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Graceful Exit After A Lifetime of Tonights

Ending a 30-year run on her iconic show, Mary Hart talks highlights, next moves and going out on top 5/16/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

When Mary Hart announced last August
that this would be her last season hosting
CBS Television Distribution’s iconic entertainment
magazine, Entertainment Tonight, it seemed
like we still had plenty of time to spend with her. It
feels like just last week—not January—that we were
celebrating her Brandon Tartikoff Award with her at NATPE in Miami. But time flew, as it
tends to do, and Hart’s nearly 30-year
run in front of the camera at TV’s longestrunning
magazine comes to a close on
May 20. The gracious blonde anchor took
some time to share parting thoughts with
B&C Contributing Editor Paige Albiniak.
The following is an edited transcript.

How are you feeling?

As it’s getting closer, it’s certainly getting
more stressful. I’m just trying to get everything
in—all the wonderful love, camaraderie,
hugs and emotions. It’s a very
bittersweet time for all the right reasons.

You just got back from covering the
royal wedding, which will be the last
big event you cover as host of Entertainment
Tonight. How was that?


First of all, on a very bright note, when
Linda Bell Blue [ET executive producer]
and I heard the news of the royal engagement,
we were just crossing our fingers
that they would marry before I had to say
good-bye. We both knew it would be the
biggest event since Princess Diana’s death.

It’s the perfect way to end my career at
ET. It was heart-warming, thrilling to be
there, and a completely unique experience.
It was very much one of the good stories in
covering the entertainment industry.

Obviously the media covers the royals
as if they were part of the entertainment
industry, but they really
aren’t. Why is it appropriate for ET
and all of the other celebrity magazine
shows to cover the wedding?


Entertainment permeates every type of
news. You aren’t going to turn on a news
show without a celebrity element. The
wedding certainly garnered great ratings
for everyone, which is why I was shoulderto-
shoulder with people like Diane Sawyer
and Piers Morgan and all of the biggest
names in the American news business.

One of the really special things I did
was sit with Barbara Walters inside
Kensington Palace and interview her for
ET. She had once had lunch with Princess
Diana inside the private quarters at
Kensington Palace. For her to sit there
and reminisce about it was just incredible.
Just the week before, I had shot a
taping for The View [which aired May 11]
and she interviewed me about leaving ET.

Something else that was special was
having the vantage point of sitting there
at Buckingham Palace. When we got the
first sighting of Princes William and Harry
coming through the gates in their glassencased
coach, the roar of the crowd was
deafening. Then the Queen came out and
she was in that beautiful yellow. Of course
watching the entire ceremony was amazing,
and then when William and Kate returned
in their carriage it was just like we
were living the fairy tale ourselves. There
was so much exuberance in the air.

It was our biggest undertaking ever,
and our staff worked around the clock
because of the time difference. We took
more people on that trip than we’ve
taken anywhere else.

That might have been ET’s biggest
undertaking ever, but ET has had its
share of huge endeavors over the
years, and so have you. What are
some of your most special memories
over your almost 30 years at ET?


Flying with the Blue Angels, which happened
right down here at Camp Pendleton.
Running with the Olympic Torch
when the games were in Los Angeles in
1984. Covering stories for ET from the
back of my own motorcycle. And interviewing
Paul McCartney. I first met Paul
McCartney when I was 12 years old in
Sweden and then I interviewed him again
two years ago. I told him that story about
our first meeting and he was so dear
about it. Then we took the most incredible
journey down memory lane. What
struck me in talking to Sir Paul is that he
couldn’t be more humble, more down to
earth, and more willing to talk about the
first time he met John Lennon, and how
they didn’t like each other at first. He was
so open in taking me through it all. It was
one of the highlights of my career.

Your last day at ET is Friday, May
20. What’s next for you?

I’m a news junkie, so I will follow everything
probably even more closely than I
have in the past. I’m an avid newspaper
reader. I love to read the newspapers in
the morning, from The Wall Street Journal
to the L.A. Times, New York Times and
USA Today.

I am convinced [I’m] doing the right
thing by taking some time, despite Barbara
[Walters] telling me to go right on
through to the next thing. Barbara’s advice
was to keep working, but I am more
convinced than ever that I need to step
away and see what’s out there. I am not
retiring, I do want to emphasize that.
Barbara herself is an inspiration to and
motivation for all of us to just keep going.

Do you know how they are going
to celebrate your last week on the
show?

It has been so crazy here that we have
not had a chance to look beyond the end
of May sweeps and really beyond getting
my last show done. Linda has lovingly
put an awful lot of effort into keeping
things from me. She just says, “Mary, I’ve
got it under control, you are in for some
surprises, trust me.” I can’t even begin to
imagine what’s in store.

Do you have any parting words of
wisdom for your team at ET?

No, they’ve got it down, but I would like
to say that coming from local television
in Sioux Falls, S.D., I have always appreciated
the support that we’ve gotten
from our local station people, whether
that’s general managers, programming
directors, or sales teams. That’s a very
important and special shout-out for me
always. They are the ones who made this
show happen. Had we not been able to
keep our station lineup the way it was,
we never would have maintained our
No. 1 position for all of these years. To
them I say thank you from the bottom
of my heart.

E-mail comments to palbiniak@gmail.com and follow her on
Twitter: @PaigeA

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