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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2008

'Today' adds Kathie Lee Gifford to anchor crew

FROM THE BLADE WIRE SERVICES

Kathie Lee Gifford will soon be back on TV's early shift.

The former co-star of the syndicated Live talk show will join NBC's Today next Monday. She will be teamed with Hoda Kotb, a current anchor of the program's seven-month-old fourth hour, which airs live at 10 a.m.

The announcement was made during yesterday's broadcast, with Gifford seated alongside the program's established stars, including Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, co-hosts of the first two hours.

Gifford, 54, who left Regis Philbin and Live in 2000, joked that the timing of her TV return "couldn't be worse" in certain ways: "I'm eight years older, 10 pounds heavier, a half-inch shorter, and just in time for HD television."

Long married to former NFL star and sports announcer Frank Gifford, she joked, "It's going to be good to be working. I'm really tired of staying home and watching Frank's old highlight films."

Ann Curry will continue her role as news anchor of the 7-9 a.m. hours of Today, as well as co-host, with Al Roker, of the 9 a.m. hour. Natalie Morales will join Curry and Roker as a third co-host at 9 a.m, and will serve as the show's national correspondent, the network said.

Tone Loc plans to play shows at two Michigan bars that got scammed by a man posing as the rapper's manager.

He will play April 11 at the Red Dog Saloon in Milford and April 12 at Bumpers in Westland, according to reports in a Detroit newspaper. The rapper, whose real name is Anthony T. Smith, is known for the hits "Wild Thing" and "Funky Cold Medina."

Last summer, Red Dog owner Patty McMillan gave about $400 to a man posing as Tone Loc's manager for a show. Authorities say the man, who hasn't been caught, also scammed Bumpers out of $1,000.

The newspaper said McMillan and Judy Johnson of Bumpers later contacted Tone Loc's real manager, Bobby Bessone in Nashville, who said the rapper offered to play the shows for his regular fee.

Sean Levert, a third of the 1980s R&B trio LeVert and son of lead O'Jays singer Eddie Levert, has died after falling ill while serving a jail term. He was 39.

Levert was sent to the Cuyahoga County jail last week after he pleaded guilty to six counts of failing to play child support involving children ages 11, 15, and 17.

He died at Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland late Sunday, less than an hour after he was taken there from the jail, said coroner Frank Miller. An autopsy was planned, he said.

His brother Gerald Levert, who had success as a solo artist after leaving their trio, died in 2006 at age 40 of an accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

The brothers had formed LeVert in the 1980s with childhood friend Marc Gordon. Their hits included and "Baby I'm Ready," "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind" and "Casanova."

Warden Kevin McDonough said Levert had been sick and guards were watching him at the jail's regular cellblock because he had been acting strangely. He declined to be more specific about Levert's medical condition.

An oversized six-sheet poster for the 1933 film classic King Kong fetched $345,000 to top all items at a two-day auction of Hollywood memorabilia.

The auction, put on March 27 and 28 by Profiles in History, raised $4.1 million from the sale of more than 1,100 pieces.

Other items included: $115,000 for a screen-used velociraptor from "The Lost World: Jurassic Park II;" $103,500 for Michael Keaton's complete Batman costume from "Batman Returns;" $51,750 for Julie Andrews' signature coat from "Mary Poppins;" and $46,000 for the jacket and pants Bob Keeshan wore on the "Captain Kangaroo" television series.

The prices included a 15-percent fee the auction house chargers buyers.



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