Going out with a bang! Kathie Lee Gifford’s last day on the Today show included plenty of surprises from her close friends and family members.
Flo Rida kicked off the NBC morning show’s Friday, April 5, episode with a performance of his hit single “My House,” which he reworked to “Kathie Lee’s House.” Gifford, 65, walked on set to cheers from the audience, which included her son, Cody, 29, and his girlfriend.
“I feel great, I do,” she said after taking a seat next to her longtime cohost, Hoda Kotb. “The last two weeks … I had no expectations. You just want to bear it well. You want to honor the Lord with whatever you say and do, but you also want to have fun and remind people of why this show worked in the beginning — because we have fun and we have a friendship and it’s real. We also have great love and affection and respect for our audience.”
To celebrate her final day, Gifford surprised the crowd by giving them a free four-day cruise for two courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line. She famously starred in a commercial for the company in 1984, and also conceived Cody with her late husband, Frank, while aboard a Carnival cruise.
“That’s good advertising!” Cody quipped on Friday’s episode.
To give the TV host a proper send-off, the Today crew tracked down wrestler John Cena, actors Dean Cain and Ryan Eggold and singer Barry Manilow to make special appearances in the studio in her honor. But the biggest surprise of all came when Gifford’s former Live With Regis and Kathie Lee cohost, Regis Philbin, delivered a sweet video message that left her in tears.
“Kathie Lee, you want to know the best part of my life, my TV life, was in the 15 years I spent with you from 1985 to 2000,” the veteran TV presenter, 87, said. “We stayed friends through the entire game, and it was a lot of fun. Where you are right now I know you’re going to be moving on to a great new career making movies, and since I’ve seen the first one, I know you’re going to be a great success. I really mean it.”
Philbin continued, “I want you to know how I will always remember the great times that we had working together and how you are as a person. Just great.”
We couldn’t have a farewell celebration for @kathielgifford without hearing from @regis! #CheersToKLG pic.twitter.com/ZVtTRy3Lp1
— Kathie Lee and Hoda (@klgandhoda) April 5, 2019
A visibly emotional Gifford then explained to viewers that she had actually spoken on the phone with Philbin and his wife, Joy, a day earlier.
The Emmy winner announced in December 2018 that she decided to leave Today after nearly 11 years to focus on “film, music and book projects.” Jenna Bush Hager was later announced as her permanent replacement for the show’s fourth hour.
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