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Breakfast With

Deborah Norville

Monday, November 04, 2002

By Patricia Sheridan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Mother of three, one-time radio show host and Emmy Award winner, Deborah Norville saw her career take a dive when she was perceived as pushing Jane Pauley out of NBC's "Today Show." She wrote a book about dealing with life's unexpected twists and is now host of "Inside Edition" at 7 p.m weekdays on WTAE. Norville will be the guest speaker at Magee-Womens Hospital's benefit "A Celebration of Women" Thursday at the Pittsburgh Hilton. For information, call 412-641-5309.

Q. What was the scariest thing about going to jail for an "Inside Edition" report?

A. Being there. Really and truly the scariest thing was that most of the women in the cell block with me were not mentally stable. And because of that you never knew. If they weren't a little bit ziggy before they came into jail, I think they certainly became that during their incarceration. They were the hardest, toughest bunch of women I'd ever laid eyes on.

Q. Speaking of scary things, how awful was it being perceived as Jane Pauley's usurper?

A. Well , to me that's many, many chapters ago. I did learn a lot. The trouble was NBC had put a gag order on me. Nobody was telling them any other version of the story. So the natural human inclination was to assume most of what you read in the newspapers was correct. And a lot of the story was wrong, and the hardest thing for me was to be in this very uncomfortable and unfamiliar position of being told to keep your mouth shut.

Q. Were you surprised to find yourself depressed? I mean you'd had a kind of charmed life up until then.

A. Well, look, the press had called me the golden girl. I started working in Atlanta, Georgia, as a general assignment reporter when I was still in college. I interviewed the president of the United States [Jimmy Carter] when I was 19 years old. You bet I've had a charmed life. I had a very fortunate career

Q. How did you know you were seriously depressed?

A. I didn't get dressed. I didn't leave the house. I often didn't take a shower. My bathrobe was literally worn out. Need I tell you more?

Q. What was it like having a radio show in your home?

A. Oh, it was great. [She was doing it six months after "Today."] You never knew who would come toddling by. Barbara Walters came over and ate chocolate chip cookies with me. Dan Rather came over and drank beer and ate peanuts. It was extremely relaxed. When the radio folks said they wanted to do the show I turned them down. I wasn't ready to get back in there. But it gave me a chance to kind of embrace my skills as a communicator again.

Q. Do you think you'd still be on the "Today" show if things had worked out differently?

A. Yeah, probably. But I mean who knows, television is such a fickle business. That's just not what God's plan is for me right now. I think a lot of people look at the pot holes they've hit through the course of their life and get stuck there mentally. The reality is, crap happens, and if it hasn't happened to you then you really need to get a copy of "Back on Track" because it's gonna happen.

Q. How do you balance being a good wife, mother and television personality?

A. I give each one 100 percent focus when I do it. At work, I'm thinking about getting the show written. We recently moved into a new apartment, and I've done all of the drapes and that stuff because I love to sew and I'm too cheap, frankly, to pay somebody else to do it. I'm trying like mad to get the canopy up over my daughter's bed. I was on a step ladder, with a power drill wedged between my legs, balancing a half moon canopy on my head. I like to think of myself as Martha Stewart without the Justice Department investigation.

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