PASADENA, CALIF. -- Kathie Lee Gifford is back, and she's cracking jokes about her own image.
At a press conference for her new E! movie "Spinning Out of Control" (9 p.m. March 1), Gifford said she had dinner with Regis Philbin Saturday for the first time since leaving "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee" last summer. A reporter asked if Regis picked up the check, since he's presumably making more money with both his talk show and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
"How do you know that?" Gifford shot back. "My sweatshops do really well."
Gifford said she and Philbin have talked on numerous occasions since she left "Live" and called their pairing "the best professional partnership I could have ever had." She's not so fond of the show's executive producer, Michael Gelman ("He and I were never good friends," she said. "I don't think that was any secret."), and gave only a short answer when asked about the show's ratings increase since her departure: "It obviously was the best thing for both of us."
She doesn't dwell on the past and she doesn't have regrets about leaving "Live."
"I thought at least I'd have moments where I missed it, and they may come someday, but I haven't yet," Gifford said. "I'm so busy doing what I love doing."
What she's been doing is making "Spinning Out of Control," a made-for-cable film about a sitcom actress with an apple pie image who's actually a drug-taking control freak.
"We were shooting in Canada and it was 4 in the morning and we'd been working 14 hour days and I'm standing outside in a nightgown and slippers and I said, 'I left the cushiest job in show business for this, why am I so happy?' " Gifford said. "I'm just doing what I love to do. [Her character] doesn't care what anybody thinks. She is totally and completely self-absorbed and I loved playing her. It was such great fun. I was just sorry when it was over. I hope there's a sequel."
The film also stars Howie Mandel, a friend of Gifford. He said people are jealous of Gifford and that's why she's become a polarizing figure.
"It's because she's a good person," Mandel said. "America will forgive a rapist, somebody who kills somebody, but they won't forgive somebody for being successful. I think people have a problem with that."
Gifford said there's little she can do to combat tabloid reports about her life.
"I don't want to spend my life suing every time I turn around," she said. "You have to live in your own truth. I know 99 percent of what they write is garbage. It could be me or anybody on the cover."
She had this advice for whoever eventually succeeds her on "Live": "Learn how to duck with grace."
MTV'S BIRTHDAY: MTV begins its yearlong 20th birthday celebration this weekend with the "20 Most Outrageous Moments" from its history Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.
To celebrate at its press conference yesterday, Andy Dick jumped out of a pink birthday cake wearing only a white thong. He proceeded to spray whipped cream on his chest and smear it around.
Then he ran up an aisle and squirted cream into a reporter's coffee and wiped some of the white stuff off his body and added that to the coffee.
Dick will star in "The Andy Dick Show," a sketch series that will air on MTV Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. beginning Feb. 27. In one clip from the show, Dick appears in drag as "Daphne Aguilera," the supposed cousin of Christina Aguilera.
After running up to the stage, his body covered in whipped cream, Dick exclaimed, "I feel like a tired, used-up old whore."
He looked like one, too.
NOTHING ON "NOTHING": Last July I wrote a column suggesting it was time to campaign to bring back reruns of the ABC series "Nothing Sacred." The show, about a Roman Catholic priest, only aired one season on ABC (1997-1998) and even then several episodes were never broadcast. In July, I suggested readers write to Bravo, which has a "TV Too Good for TV" series, and ask the network to buy the show and air it.
Bravo has proven to be unafraid of controversy in the past (the Catholic League blasted "Nothing Sacred" even before its ABC premiere), so it seems a logical place for the quality drama. Frances Berwick, senior vice president of programming for Bravo, said she heard from many Pittsburghers who want to see "Nothing Sacred" and she's considering those requests.
"We've certainly given it thought and we are still thinking about it," she said. "Personally I like the series. I believe there is a definite audience for it. The audience seems to be an older one, no big surprise. It seems to skew more female, but it is well-made without question."
Since Bravo is only "thinking about it" at this point, another round of letters might not hurt. Write to Berwick at 1111 Stewart Ave., Bethpage, N.Y., 11714.
Bravo's "TV Too Good for TV" series currently airs reruns of "St. Elsewhere" and next year will air "The Larry Sanders Show."
"We're highly selective about the shows we air on 'TV Too Good For TV,'" Berwick said. "We really want to go for the absolute gems."
IN FROM THE "COLD": Bravo has imported the hit British series "Cold Feet," with episodes airing Mondays at 10 p.m. You may recall NBC tried an American version of the series in fall 1999 that flopped spectacularly. Helen Baxendale (Ross's British ex-wife Emily on "Friends") is among the stars of the British original.
John Thomson, another of the stars of the British version, said NBC's translation of the show failed because it was Americanized.
"The beauty of our 'Cold Feet' is the comedy is universal through the naturalism and the situations," Thomson said. "It doesn't have to be Americanized, you know."
Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour.