Kathie Lee Gifford’s last day as host of TODAY was filled with touching memories, as well as a special surprise for the audience.
After a montage showing select clips of Gifford throughout her 11 years on TODAY, recording artist Flo Rida performed as Gifford walked into the studio.
The audience cheered, and Gifford joined Hoda Kotb at the table to start the show.
As Gifford talked about her career, she and Kotb reflected on why the show has been such a success.
“Two shows have worked really well in the history of daytime television. ‘Regis and Kathie Lee’ and ‘Kathie Lee and me,'” said Kotb. “So what is the common denominator between those two?”
Gifford also told audiences about the release of her new movie “The God Who Sees.”
The short film was made in Israel, and it tells the story of a woman who recounts historical Christian tales as she journeys through Israel, according to the movie’s website.
Gifford also mentioned a surprise floral bouquet she received from radio host Howard Stern and his wife Beth recently. Stern was a longtime show business rival.
“That man hated my guts for 30 years and I prayed for him every single day,” she said. “And turned it around.”
Kotb then introduced a beautiful tribute sign for Gifford that was displayed on Broadway, above the entrance to the Nederlander Theater.
Meanwhile, the show played a vintage commercial of a singing Kathie Lee Gifford advertising for Carnival Cruise Line.
“I’ve had an incredible relationship with Carnival Cruise Lines for over 30 years. My first commercial for them was in 1984,” said Gifford. “It was the very first national campaign for a cruise line.”
Gifford also revealed a secret that her son, sitting in the audience, probably found a little embarrassing.
“As a matter of fact this guy, this big, 6-foot guy, was made on a carnival cruise,” Gifford said, while the camera showed her son. “Yes you were.”
“That’s good advertising,” her son replied.
Then Gifford revealed another big secret to the audience.
“It’s my last day. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to give every single one of you a Carnival cruise,” she said.
The audience erupted in screams and applause.
Regis Philbin, Gifford’s former co-host on “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee,” then expressed his goodbyes via a video that was played for the audience. Their former show is now known as “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” with new hosts.
“Kathie Lee, you want to know what the best part of my life, my TV life, was in the 15 years I spent with you, from 1985 to 2000. We stayed friends through the entire game, and it was a lot of fun.”
Philbin then wished Gifford success in the next steps of her career.
“I know you are going to be moving on to a great new career, making movies. And since I’ve seen the first one, I know that you’re going to be a great success. I really mean it.”
He ended the video message with more praise.
“I want you to know how I will always remember the great times that we had working together, and how you are as a person: just great.”