing, and diapers. But we didn't mind, did we? We were doing what we were created to do AT THAT TIME in our lives.

But none of the books we were encouraged to read ever mentioned that Prince Charming might end up being a jerk or a lousy provider or even, unfortunately for some, gay, which is indeed problematic in a traditional marriage.

So even if he was a sweet, loving, hardworking heterosexual prince, chances are his breath stunk, or he was a slob, or he ate too much or developed hair in weird places or liked to play with his putter more than he liked to play with his wife. And if we women are really honest, we might even admit that we were no "picnic in the park" either. More like a "bologna sandwich in the backyard on a hot day with a storm coming."

Truth is, if you live long enough, you're bound to be disappointed and you're bound to disappoint others in return.

For me it's been a matter of coming to grips with reality. Sometimes life doesn't march on; it limps. Sometimes it's on a walker and sometimes it's on an IV drip in the ICU. What's for sure is that we're going to have ups and downs, good days and bad, triumphs and tragedies, shock and awe, and everything in between no matter what the fairy tales told us.

How we deal with it is ultimately what makes the difference between a life well lived and a life, well, ... lived.

Excerpted from Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg: Life and Other Calamities by Kathie Lee Gifford. Copyright 2009 by Kathie Lee Gifford. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.