The Unsinkable Katie Couric

Her life has been defined by enviable opportunities heart-wrenching tragedies. As Couric tackles her daytime talk show, Katie, she opens up about regrets, resilience and romance after 50

by Amanda Robb
katie couric image
Photograph: Peggy Sirota

“I really did love my husband a lot, but after Jay died, I always thought I’d end up like Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch,” Couric says, meaning she dreamed of uniting her family with a man’s. “It’s actually surprising to me that it has been almost 15 years and I haven’t remarried. I think life is more fun when you have someone in your life. And I always wanted to find a father figure for my daughters, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I’ve had long-term relationships, but they haven’t turned into lifelong partners.”

It’s not for Couric’s lack of effort. When she first tried dating again—about two years after Monahan died—she threw singles parties. “We insisted that every woman bring two male friends,” Kathleen Lobb recalls. “I went out with a couple of people. I don’t think Katie did.” After the breakup with Perlin, Couric changed tactics: “I didn’t say, ‘I want to meet somebody,’ because I thought that smelled too desperate. I just said I was interested in dating.” When Couric’s friend Molly Helfet told her she knew a nice guy, Couric brought him up at every Spin class they attended. “I’d say, ‘What happened? He never called.’ ” Eventually he did. Now Couric and Molner have been growing closer for the better part of a year.

“I have had dates where we didn’t click,” Couric says. “I once went out with a heart-transplant surgeon who talked about valves the whole night. But I appreciate that it’s not easy to go out on a date with someone like me. Also, when you get to my age, everyone is a little bit wounded. So I think it’s important to handle people with care—not to think, ‘Oh, what a terrible date,’ but just, ‘This person isn’t for me.’ Everyone has a lot of baggage. It’s just, can you fit it into the overhead bin?”

Couric has made no bones about feeling that the CBS Evening News was a poor fit. The inaugural episode of Katieopened with a video joke in which Couric wakes up thinking the anchor job was a nightmare. Then Matt Lauer appears and breaks the news that it was all real life. What is equally true, though, is that daytime talk shows are, like news shows, a TV genre that is struggling with a shrinking viewership.

That said, the audience is still in the millions, and new shows are -always competing for it. Lori Beecher, who has worked with Couric for two decades, likes the format because it gives the multifaceted star—journalist, health advocate, working mother and midlife singleton—the chance to be herself. “People always ask me if Katie is -really like what she’s like on TV. I always say, ‘Katie is exactly the same person in -person.’ ”

And that, perhaps, is what makes her various self-reinventions look so effortless. Whatever new challenge she faces, she is always, always just herself.

Katiehad the strongest daytime-talk-show debut since Dr. Ozin 2009. Three months in, the show has remained number one in the 2012 freshman class. But in all the triumph, Couric is again having to regroup. Her good friend Jeff Zucker, the show’s coexecutive producer, left in November to become president of CNN Worldwide.

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