The 'Today' show turns 70 — Former hosts: Where are they now?

The 'Today' show turns 70 — Former hosts: Where are they now?

01/12/2022
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It’s hard to believe, but “Today” is turning 70! The NBC morning show — which for several generations was as essential in the morning as coffee and a shower — has logged more than 18,000 episodes. Join Wonderwall.com as we celebrate the NBC morning program’s big anniversary on Jan. 14, 2022, by taking a look back at its most memorable hosts, anchors and other big personalities — like Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel, seen here in an oh-so-’80s promotional photo — and finding out what happened to them after they left the show.

Keep reading to catch up with Jane Pauley, Bryant Gumbel and more “Today” alums…

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Hugh Downs was a renaissance man — news anchor, author, game show host, music composer and more — by the time he became host of “Today” in 1962. He was one of the show’s most popular hosts but opted to leave after nearly 10 years on the job.

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In 1984, Hugh Downs was certified by the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the record holder for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours, to be exact!), though 20 years later he lost the title to Regis Philbin. Later in his career, Hugh (seen here at the “Today” show’s 60th anniversary celebration in New York City in January 2012) reteamed with his “Today” colleague Barbara Walters to anchor the Emmy-winning ABC news program “20/20” from the show’s second episode in 1978 until his retirement in 1999. The well-loved TV personality died at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, on July 1, 2020, at 99.

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Veteran journalist Frank McGee became the host of “Today” in 1971, replacing Hugh Downs (pictured at right on the day he handed over the show’s reins). Frank reportedly felt threatened by up-and-coming journalist Barbara Walters, who’d been part of “Today” since 1961, and insisted on opening and closing the show alone, plus asking all guests the first three questions of an interview before Barbara could join in.

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Three years after he became host, Frank McGee (seen here with co-anchor Barbara Walters in June 1972) made his final appearance on “Today” on April 11, 1974. Six days later, he died at 52 from complications of bone cancer.

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After Frank McGee’s death in 1974, Barbara Walters — who’d been working on “Today” since 1961, when she was hired as a researcher and writer— was named co-host, making her the first woman in the program’s history to hold the position.

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Barbara Walters continued to blaze a trail for women in broadcasting in 1976, when she left “Today” to co-anchor the “ABC Evening News,” making her the first woman to hold that position on a network evening news program. She went on to produce and co-host the popular news show “20/20” and became known for her annual specials on ABC, “Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People.” Barbara co-created and produced “The View,” which she also co-hosted, in 1997. In May 2010, the veteran journalist underwent successful open-heart surgery and returned a few months later to “The View” and her SiriusXM satellite show, “Here’s Barbara,” before retiring from both in 2014. In her 2008 autobiography, “Audition: A Memoir,” Barbara dished on her four marriages to three different men; the mother of one also revealed in 2013 that she wished she’d had more children.

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Jim Hartz was a New York City evening news anchor when he was asked to join Barbara Walters as co-host of “Today” in 1974 to replace the late Frank McGee, who died after a battle with bone cancer. Jim stayed in the role for two years.

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After leaving in 1974, Jim Hartz’s post-“Today” career included an anchor stint in Washington, D.C., and hosting duties on several public television programs plus five Emmy Awards. The newsman, who became chairman of the Will Rogers Memorial Commission in 1993, is now regarded as an aerospace expert after covering every manned space flight from 1966 to 1976.

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After getting his start as a reporter for local news stations in cities like Sioux City, Iowa, and Atlanta, Tom Brokaw joined NBC News in 1973. In 1976, he became “Today” co-host alongside Jane Pauley.

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Tom Brokaw left “Today” in 1981 when he got an offer he couldn’t refuse: anchor of NBC’s flagship “Nightly News.” In January 2021, NBC announced that Tom would retire after 55 years at the network, but he still appears regularly on the network’s news programs (like “Meet the Press,” on which he’s pictured here with Savannah Guthrie in 2018). The popular journalist has written extensively on American history including in the 1998 book “The Greatest Generation” and racked up awards and honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, given to him in 2014 by President Barack Obama. In 2013, Tom was diagnosed with blood cancer. The following year, he announced his illness was in full remission and he detailed his health battle in his 2015 book, “A Lucky Life Interrupted.” Tom has been married to author Meredith Auld Brokaw since 1962. They have three daughters and spend much of their time at their Montana ranch.

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At 25, Jane Pauley became co-host of “Today” in 1976, first working with Tom Brokaw and later with Bryant Gumbel. She was one of the show’s most popular hosts and ushered in a modern format that would endure for many years — one male host and one female host who both anchored the show and shared interview duties and headlines equally.

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Jane Pauley said goodbye to “Today” in 1989. Her next big gig was at the newsmagazine “Dateline NBC,” which she co-anchored from 1992 to 2003 with Stone Phillips. A daytime talk show, “The Jane Pauley Show,” launched in 2004 but never took off and was canceled after one season. That same year, Jane published her bestselling memoir, “Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue,” in which she revealed the bipolar disorder diagnosis she received in 2001 when she was 50. The TV veteran, who’s won a slew of awards including two Emmys, started hosting “CBS Sunday Morning” in October 2016, nearly 40 years to the day after her “Today” debut. Jane has been married since 1980 to “Doonesbury” comic strip creator Garry Trudeau (they’re seen here in 2021). They have three children.

