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Mary Hart Talks Oprah, Michael Jackson & Saying Goodbye to 'Entertainment Tonight'

by Maggie Furlong, posted May 20th 2011 9:00AM
Mary Hart, 'Entertainment Tonight'After almost 30 years hosting 'Entertainment Tonight,' Mary Hart is signing off for the last time on tonight's show.

With the show from the very beginning, Hart has had a million adventures and interviews that you could pick her brain about all day long, but one vivid memory from the show's first months is truly hard to believe. "I remember very well traveling from city to city around the country, convincing station managers to keep the show on the air, that we were going to be a ratings winner for them," Hart said. "I mean, it took personal convincing."

Can you imagine now, in this age of entertainment news at every turn, not having a staple show dedicated to just that? Not to mention the 20 others out there ...

I talked to Hart about those early years, her most cherished interviews, her least favorite part of the job and her quasi-rivalry with another TV personality signing off soon, Oprah Winfrey. "Well, I do have her beat by a few years!," Hart said with a laugh.

Honestly, how do you say goodbye?
You know, I am wrestling with that at this moment. It is the most difficult thing, the one that wakes me up at 4AM almost everyday now, going what am I going to say. I don't have the answer ... I don't think I'm going to have the answer until the day of my last show. But believe me, I've already agonized about it, because this show has been such an important ... it's been my life for almost 30 years. I have known some of these people that I've worked with for that long, and that makes it very difficult to walk away.

After that long, it's like a family.
Absolutely. We've gone through everything together. In some cases, some of us have spent more time together than we have with our families. We've traveled together, we've met our spouses, gone through marriages and breakups and the birth of children and deaths in the family together. It makes it a part of my life that is almost impossible to say goodbye to.

Everyone's talking about Oprah's last show -- Oprah this and Oprah that -- but yours is just as momentous, if not more.
Well, I do have her beat by a few years! [Laughs] Here's the other thing that's something I'm very proud of -- we created a genre of television. 'Entertainment Tonight,' when we first started doing the show, even our producers weren't quite clear what direction to take, what the show's identity would be. Critics, for the most part, said, "This show can't last. There's not enough entertainment news to fill a half hour every night." [Laughs] Nobody had done it before -- we were the first to do it -- and looked what happened. It exploded.

So TMZ has you to thank?
Are you kidding? Of course they do! [Laughs]

Do you know yet what's next for you?
I'm kind of relishing the notion -- and it's very scary for me -- that I'm going to sit back and try to get out of my 'Entertainment Tonight' tunnel vision and look at the rest of the world. I've always done that anyway -- I travel a lot and my friends are outside the business -- but I want to sit back, because I've worked steadily in this job for almost 30 years, and see what's out there. It's a different media world today.

So we won't see you vying for Katie Couric's job or anything like that?
I think I might very well do something entirely different. But there's luxury in being able to say that I don't have a clue.

Jane Seymour, Mary Hart & Nancy O'Dell in LondonBut you feel good passing the torch along to Nancy O'Dell?
Absolutely. I am leaving the show and hopefully my hand in the show will always be there, but I feel very good about the transition. I think it was a natural to pass the torch to Nancy. She's lovely, she's talented, she and Mark [Steines] will work great together -- we've already had some fun on the road together having spent some time in London [for the Royal Wedding] ... so I feel really good about that.

Is there something small, something silly that you'll miss the most?
I'm sitting here in my office, looking around at all my goofy things from bobbleheads to Mickey Mouse awards, and those things will go with me, but I was thinking the other day -- wouldn't it be hysterical if I took the desk with me? [Laughs] It's goofy ... and I just might have to take the directors chair with my name on it.

And what will you miss the least?
Having to worry about getting hair and makeup done everyday. I love my hair and makeup team -- David and Shanti -- but they also know that halfway through the hair and makeup process everyday, I'm ready to bolt from the chair. Some people really enjoy it. For me, I need to give my eyes a rest, and I'll be happy to pull my hair back in a ponytail and be able to sweat and not worry about it.

I know it's hard to pick, but do you have a favorite interview of all time?
It's so tough! I mean, it comes down to the same handful of interviews, but I have to say my time with Michael Jackson was so special, it was so unique, because nobody got that time. Yes, Oprah did that sit-down interview at Neverland Ranch with him, but you know what? Years before that, I had been in Pensacola, Florida with Michael, watching him rehearse for his Bad Tour. I was there with him on stage for two days, watching him be the masterful leader of every move, every note, every intonation of what he did, and it was remarkable.

And then when I was with him in Kansas City and walked him out on the stage, he held my hand through the tunnel, right out to the edge of the stage, then let go and transformed himself from this shy person that he was into this magnificent genius performer. It was the most remarkable thing I'd ever seen. It really was mind-blowing.

Will you miss Mary Hart on 'ET'? Share your own favorites moments in the comments.

Follow Maggie on Twitter @TheTVShowGirl

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July 08 2011 at 3:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mary Hart is a beautiful woman, but she should cut her hair drastically! She would look younger with a shorter do.....she's beyond ever looking 25 again with that Farah Fawcett style.

May 21 2011 at 1:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kemcconnel's comment
Always A


May 21 2011 at 11:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Miriam Israel

I love Mary Hart xoxoxoxoxox she's a one in a million in media not to many like her left, and wish her the best

May 20 2011 at 7:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Bill & Mary Kay

Good luck Mary. Don't bother reading the negative comments. Wherever your go, whatever you do you will be successful. You will be missed on ET.

May 20 2011 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's about time Mary Hart leaves. Out with the old and in with the new. I'm so sick of seeing the same people on these shows year after year after year.....Rigis and Kelly and The View need to say goodbye as well. Bring some new programming to the morning and afternoons.

May 20 2011 at 7:14 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

Let's hope Regis,Kelly Ripa & all the ladies of "The View" follow & retire!

May 20 2011 at 6:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

No one can replace Mary Hart,she's been a lady all through the years not like some of the younger ones.

May 20 2011 at 6:44 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

30 years of phony ass kissing of movie stars, and for that she gets paid big bucks. Real people have to scratch and scrimp to make a living. Glad she's gone. She makes me sick.

May 20 2011 at 6:27 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

She is the best, will miss her

May 20 2011 at 6:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Mary is a class act! I will miss her. And oh those legs! Yikes!!

May 20 2011 at 6:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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