living across the street from

Rating: NNNNN living across the street from the Citytv/MuchMusic compound, I've grown a bit blasé about live appearances by visiting celebrities..


Rating: NNNNN


living across the street from the Citytv/MuchMusic compound, I’ve grown a bit blasé about live appearances by visiting celebrities. Spice Girls? Yawn. ‘N Sync? No way. Smashing Pumpkins? Could you keep it down? I’m trying to get some work done.But last week, a visiting star got me off the couch and out on the sidewalk with my nose pressed against the glass of the “environment” for the very first time.

Kathie Lee Gifford. I have no shame. I am a fan of possibly the most despised woman on television.

Mock me if you must, but my admiration for La Lee goes beyond so-bad-she’s-good post-ironic double-think. I watch a lot of daytime TV.

I like to think of it as monitoring the cultural zeitgeist. You can keep your West Wings, ERs and Ally McBeals. Give me Rosie O’Donnell, Judge Judy and, best of all, Live With Regis And Kathie Lee.

Everybody knows Regis since Who Wants To Be A Millionaire became the biggest thing in prime time. But I’ll take Regis, the Rat Pack third-banana who can’t remember his guests’ names and has temper tantrums live on morning television, over Leno and Letterman, those nighttime slick automatons in the monochromatic suits. And that’s my final answer.

Until recently, Kathie Lee co-hosted Regis’s morning gig. Vilified in the press, smeared by the tabloids and the punchline to most of Howard Stern’s jokes, she’s said that if she believed what was written about her, she’d hate herself, too. Actually, she has a very self-deprecating sense of humour and is surprisingly sexy for a right-wing Bible-thumper. Doubters: who’s Letterman’s favourite guest?

OK, there are those annoying kids, Cassidy ‘n’ Cody the child-labour outrage over who’s manufacturing her line of Kathie Lee Casuals and hubby Frank’s fling with a flight attendant. And I had a hard time forgiving her for singing at Lyin’ Brian Mulroney’s daughter’s wedding last June.

But when the station advertises that Kathie Lee ­– she’s dropped the Gifford (frankly, I would’ve, too) ­– will be appearing across the street on CityLine to promote her new Shania-esque CD, Heart Of A Woman, I’m on the phone in a flash to her record company to suggest an interview.

Proving that I really am a fan, I reel off the names of Lee’s dogs ­– Chardonnay, Chablis and Regis. (It’s a long story.) The rep’s still not sure of my intentions.

I tell her I bought Lee’s last CD, Born For You. (Well, I borrowed it from the library, and her version of Van Morisson’s Moondance really isn’t that awful.) She says she’ll get back to me. I’m still waiting.

Ten minutes to showtime, I cross the street to join the crowd in front of the studio. There are three of us.

The other two are kids here to see Vancouver punk band Gob, who are making an appearance later this afternoon. So, what do they think of Kathie Lee? Let’s just say that the words they use can’t be printed in an article about Lee.

On the other side of the glass, bored crew members munch doughnuts. A producer quiets the bleacher-ful of matronly fans packing Instamatics. Host Marilyn Dennis introduces Kathie Lee, who enters in skin-tight leather pants and sparkly tank top. Damn, I can’t hear a thing! Back in my apartment, I watch the “real” thing out of my living room window while also watching it unfold on TV.

As CityLine wraps up, I’m back on the sidewalk. There are now 20 Gob yobs in attendance. Kathie Lee, along with two bored security guards and a videographer, makes her way through the studio audience, who clamour after her for autographs. I position myself next to the limo, but Kathie Lee’s a no-show. She’s still in the building, probably being insulted by Ed the Sock. Dejected, I go home and catch The View. Regis is the guest. Coincidence?

Lee’s currently back in town filming Spinning Out Of Control, a made-for-cable movie in which she plays a wholesome sitcom star who in real life is a control-freak druggie and boozehound.

American tabloid TV has already aired on-the-set footage of Kathie Lee learning to smoke a joint and attempting a suicide jump from the Skydome’s Jumbotron.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep calling her handlers and, embarrassing though it may be, I’ll remain endlessly on hold for this queen of the moral majority and my guilty pleasure. stevend@nowtoronto.com

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