Catching up with UGA grad Deborah Norville ('Inside Edition')

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Deborah Norville may have been away from Georgia for more than three decades as a big-time broadcaster, but she is still a Georgia Peach at heart.

The Dalton native and host of the syndicated daily news show "Inside Edition" since 1995, she was in town to visit her alma mater the University of Georgia, celebrating its 100th anniversary of its Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications. She also is attending her first UGA Bulldogs football game in a decade today.

I caught up with her Friday before she taped her "Inside Edition" program, which airs at 7 p.m. on CBS 46. She worked out of CBS 46's Midtown offices Friday afternoon before leaving for Athens.  (This was the first time I've been inside the building since I interviewed former meteorologist Dagmar Midcap six years ago.)

Norville and I have talked multiple times before, including in 2009 for her "The Power of Respect" book and in 2011, when she swam with belugas at the Georgia Aquarium.

This time,we talked about UGA and her close friend Joan Rivers. (She did a eulogy for Rivers last month after Rivers' sudden and seemingly avoidable death after an alleged unauthorized biopsy in which she stopped breathing at an endoscopy clinic.)

Norville got teary eyed talking about the legendary comic and showed me pictures of her and Rivers on her phone, including one which also includes Camilla and Prince Charles. "She's probably saying some totally inappropriate joke," she mused.

She became friends with Rivers in the early 1990s, a friendship that solidified even more after they were both invited to a Forbes magazine house party on a boat in Normandy, France. This was right after Norville's unfortunate ousting from the "Today" show and "I was majorly depressed," she said. "I didn't leave the house for three months. That party was an exception."

Rivers saw folks with French Marie Antoinette-era costumes and was inspired enough to take them to a costume store to buy some for themselves, powdered wigs and all. Peggy Noonan wrote a ridiculous speech and Walter Cronkite joined in on the fun. He wore a black robe and even flashed the ladies in his tighty whities, an image I now cannot get out of my head.

Their friendship was solidified by their time in France.

"She was a ball of energy," Norville said. "She shouldn't be dead. The thing about Joan. When you're with her, she made you better. Joan made you better. She was very smart, very plugged in. You better know what was going on in the news to keep up with her. And you better make sure your make up was good and dress was nice. She was always perfectly put together. When you were with Joan, you upped your game!"

She was honored and humbled to do River's eulogy. She felt bad for the rabbi because Howard Stern doing a dedication and gossip writer Cindy Adams dropped the f-bomb. Plus, there was an Irish Catholica bagpipe band, Broadway singers and the Gay Man's Chorus. Rivers jokingly wrote in her most recent book that she imagined an over-the-top funeral with Meryl Streep is weeping in five different lanaguages. "My husband [Karl Wenner] was crying in eight different languages," Norville joked.

The funeral ultimately was "everything she wanted."

She had the weird experience on "Inside Edition" to report on a story she was intimately close to. But she told producers she would not divulge personal information but also made sure blatantly false rumors weren't reported either. They did have their chief correspondent have an endoscopy, just like Rivers. "He lived," she said ruefully.

Norville said Joan's daughter Melissa is understandably having a tough time but also knows Rivers was okay with "Fashion Police" continuing without her. (It's set to return in early 2015.) Norville said they shouldn't replace Rivers immediately and leave her seat empty for a time in honor of her. 'She's the godmother of this form of reporting," she said.

As for the Dawgs, she follows all the games closely and was looking forward to seeing some of her sorority sisters today before, during and after the game. She plans to stay overnight in Athens, too. She is happy now that Georgia games are televised nationally. Back in the 1980s, that wasn't the case. But when she worked weekends in Chicago, she was able to watch snatches of games on national feeds.

She herself is approaching 20 years at "Inside Edition" early next year. She hopes it will be a low-key affair. During her 10th, the producers surprised her with a big balloon drop. "I'm so uncomfortable with the idea of being feted," she said.

She said "Inside Edition" has been reporting on the ebola virus. We talked a bit about the Lebanese man who lied about being in contact the virus before flying into the United States as the first reported case inside the U.S.. "It's outrageous," she said. "People genuinely believe the rules do not apply to them!"

Norville said she still applies daily the tenets of her two books "The Power of Thank You" and "The Power of Respect."

"Gratitude can be such a powerful instigator of good things," she said, "if you treat your workers with respect." If a boss says thank you, provides workers the tools to do their jobs and see a future where they are, she noted, retention increases 50 percent.

TV preview

"Inside Edition," 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, CBS 46

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