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Bryant Gumbel was a seasoned sportscaster for NBC when he was asked to fill the co-host’s chair on “Today” in 1982, becoming the first Black host in the show’s history.

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Bryant Gumbel left “Today” in 1997 after 15 years — not long after an internal memo circulated in which he grumbled about how the morning show was being managed. Bryant returned to sportscasting for NBC when he hosted primetime coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics from Seoul and the PGA Tour in 1990. He went on to several notable gigs including as host of “The Early Show” on CBS and since 1995, he’s focused on HBO’s acclaimed investigative series “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” The four-time Emmy winner raised two children with wife June, whom he divorced in 2001. The next year, he married Hilary Quinlan (seen here with him in 2021), and in 2002, he made headlines of his own when he lost 55 pounds in seven months.

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Deborah Norville replaced Jane Pauley as “Today” co-host in January 1990. She won an Emmy for her role in NBC’s coverage of the democratic uprising in Romania during her tenure on the show but ratings declined after her arrival.

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Deborah Norville’s run on “Today” was brief. After ratings slumped behind rival “Good Morning America,” NBC executives let her go after less than a year on the air — and fired her while she was on maternity leave after she had her first child. Deborah went on to join CBS News programs including “48 Hours” and the “CBS Evening News” and in 1995, she became the anchor of the syndicated newsmagazine “Inside Edition,” a position she’s held ever since. Deborah is an author whose books include the 2007 bestseller “Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You,” several knit and crochet pattern books and two children’s books. Deborah has been married to Swedish businessman Karl Wellner since 1987; they share three children. In 2019, Deborah had surgery to remove a cancerous thyroid nodule that was brought to her attention by a viewer who noticed a lump on the broadcaster’s neck.

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Katie Couric joined “Today” in 1989 as a political correspondent, becoming a substitute co-host in February 1991 when Deborah Norville went on maternity leave. Deborah never returned and Katie became a permanent co-anchor in April 1991. Widely considered the “Today” show’s most popular host of all time and dubbed “America’s Sweetheart,” Katie — along with Bryant Gumbel and then Matt Lauer — helped the show become a powerhouse that kept rival “Good Morning America” in second place for 16 years.

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Katie Couric left “Today” after an uber-successful 15 years on the morning show. While co-host, Couric would occasionally substitute for Tom Brokaw as anchor of the “NBC Nightly News” — and when she was offered a job anchoring the “CBS Evening News” in 2006, she took it. CBS paid her $15 million a year, making her the highest paid journalist in the world. She’s also one of the most accomplished, having headlined shows for every major network and interviewed everyone from Lady Gaga to President Barack Obama. After leaving CBS, where she also appeared on “60 Minutes,” Katie served as Yahoo’s global news anchor from 2013 to 2017. Katie’s 2021 memoir, “Going There,” made headlines for its juicy revelations about both her personal and professional lives, including the admission that she and her former close friend and co-host Matt Lauer now “have no relationship” in the wake of his firing for sexual misconduct. Katie, whose first husband, Jay Monahan, died of colorectal cancer in 1998, married financier John Molner in 2014 after making headlines for her romances with Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner, trumpeter Chris Botti and entrepreneur Brooks Perlin. The mom of two became a mother-in-law in July 2021 when daughter Ellie Monahan wed Mark Dobrosky in Port Jervis, New York.

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After Bryant Gumbel left “Today,” news anchor Matt Lauer was named co-host of the show in 1997. He and Katie Couric quickly clicked and became the most powerful co-host team in the show’s history. In 2016, he renewed his contract for a reported salary of $20 million a year.

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Matt Lauer’s popularity took a hit after allegations emerged claiming he orchestrated the 2012 departure of Ann Curry from “Today.” He was dumped from the show in November 2017 after a 20-year tenure amid revelations of inappropriate sexual behavior with multiple women at work. Matt (pictured on the “Today” set with co-host Savannah Guthrie on Nov. 17, 2017 — 12 days before he was fired) had three kids with his second wife, Dutch model Annette Roque, who divorced him in 2019 after nearly two years of separation. Matt has laid low since 2017, spending much of his time at his home in New York’s Hamptons area.

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During his 65-year career, Willard Scott was a clown, comedian, author, actor and TV personality — but he became best known for his work as the affable, zany weatherman on “Today.” He got the job in 1980 and also began his signature practice of wishing centenarians a happy birthday on-air in 1983.

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Willard Scott went into semi-retirement in 1996 but continued to fill in for main “Today” weatherman Al Roker on occasion. After Willard (seen here at the “Today” 60th anniversary celebration in New York City in January 2012) announced his full retirement from television in December 2015, the plaza outside Rockefeller Center was renamed Willard Scott Way in his honor. Willard, who had two children with late wife Mary Dwyer Scott, married again in 2014 when he was 80. He died on Sept. 4, 2021, at 87.

