Rise and Shine: A Day with Kathie Lee Gifford
Life After "Live"
Kathie Lee Gifford is exultant, almost evangelical, in extolling the miracles of her "bunionectomies." She reaches under the table at Neary's Pub, the Manhattan restaurant she and husband Frank have considered their extended kitchen for more than 20 years. Seconds later she bobs up holding a trophy of the successful surgery: one dainty, open-toe Manolo Blahnik shoe with a spiky three-inch heel. (She manages four-inch versions when she's on the air.) "I could never do the show without brand-new feet," says Gifford. Those tootsies were part of a personal reality check she undertook just after accepting the job to co-host the fourth hour of Today beginning in early April. "I was thinking about going back to work at the age I am  and I said, 'At least I have my own teeth.' Well, actually, I have laminates. But I'm still on my own two feet. Well, actually not -- I just had two bunionectomies."
Two at once? Gifford nods. "The first 10 days I was in so much agony that when a friend brought me a cup of coffee, I spilled it, scalded my stomach, and didn't even care. It's nightmare surgery...but they're beautiful now."
An errant bra strap peeks from Gifford's soft-pink boatneck sweater, the only wee flaw in her impeccable on-air grooming -- crisply tailored ecru skirt, smooth, honey-hued hair, and expertly minimal makeup. She has come straight from signing off on-air 20 minutes ago. "I don't do perfect," she says. "Who can?"
A week into her first steady television job since she kissed Reeg goodbye eight years ago and walked off the set of that morning in America institution, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Gifford is in a frisky frame of mind. She'll have the corned beef and cabbage, thank you. Yes, a full portion. A pox on those tedious girlie salads.
"People think they have me figured out but they don't," she insists. Critics, cranks, dogmatic feminists -- they've all taken their shots. "It makes me want to throw something," she says of the knee-jerk misconceptions she has endured. Here are a few that rankle the most: That she's ultrareligious. She counters, "Religion binds you. It's like being horrendously constipated. Faith breathes. It frees you to become everything you were meant to be." Others presume to know her politics. "People think I'm this rightwing Republican. I vote separately on the issues and the candidates because I don't want to belong to either club. So I'm a registered Independent and happily so." And to those who reckon there's bad blood with her ex-costar: "I adore Regis. We're having dinner tomorrow night."