Checkered Personal Life
Gifford had three children—Jeff, Victoria, and Kyle—with Maxine Ewart Gifford before the couple divorced. In 1978 Gifford married a second time, to Astrid Narss; that marriage ended in divorce in 1986. On October 18, 1986, Gifford married for a third time, to outspoken talk show host Kathie Lee Epstein Johnson. Despite the twenty-three-year age difference between them, the couple had two children—a son, Cody, and a daughter, Cassidy. Kathie Lee Gifford often discussed her marriage in glowing terms on television and in print, a habit that kept the couple in the media spotlight. As she wrote in her 1992 memoir, I Can't Believe I Said That!, "Frank is my husband, my confidant, lover, therapist, parenting partner, and best friend. We depend on each other for security, for emotional, sexual, and spiritual fulfillment, and for companionship…. Cheating is out of the question. Sure, Frank sees sexy flight attendants and businesswomen when he flies around the country. But the only come-on line he gets anymore is 'C'mon, Frank, show me a picture of Cody.'" The picture of domestic happiness was shattered in 1997, however, when the Globe published photos and a transcript of a tryst between Gifford and his lover, Suzen Johnson, who claimed to have been seeing him for four years. Kathie Lee Gifford went on a media offensive and declared that their marriage would endure. Seeking a lower profile, Gifford reduced his role on Monday Night Football and retired from network broadcasting in 1998.
Despite the personal scandals, Gifford was remembered by one generation as a college and professional football standout and by later generations as the familiar face of Monday Night Football. Helping to popularize football as a national pasttime during its introduction as a televised, mass-spectator sport, Gifford's contribution to football indeed was crucial in fostering its popularity throughout North America in the 1950s. In subsequent decades his work as a broadcast journalist helped the sport's fan base to grow. For these achievements, Gifford remains one of the most important figures in the NFL's modern era.