Katie Couric: 'If I wasn't famous, I would go on Match.com'
A talk with Katie Couric about love, loss, life and her new afternoon-talk show, "Katie," which debuts Sept. 10.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Julia Child Birthday Party: On what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday, the University Book Store is holding a party with food writers and readings from Child's own works, celebrating the woman and her appetite — not just for food but for life. 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, 4326 University Way, N.E., Seattle (206-634-3400 or www.bookstore.washington.edu).
Sunset Supper at the Market: On Friday, Aug. 17, locals take back the Market — sipping and sampling from local chefs, mixing with friends and dancing to live music — to benefit social services housed there. $85 general; $110 guaranteed, reserved seating (www.pikeplacemarketfoundation.org).
To be honest, I've never been a big fan of Katie Couric.
It always seemed that whatever she was hosting, whomever she was interviewing played second fiddle to her wide smile, scruffy laugh and the first-person pronouns that she seemed to wedge into everything.
Then I sat in a room the other week with Couric, 55, who came to Seattle (for the first time) to promote her new afternoon talk show, "Katie," and all that changed.
At the event — a breakfast meeting for media buyers and bloggers that advanced NBC's fall lineup — KING 5 anchor Jean Enersen asked Couric what she is most proud of.
"Probably the fact that I think I did a pretty good job of raising my kids," Couric said. "My daughters are, first and foremost, incredibly nice girls with good values."
After that, Couric cited her cancer-awareness work, from her on-camera colonoscopy (colon-cancer screening went up 20 percent after that, she said), to her Stand Up 2 Cancer fundraiser, to the establishment of a clinical center named for her late husband, Jay Monahan, who died of colon cancer in 1998.
He wasn't the only person Couric has lost. Her sister, Emily, died of cancer in 2001, and her father, John, died last year.
There is a lot of pain behind that wide-smile, scruffy laugh and me, myself and I. Couric has Been Through Things.
Which brings us to her next thing: "Katie," an hourlong talk mix of what distributor Disney-ABC Television is calling "smart with heart." (They thought about calling it "Afternoon Delight," Couric joked, but that sounded like something for the Playboy Channel.)
The show, which debuts at 4 p.m. Sept. 10 on KING 5, will take the slot vacated by Oprah Winfrey, against a slew of competing talk shows.
"It's a crowded field," Couric said. "But I also feel as if our show will offer something that is different."
We sat in an upstairs office at KING 5, where Couric picked from a multiplattered lunch spread: a little tuna salad. A vitaminwater. Part of a cookie.
When you meet a famous person, you take a few moments to take them in, and notice little things. How tall Will Ferrell is. How the Dalai Lama wears Rockports. How Bono's roots are coming in.
But Couric is strangely familiar. For years, she has been in your house, first thing in the morning as the longtime "Today" co-host, and during the dinner hour as the former anchor of "The CBS Evening News."
"People used to say to me, 'I feel like I know you,' and I'd always say, 'Well, actually, you do.' Because you have seen me have two kids, lose my husband to cancer, you have seen me covering tragic stories, you've seen me having fun ... you really have gotten to know me as a person."
The talk show is an attempt to return to that familiar ground, now that Couric has attempted the austere authority required of a national news anchor.
"I wanted to get back to my roots as someone who interviews people and interacts with people and is spontaneous and can laugh easily," she said, "when appropriate."
She will be interviewing newsmakers and celebrities "who have something interesting to say," Couric said. "It won't be the fifth stop on a junket to promote a movie."
(On her wish list: Melinda Gates, Kate Middleton and Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes.)
There will also be issue-oriented shows on things like raising teenagers; the effect of technology on our lives, children and relationships; and caring for older parents.
This is all good, I said. But please don't make a fool of yourself, wearing costumes and tap-dancing and hula-hooping. You covered the Pentagon, for crying out loud.
"I think it's all about a good mix," Couric said. "You don't want that every day, you don't want 'cutting up,' as my mom would say, every day, or cooking every day.
"But if I have Paula Deen come on, talking about how she has had to adjust her life because of type 2 diabetes, and she wants to show me how she makes things differently, before and after, I'd cook with Paula Deen. Because I would like to learn that. And I think a lot of people would like to learn to cook in a healthy way."
Off the air, Couric is a big reader: Old New Yorker magazines she never had time to finish, Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography, Jenny Lawson's "Let's Pretend This Never Happened," and Brené Brown's new book, "Daring Greatly," which the rest of us will get to see next month.
Couric likes to cook meals with fresh, local produce — some of it from her own vegetable garden. She plays the piano by ear, plays tennis, takes walks. Anything else?
"I like to decorate wooden picture frames with shells and rocks from the ocean," she said, rather meekly. "Just the typical things."
Not typical? Her love life makes Page Six.
Last week, the New York Post reported that she was dating New York financier John Molner, 49, after a five-year relationship with "boy-toy" (the Post's term, not mine) Brooks Perlin, 17 years her junior. They broke up last December.
"I am always dating," Couric said. "If I don't have a boyfriend, I am dating. If I wasn't famous, I would go on Match.com. Instead of looking for Mr. Right you have to look for someone who is interesting and nice. And even if it's not a match made in heaven, it's interesting to learn about other people and hear their stories."
Sounds like what she's doing on television this fall.
Maybe they should have called it "Afternoon Delight" after all.
Nicole & Co. appears Sundays
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Every Sunday, I bring you a conversation with a local who is doing something great, or a great who is doing something local: media personalities, big thinkers, visiting artists, colorful characters and doers of all kinds.
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