Tomorrow night on Raw, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, the co-stars of the fourth hour of Today on NBC, will join journalist Joan Lunden as guest stars to support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Gifford is no stranger to the wrestling world. Numerous WWE Superstars appeared on Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee throughout the duration of the morning talk show (1988-2000), including Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The Undertaker, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, Shawn Michaels, Diesel and The Bushwhackers. Although the show was filled with appearances by wrestlers, Gifford was never fond of it; they appeared since Philbin is a longtime wrestling fan.
In her 1992 autobiography, I Can't Believe I Said That, Gifford took aim at wrestling. She felt some of the WWE Superstars who appeared on the show were "sleazy" and that their shtick lowered the quality of Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. In particular, she singled out "Ravishing" Rick Rude and The Bushwhackers for their in-character appearances on the show.
Gifford wrote, "Then there was the "animal" known as Ravishing Rick Rude. Now, I have a problem with Reege's wrestling thing. We aren't exactly McNeil-Lehrer out there, but I think the wrestlers' shtick lowers the quality of the show a notch or two. Some of them are pretty sleazy. Rick Rude was about as low as the get, right down there with the Bushwhackers. If there was a gold championship belt for the most horrible disgusting-smelling people, the Bushwhackers would have been wearing it the day they came on. They tried to hold me and kiss me. First of all, I'm sorry, but don't touch me, and second of all, I don't kiss people I don't want to kiss. And Cody (her then-infant son) was there with me that day. They chased me all over the set and I ran off, locked myself in my dressing room-nursery with Cody, and refused to come out. I was afraid they'd come right in there after me to bushwhack Cody.
"But the absolute low point was a year or so before when Ravishing Rick Rude came out, bragging about his "Rude Awakening" at wrestling arenas. Young women are hand-picked to go into the ring with him, where this muscle-bound baboon embraces and kisses them until they just pretend to faint dead away with ardor as he stands over his latest conquest. It's a pathetic spectacle, so of course Gelman booked him.
"This guy comes out in his "Simply Ravishing" sequined robe, kisses my hand ever so gently,and sits there giving me the eye like he'd been behind bars for a decade. Nonstop. It's not like we ask them tough questions - like, "Duhh, howdja get dose muscles?" We let them pretty much do their thing - which, cartoonish and entertaining as it is to some people, has its place in the world. But not this kind of stuff. I was so flustered I crossed my legs and one shoe dropped off my foot.
"Gracious host that I am, I humored him ("Rick, you're sweet talking me") while Reege sucked up to him by mooning over his title belt. (Rude was the WWF IC Champ at the time. -D) "This guy," he said, "is the best built of all the wrestlers. He's got a tremendous physique and great sex appeal."
With an ego to match. He asked me how tall I was and I told him "really short, I got stumps for legs." He leered at me and said, "Those don't look like no stubs I've ever seen before."
"Reege egged him on. "Honest to God, I sense something going on here! Frank is out of town, isn't he?" Yeah, I said. Rick's manager is now on. (Bobby Heenan) "This guy is looking her over and making her very nervous," Reege tells him. "The woman is coming unglued." "Kathie Lee needs a Rude Awakening," the manager says. "Kathie Lee," I say, "has had a few rude awakenings." "Not this rude, not this rude." "Over the airways, " Rick says, staring at my body, "I could see that Kathie Lee was the most beautiful woman on television. Now, as I draw closer and closer, I just can't believe it."
"Rick gave a woman in the audience an "awakening" to stripper music and then dropped his robe in front of me. I was standing off now to the side. I didn't believe what I saw. This was absolutely unscripted.
"On his clingy nothing-left-to -the-imagination Lycra tights, he had painted my face over his crotch. He stood there, hands behind his head, thrusting and flexing, half naked. It was so gross I didn't know what to do or where to go. I put my hands over my face and ran up the stairs at the rear of the set.
"Meanwhile, he turned his butt to the camera and, of course, there was Reege's face painted on his, Rick's, quivering, gyrating glutes. Talk about "back end participation!" This got my vote for the worst breach of taste in the history of the show. Then Rick ran up the stairs after me and I came down, skipped over the couches and dashed off the set, amazed that I didn't wipe out and hurt myself."