Little-known fact about Kathie Lee Gifford, America’s co-hostess with the mostest: She was born in Paris, where her father, a U.S. Navy chief petty officer, was stationed.
Is that why she feels so connected to wine?
“In a way I would say yes,” Kathie Lee offers at Bloomingdale’s White Plains. “My parents loved each other before they went there. But I don’t think they fell in love with each other until they went to Paris and I was conceived and born there.”
Growing up in Bowie, Md., Kathie Lee says wine was part of the family dinners, remembering her father enjoying a Chianti with his spaghetti.
“But they never drank to excess,” she adds. “It was always like a European custom.”
So when she had an opportunity to partner about a year and a half ago with Scheid Family Wines in Monterey, Calif., — where the coastal fog and cool nights linger through the morning, allowing the estate grapes to ripen more slowly and evenly — “it felt like the most natural thing in the world,” she says on her website.
The fruits of that partnership are called GIFFT Wines — from Kathie Lee’s last name and belief that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” They are described as a “light, crisp” Chardonnay, a “smooth, juicy and luscious” red blend and a fruity Pinot Noir Rosé. The trio’s logo is the place where Kathie Lee most enjoys pouring a glass for family and friend — the gazebo of the Greenwich-area home she shares with husband, Frank, of football and sportscasting fame, children Cody and Cassidy and three pooches.
“My husband calls Greenwich ‘God’s country,’ and he’s a California boy.”
The wines are part of the Bloomie’s festivities, along with hors d’oeuvres by Peter X. Kelly, chef and owner of Xaviars Restaurant Group, and a fashion show hosted by Kathie Lee, Bloomingdale’s fashion director Brooke Jaffe and shoe designer Paul Mayer.
During the runway presentation, Kathie Lee — the Emmy Award-winning co-host of the fourth hour of NBC’s “Today” with Hoda Kotb and former co-host of “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” — is in sassy, self-deprecating Kathie Lee form.
Of one adorable outfit, she remarks, “Oh, my gosh, my daughter would love it, except I would steal it from her, but it wouldn’t fit me.”
Of another revealing J Lo-esque number, she says, “The only deep plunge I have is at the deep end of my pool.”
She teases the shy, bow-tied Mayer with “Paul, you have to pick up the microphone,” before complimenting him on the ballet flats the models are wearing. This leads to a feminist riff on the Cannes Film Festival’s recent ban of actresses not sporting high heels on the red carpet.
“I thought it was so sexist. If women have to wear high heels, men should have to wear high heels.”
Backstage, however, Kathie Lee reveals a woman of softness and humility. She makes sure to acknowledge WAG’s intern Lauren Sharkey and gives us a parting “God Bless” — still very much the girl who went off to study music and drama at Oral Roberts University.
But at the end of the fashion show, she can’t resist one more saucy Kathie Lee-ism. It’s Peter Kelly’s birthday and she calls the chef onto the stage, exhorting the ladies in the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” in the manner that Marilyn Monroe sang it to President John F. Kennedy at his Madison Square Garden birthday bash in May of 1962.
As Kathie Lee presents Peter with a strawberry shortcake, she busses him lightly and he blushes, still very much the Irish Catholic boy.
But then, so was JFK.