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Kathie Lee Gifford's 'Life And Other Calamities'

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.

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."

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