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Kathie Lee Gifford followed up her 15-year run on “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” with an 11-year stint on “Today,” hosting the fourth hour with Hoda Kotb from 2008 to 2019.

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Kathie Lee Gifford left “Today” with a joyful sendoff in April 2019. The widow broke the news in November 2021 — on her old show — that she has “a very sweet man in my life,” declining to name him but telling her former co-host Hoda Kotb and her replacement, Jenna Bush Hager, “He’s good for me, and I’m good for him.” Kathie Lee has kept busy since her “Today” departure: She moved to Nashville and has penned movies, songs and a book called “The Jesus I Know.” Cody and Cassidy Gifford, Kathie Lee’s children with late husband Frank Gifford, both got married in 2020. “I’m in a very beautiful season of my life,” she said, “and I could not be more grateful for it.”

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After starting as a local news reporter in Texas and Illinois, Tamron Hall was a national correspondent for NBC News and daytime anchor on MSNBC before landing a spot as co-host of “Today’s Take,” the third hour of “Today,” in 2014. She was the first Black woman to co-anchor the program.

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In February 2017, after the network gave her “Today” co-host slot to Megyn Kelly, Tamron Hall opted out of her contract and decided to leave NBC. In September 2019, she debuted her self-titled syndicated daytime talk show. The next year, the show received three Emmy nods — and Tamron won for outstanding informative talk show host. She married music executive Steven Greener in early 2019 and on April 25 the same year announced she’d given birth to a son, Moses Hall Greener.

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Meredith Vieira replaced popular co-host Katie Couric in 2006 after serving as the original moderator and co-host of ABC’s “The View” with former “Today” co-host Barbara Walters. Meredith was a popular addition to the show but chose to leave the program in 2011 to spend more time with her ailing husband.

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Meredith Vieira left “Today” in 2011 but returned regularly to cover big stories like the 2012 London Summer Olympics and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebration. From 2014 to 2016, she hosted her own syndicated daytime talk show, “The Meredith Vieira Show,” and she currently hosts the syndicated weekday game show “25 Words or Less.” Meredith has three children with her husband, journalist Richard Cohen, who has multiple sclerosis and has battled colon cancer.

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Ann Curry, a journalist who specialized in reporting from the sites of natural disasters and war zones, was the news anchor for “Today” from 1997 until 2011, when she became co-anchor.

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Ann Curry left “Today” with an emotional live goodbye on June 28, 2012, after one year as co-anchor, sparking speculation about her departure and Matt Lauer’s possible involvement. She exited the show but signed a multiyear contract with the network to become an NBC News national and international correspondent/anchor and “Today” anchor-at-large. Ann (pictured after winning a Global Citizenship Award at the Eighth Annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards in November 2021) left NBC News in January 2015 after 25 years with the network and founded her own multiplatform media startup. Ann has two children with her husband, software executive Brian Ross, whom she met in college.

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Natalie Morales joined “Today” in 2006 as a national correspondent and was named co-anchor of the show’s third hour in March 2008. Three years later, Natalie replaced Ann Curry as the “Today” news anchor and in 2016, it was announced that she’d be moving to Los Angeles to host “Access Hollywood” and become the West Coast anchor of “Today.” In 2019, she stepped away from hosting “Access” but stayed on “Today.”

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In October 2021, Natalie Morales left NBC News after 22 years and joined CBS’s “The Talk” as a permanent co-host and moderator. Natalie, a mom to two sons with husband Joseph Rhodes, is an avid runner who has competed in five marathons and multiple triathlons.

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In 2016, Billy Bush left “Access Hollywood,” where he’d been the primary anchor since 2004, for a gig as co-host on the third hour of “Today.” Billy (seen here on the “Today” set with Tamron Hall, Al Roker and actress Kate McKinnon in September 2016) would have a very short run on the morning show.

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In October 2016, just five months into his “Today” co-hosting duties, Billy Bush became an instant headline when an “Access Hollywood” recording of him and Donald Trump having a lewd conversation on a hot mic in 2005 surfaced during the runup to the presidential election. Despite a public apology, he was promptly fired. Since 2019, Billy has been the host of the syndicated news program “Extra.” His marriage to Sydney Davis — with whom he has three daughters — ended in divorce in July 2018.

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After 13 years at Fox News, Megyn Kelly left the network in January 2017 for NBC News. In September 2017, she began hosting the third hour of “Today” with her own program called “Megyn Kelly Today.”

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Megyn Kelly’s “Today” program was canceled in October 2018 after she made comments about dressing in blackface for Halloween — she recalled that “when I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up like a character” — sparking major controversy. She left the network in January 2019. Megyn, who’s raising three children with her author husband, Douglas Brunt, hosts a daily podcast on Sirius XM called “The Megyn Kelly Show.”






































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