Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

AARP The Magazine

There’s a Reason Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb Are the Toast of Morning TV

These 'Today' show good-time gals know how to have fun

Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb sip cocktails by the pool of Kathie Lee's Florida home (Justin Stephens)

Without Kathie Lee, "My life would be half as full," says Hoda. "If I hadn't made room for Hoda, I would have missed out on one of the great blessings of my life," says Kathie Lee. — Justin Stephens

Reality Checks

Both women say they're optimists, but they acknowledge that life's troubles can put a sunny disposition to the test. "You can be an optimist, and then the world falls out from under you," says Kotb, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and underwent a mastectomy. "At that point you either look for potholes everywhere, or you realize your life has margins, and you stop wasting time."

Gifford has had her share of hardships too, including a widely publicized philandering episode on the part of her husband in 1997. She admits to suffering from depression occasionally and says that her deep Christian faith has helped her to stay focused on the positive.

In addition, the way her younger sister dealt with near death and a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, after the birth of her only child, inspired her.

"I was furious with God that my beautiful sister, at age 23, would have a colostomy bag hanging off her body for the rest of her life," Gifford explains. "But she said, 'Don't curse God for this bag. It means I get to live the rest of my life, I get to see my daughter grow up.' I was looking at the wrong thing."

What inspires Gifford these days is a comment that the late actor Paul Newman once made to her at a fundraiser for the playhouse in Westport, Conn. "I said, 'Paul, I haven't seen you in so long. How are you?' " Gifford remembers. Newman answered: "I'm 80 years old. I have a pulse."

It has become her mantra. "If you have a pulse, you have a purpose," Gifford says. "Every morning, before I get out of bed now, I take my pulse. If I have one, that means that God's not finished with me yet. I still have work to do on this planet."

The afternoon is winding down, and Gifford and Kotb are enjoying a late lunch of chicken salad, watermelon and, of course, pinot grigio. They talk about the value of staying open to new experiences. "I thought my heart didn't have any more room for more people," Gifford says. "I felt I didn't have enough time for the friends I already had. But if I hadn't made room for Hoda, I would have missed out on one of the great blessings of my life."

"By the time you reach my age, you generally know what's in you," says Kotb. "But I didn't know. It takes the right person to bring it out. I say thank you to Kathie Lee all the time. Before her, I'd still be doing what I was doing and not know what I was missing. My life would be half as full."

Gifford feels equally enriched by the partnership. "It's like an old man who's taken a young lover," she quips. "He's got a jaunty little step."

Meg Grant is the West Coast Editor for AARP The Magazine.

Next page: Don't go away. We have more Hoda and Kathie Lee! »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Cirque Du Soleil

Members save up to 20% on live Cirque du Soleil shows with their AARP membership card.

Regal Cinemas movie theater

Members pay $8 for Regal ePremiere tickets purchased online. Conditions apply.

Movies Unlimited

Members save 10% on purchases of DVDs & Blu-ray discs from Movies Unlimited.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.