Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Keeping up with Kathie Lee Gifford _ just try it some time

She's braved two brutal hours under the sun and hot lights, gingerly touched a 10-foot Burmese python, tasted exotic food, jumped on top of her too-tall stool four times and waved at just about everybody in the free world.

She is seven and a half months pregnant. It's 90 degrees in the sun.

Hey, Kathie Lee Gifford, you've just finished taping a remote TV show; now what are you going to do?

She's staying right here in Walt Disney World.

Let others flee to cool hotel rooms, but Gifford is headed to the Magic Kingdon this hot afternoon after a session in front of the cameras with Regis Philbin for their Live! show.

"Cody wants to see Disney World," Gifford explains, beaming at the mention of her 3-year-old son. "There are things you do for your own child you wouldn't do for yourself. You get so much joy from your child."

So while Philbin took a plane back to New York Wednesday afternoon, Gifford and Cody took a spin on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

"I'm schlepping around, riding the rides," Gifford said with a laugh during an interview with Philbin after the show (produced by Disney's Buena Vista Television).

The sole reason, it seemed, for Wednesday's two remotes of the Live! show was Cody's dear desire to see Mickey Mouse with Mommy. Daddy, Frank Gifford, stayed home.

"My husband was not all for this trip," Gifford said after the two one-hour tapings, which were staged in full sun in front of the American Pavilion at Epcot Center. "Being so late in my pregnancy and the heat . . .' "

She trails off, again smiling about her blond son.

"You think Gelman runs the show, but it's Cody," she said, referring to executive producer Michael Gelman.

Philbin, who has barely contained himself throughout this Cody lovefest, breaks in.

"Anything to keep the little fellow happy," he says in his trademark growly grin.

Kathie Lee laughs and rolls her eyes. Philbin makes his mock grimace again.

Ahh, there's the chemistry, that strange but perfect pairing between Philbin and Gifford that makes their show the best on daytime.

Despite the heat, the pair was in top form, bantering with the crowd, guests (Pat Sajak, Vanna White, Linda Evans and country group Diamond Rio among them) and generally enjoying themselves on stage in front of two packed audiences.

While it looks easy, the staff and Philbin hustle to make the show work, shifting sets and teasing the audience during breaks. It was Philbin who pioneered "the host chat" that makes the show a success, and this week Philbin even recruited Detroit Pistons player Isiah Thomas to be on the broadcast. Philbin saw him wandering around the hotel and cajoled him to make an appearance on the first show. The second show, which was taped "live," will be shown this morning.

Just 12 hours later and after a producer has frantically rushed off to buy a basketball hoop at Toys R Us in Orlando, Thomas strolls on to shoot some baskets. (Philbin, 2, Thomas, 1, Gifford, 0.)

"The first show was okay," Philbin pronounced later, "but you could feel the heat rising. It really saps your energy."

Then he growls.

"But when you are real pro, you suck it up and go on with it! Got that?!"

"I'm not sure I can go on," Gifford whispered to Philbin earlier, during one commercial, clearly looking fatigued, but after each break she smiled and even danced to the music. With "six weeks to go!" before Cassidy Erin Gifford is born, Gifford is still petite. Perky, too. She delights in the baby present Vanna brings: a hand-knit pink baby shawl.

"Oh, how sweet," she cooed.

But her mother instinct makes her tough, too. The Giffords plan to sue the National Enquirer for printing an article that said their baby was genetically engineered.

"This baby is such a gift from God," Gifford, 39, said. "That makes a mockery of the love we have for each other. We have been so blessed."

Oops! Time to go.

Cody's waiting.