Hugs, kisses, tears are all for you Katie - now so long


That sure was a stirring farewell to Mother Teresa on the Today show yesterday, although it got to be a bit much after a while, didn't it?

What's that?

You say that wasn't a tribute to Calcutta's beloved "saint of the gutters"?

The three hours of mass veneration, the weepy goodbye videos from viewers who said she changed their lives, the gooey testimonials from adoring co-workers, the "We'll Miss You!" signs held aloft by the worshipful crowds shoe-horned into Rockefeller Plaza, the hugs, the kisses, the tears - you say all that was for who?

Katie Couric?


Well, no wonder Joan Rivers was there.

(Joan, please ... no more face-lifts. If they stretch the skin over your cheekbones any tighter, you'll be translucent. The sides of your face look like two slabs of ice covered with makeup.)

OK, fine, yesterday's over-the-top send-off of Katie Couric - maybe you heard she's leaving NBC's Today show after 15 years to anchor the CBS Evening News in September - was just about what you expected in this age of excessive, extravagant - and endless - TV goodbyes.

Let's face it, nobody just says "So long" anymore and walks off the set.

No, now every final show is a big production, with the Couric farewell rivaling The Ten Commandments for the sheer spectacle and pageantry of it all - not to mention the over-sized cast of characters.

Let's see, there was Katie, of course, and nice-guy co-host Matt Lauer. Oh, and regulars Al Roker and Ann Curry.

But then a few, um, other folks dropped by: Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Tony Bennett, Harvey Fierstein, Joan Rivers, celebrity hairdresser Jonathan Anton, the cast of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys, the president of the United States, his entire Cabinet and both houses of Congress.

OK, I'm kidding about the prez and his cabinet and Congress.

But I swear I saw Dick Cheney banging a tambourine and singing backup with Trisha Yearwood's band.

Did I mention Willard Scott and Gene Shalit stopped by to chat?

Well, they did.

Willard, you'll be shocked to know, was as corny as ever.

In one of the more bizarre sendoffs of all time, he sang a goodbye ditty to Katie while looking soulfully into her eyes, during which I'm sure she was thinking: please let an asteroid smack into this stage right now.

And Gene Shalit still has that whole Afro-mustache-caterpillar-eyebrows look going, despite the fact that he is now 116 years old and might want to think about toning it down a little.

To her credit, Couric, who's always seemed more grounded and self-deprecating than your average TV personality, seemed to recognize that three hours of the Katie Couric Worship Service was a bit much, at one point heading into a commercial break by saying: "We'll be back to this celebration of moi, ad nauseam."

And the ad nauseam part certainly could have been reined in a little.

Seeing the huge placards featuring Couric's likeness dotting Rockefeller Plaza reminded me of the Mao banners you used to see during mass demonstrations at the height of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

And introducing another fawning segment with the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun" and later watching Ann Curry tell Katie: "What's amazing is you held America's hand ... " registered high on the Gag-o-Meter.

But I liked some of the segments, especially the snippets of the tough interviews Couric has conducted with the likes of George H.W. Bush, Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, Ross Perot, Dan Quayle, Colin Powell and David Duke.

And it was riveting to see old footage of the emotional conversations she had with the woman known as the Central Park jogger, who was attacked and raped by a gang of thugs.

I even liked some of the goofy bits, especially the old tape of Katie and Matt singing absolutely horrible backup for Stevie Wonder, who, sitting at the piano that day, must have sensed that his great career had just taken a horrible turn for the worse.

But to spend three hours celebrating the career of a morning TV personality - don't we have our priorities a little screwed up in this country?

What kind of send-off would Ben Carson, the great pediatric neurosurgeon, get if he announced he was changing jobs?

A couple of stories in the newspaper and two minutes on the local news that night?

Still, when Katie Couric's final Today show was over, I was left with one recurring thought: It must be great to get that kind of attention on your last day of work before heading off to your new job.

Look, when I left my last job, they took me to a bar, bought me a Miller draft, and slid a bowl of stale peanuts in front of me.

Not that I wasn't grateful or anything.

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