When 1971 Miss America runner-up Mary Hart of Sioux Falls, S.D., joined Entertainment Tonight 10 years ago, the syndicated show was nine months old and struggling for respect. And Hart (of Sioux Falls but also at one time or other of TV talk shows in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Oklahoma City, and eventually of Los Angeles and PM Magazine and the short-lived Regis Philbin Show) was worrying that if she took the job of co-anchor on the show that went ”da-dee-da-da-da-DAH” for too long, she might screw up her career. ”I expected to be here two years, max, and then we increased the contract,” she says, ”and I got paranoid because I thought, ‘My career will be over because I’ll be typecast.”’ Instead her contract was increased and increased some more, so that Hart today is one of the highest-paid women in journalism (”sizable seven figures” is how her publicist puts it) and this month celebrates 10 years of ”da-dee-da-da-da-DAH” on the show that has changed the shape of TV entertainment news.
Okay, so she is typecast. ”I’ve always looked to Barbara Walters and Johnny Carson stylistically, and I’ve always admired the ease of Walter Cronkite,” says Hart, who, unlike Barbara and Johnny and Walter, is scrutinized by all of America for the length of her hair and the crossing of her ankles. She’s the smiling one, the chipper, bright-eyed gal, the one about whose legs love letters (and $1 million publicity-stunt insurance policies) are written. Ten years, and Hart is as much a piece of entertainment journalism as the ”Celebrating Birthdays” segment of ET itself. In one decade she has worked with three co-anchors (Ron Hendron, Rob Weller, and for the past six years, John Tesh). Off-camera, she married movie and TV producer Burt Sugarman, and six months ago, at the age of 40, she gave birth to her first child, A.J. Sugarman.
In fact, Hart retains Normal Non-Hollywood Woman’s Postpartum Weight Gain. In fact, this has become a headline — although one that bothers her not. ”I gained average, healthy weight and I decided it would come off naturally,” she says happily. ”Frankly, I still have a ways to go. I think the media tries to encourage us to be too vain, too slim and rich and young.”
A sense of perspective in Hollywood: Sign that woman up for another 10 years.