Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb: The Craziest Women on TV
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Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb: The Craziest Women on TV

The oversharing! The cocktails! The spontaneous song and dance! Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb are all about having fun, speaking their minds, and not caring one bit what people think of them.

It's 9 a.m., and Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb are discussing private parts. "Who the heck bleaches down there?" says Gifford. "How did anybody ever get turned on for all the millennia we've been on this planet without bleach, waxing, or anything else? People seem to have gotten their groove on without any problem at all!"

"I'm gonna hide if we have to talk about this on TV," says Kotb, Gifford's partner on the fourth hour of the Today show for the past five years.

Over the next 45 minutes, during their regular story ideas meeting, they'll consider doing segments on everything from Honey Boo Boo to hot Navy SEALs to the sexiest shoes on the planet. Gifford and Kotb have developed a genius for talking about, well, anything -- and giving us something delectable (and a little bit naughty) in return. "When everything is just right it can be perfect -- and boring. There are no surprises," says Kotb, 48. "We like to let life happen," adds Gifford, 59. To help ring in 2013, we talked to the cohosts about being fearless, finding their joy, and why -- after some grumbling -- they've agreed to take the Ladies' Home Journal Challenge and give up their beloved wine (and every other alcoholic drink) for a month.

Are you friends off air?

HK: Oh yeah. When we met, the click was immediate. Now we go to lunch together every Wednesday and see a Broadway show.

KLG: We found out how much we had in common. We both lost our dads. Both of us had been married. Hoda had just come through breast cancer...there had been some tough times for both of us.

Do you think your chemistry plays a role in the show's popularity?

KLG: You know, people aren't stupid. If something's authentic, people know it. They can sense when there's tension between people. They can sense when something's forced, and they can sense when two people genuinely enjoy each other's company. I hate to live in the past but from day one it so reminded me of what I experienced with Regis [Gifford was Regis Philbin's partner on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee for 15 years]. There is a showbiz truism, which is if you're having fun, your audience will, too. Fun is contagious. And from the minute I met Hoda it was so similar. It was a different kind of fun because two women having fun is different than a man and a woman having fun, but it's still fun.

Who's been responsible for some of your craziest on-air moments?

KLG: Probably me.

HK: Yeah. She'll ask me something, and I'm thinking, Please don't ask, please don't ask...and then she asks. One Valentine's Day it was, "Didn't you get divorced on Valentine's Day?" And I was like, "Well, it just so happens I did."

Oh no! But I understand you're now dating a lawyer...

HK: Um, we broke up.

KLG: He was so kind and gentle, and I think he was a big part of her healing during tough times. And now she's playing the field!

HK: I'm playing!

KLG: I think it's been fun for our audience to see "Dateline Hoda" become "Happy Hour Hoda." She's allowed herself to be the same person on TV that she is in real life.

Speaking of happy hour, how did drinking wine at 10 a.m. start?

KLG: A few years ago Chelsea Handler had a book called Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. As a gag for her segment, our producers prepared cocktails. I don't even remember if we took a sip of 'em. A week later Brooke Shields came on the show and said, "Where's my cocktail?"

HK: We were like, "Oh."

KLG: So they brought her out a cocktail. And then different people started showing up with their own cocktails. But we don't ever have a whole glass of wine on the air. We sip.

HK: I sometimes overindulge. But who's counting? I think it adds to the show. By 10 a.m. people at home have already had their fill of the heavy news. This is their time to have fun.

And now you're giving up wine for a month [see above]. Any concerns?

KLG: My first reaction was, "Are you crazy?" But I'll do it to lose weight. In the past I've given up cheese, pasta, sweets, bread...why not try wine?

A lot of people take stock of their lives in the new year and ask themselves, what makes me happy? How would you answer that question?

HK: I did an interview with Steve Harvey and he said, "I'm sick of having fun. Fun is something you seek out, like 'I'm going to the comedy club.' I want joy." He said, "Joy is when you open your eyes in the morning and you're just happy with what you are and who you have." I believe that.

KLG: Happiness has a lot to do with gratitude. And finding work you love -- you know, the thing you lose yourself in. That's what you're supposed to do with your life. Where your joy is is where your success will be. It may not be success in the world's terms -- you may not make as much money as someone else. But real joy comes from knowing every morning you have a purpose.

Hoda, you're a breast cancer survivor. How does that affect your perspective?

HK: It makes every other problem seem small. You kind of restart your life. You think, "I was worried about those five silly things? Now those are forever off my plate. Now I only have to worry about things that matter."

There must be freedom in not sweating the small stuff.

KLG: By the time you no longer care about your thighs you have accumulated something called wisdom. And here's what I've learned: I cannot control anything in this world, except for what I say, what I think, and what I do. If I try to control everything, like my children's decisions, for example, I'll lose my mind.

How are your kids doing? [Cody is 22 and Cassidy is 19.]

KLG: Cassidy is studying acting in Los Angeles, and Cody just graduated from the USC film school.

HK: He graduated, like, top of his class.

KLG: The thing about Cody is, he does not expect anything. There is no entitlement. A lot of kids today, they expect a job. They expect an education. I was a vigilant about teaching my children to say "please" and "thank you" before they were 2.... The world doesn't need more spoiled, undisciplined children. They grow up to be undisciplined adults.


KLG: Yes, but now watch. Pride goeth before a fall. Now that I've said this, Cody is going to end up with a mug shot before the day is done. I tell my children, "I'm grateful to God for all the wonderful things that are happening in your life, because I know that you personally could screw it up at any moment. You are one moment, one decision away from disaster." Just as I am in my life. I could screw up everything I've worked for my entire life by doing something really stupid. Today.

HK: It could happen soon. It could happen on the show.

KLG: What time is it? It could happen in an hour.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, February 2012.