Whatever Happened To Joan Lunden?

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Back in the technological Stone Age — the 1980s and 1990s — there weren't smartphones waiting on the nightstand each morning which Americans could grab and then immediately be informed of the latest horrible news and celebrity gossip. Instead, they had to turn on a TV, and they'd get that information (along with interviews and puffy lifestyle segments) from network morning shows. Not just anybody could host this kind of program, maintaining balance between the heavy and the light while rousing groggy viewers out of bed — but Joan Lunden was up to the task. 

For nearly two decades, the reporter and anchor co-hosted ABC's extremely successful Good Morning America, often crushing NBC's formidable Today. In 1997, Lunden abruptly and surprisingly left Good Morning America, presumably for bigger and better things. She's no longer in the spotlight that appearing on a popular morning show every day of the week provides, leaving many fans wondering why she left and where she went. Well, here's what Joan Lunden has been up to in the last few years.

Did Joan Lunden say goodbye to Good Morning America?

Starting in 1980 as the co-host of Good Morning America, Joan Lunden's was the face millions turned to each morning for the soft news they needed to start their day off right. In 1997, she left the show. But why would anyone ever leave such a cushy, well-paying, successful gig? According to the Los Angeles Times, Lunden announced her exit from the show in May 1997, attributing the need to move on to wanting to "spend mornings with her three daughters."

When she actually departed in September 1997, Lunden discussed the many opportunities she had on offer, including syndicated talk show, a book deal, and a move into acting. "I've been offered several scripts. I'm going to take some time off to think about what I want to do next," she said. The outlet also noted that at the time that Lunden "already has taped an appearance as herself on the fall premiere of CBS' Murphy Brown and has a guest shot on an NBC midseason comedy, Lateline."

While she left Good Morning America, her workplace since 1976 (counting her time as a correspondent), her contract with ABC didn't complete until 1999, so plans were made for Lunden to file stories for 20/20 and PrimeTime Live.

Or did Good Morning America said goodbye to Joan Lunden?

All that nighttime news work never materialized for Joan Lunden, which probably has something to do with the fact that she really didn't want to leave Good Morning America, and that she was allegedly forced out by ABC executives. Although this never became a well-known scandal of the popular morning show, perhaps that's because Lunden never made a huge deal out of it. The official line was that she wanted to hang out with her kids and try new things, but Lunden later admitted on The Oprah Winfrey Show's Where Are They Now? that she was actually asked to leave because, as conversations with brass heavily implied, at 46 she was too old for Good Morning America.

"The words are, 'We've decided to make a change on the show,' and so they, you know, found a 30-year old version of me," Lunden told Winfrey. ABC also ousted Lunden's longtime co-host Charlie Gibson (pictured above). "They replaced both of us ... with kind of, you know, a 30-year-old version of each of us, and it didn't work." Indeed, new hosts Lisa McRee and Kevin Newman, didn't last long. In 1999, those two were replaced by well-known ABC News personalities Diane Sawyer... and Charlie Gibson.

Joan Lunden loved, lost love, and loved again

Joan Lunden met her first husband at work. In the '70s, she was a brand new reporter at Good Morning America while Michael Krauss was a veteran producer for the show. In 1978, they got married and as she became one of the most well-known people on TV and he stayed behind the scenes, her career naturally eclipsed his. By 1992, and after having three daughters together, they were done "We've been growing apart for years," she told People. "I probably stayed in it much longer than I should have," Lunden added, mentioning that three-times-a-week marriage counseling didn't help either.

Four years later, according to People, Lunden happened to meet a man at a deli in Westchester, New York. "He had this great smile," Lunden said of Jeff Konigsberg. "And I said, 'Why can't I meet a nice man like that?'" Well, she did meet him, because seconds later, the Maine summer camp owner came up to her table to introduce himself. After a little more than three years of dating, Konigsberg proposed in April 2000...and 10 days after that the couple got married.

She had twins, and then she had twins again

Joan Lunden is ten years older than her second husband Jeff Konigsberg, and she already had three daughters from her first marriage by the time they married in 2000. By no means was she ready to close the family-building chapter of her life. "Even before I met Jeff, I really wanted to find somebody who wanted to have a family," Lunden told People. 

But Lunden was into her 50's by the time she'd settled down again, which can limit the possibility of successful pregnancy. And so, with the help of a surrogate named Deborah Bolig, Lunden and Konigsberg welcomed twins, Max and Kate, in June 2003. Less than two years later, and apparently undaunted by having three tiny tots running around the house, Lunden again sought out Bolig, and embryos were implanted. They took...and again, Bolig delivered another set of twins to Lunden and Konigsberg. "I'm just glad we didn't get triplets!" Lunden quipped to People.

Discussing the topic of becoming a mother again in her early 50s, Lunden told Larry King, "It's interesting when you start to have children at this time. ... You are so much more relaxed, you don't have the unbelievable demands on you that I had at that time where you're just being pulled in a million different directions. So in a way it's kind of interesting how you can — I mean, I'm looking forward to going through it this time in a very different way." 

Breast cancer redefined Joan Lunden's life

In June 2014, Joan Lunden returned to her old TV home of Good Morning America to make a very special and serious announcement. The former host shocked and concerned her fans when she confirmed that she was in the midst of a battle with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer, which is an "aggressive" form of the disease. "I've got that journey ahead," Lunden said, adding, "I've already started it. I'm already doing my chemo."

Lunden's cancer-fighting regimen was also an aggressive one. She endured a grueling 16 rounds of chemotherapy, as well as a lumpectomy surgery, and then six weeks of radiation. She found the strength and courage to document it all on her video blog. She also famously appeared completely bald (due to the hair-destroying effects of her cancer treatments) on a September 2014 cover of People. Just nine months after sharing her diagnosis with the world, and dealing with cancer so that others may have found strength or wisdom in it, she confirmed to People in March 2015 that she had completed her extensive treatment. "You go in one person, and you really do come out another," she told the outlet, adding, "I've always been a health addict for a long, long time, but frankly I can't think of a more important assignment." As of 2018, Joan Lunden is cancer-free, but her fight against the disease is long from over. 

Joan Lunden is a health advocate

While she would've had every right to retreat into private life and surround herself with family and friends after receiving her cancer diagnosis, that isn't what Joan Lunden did. She saw her medical crisis as an opportunity to educate women and hopefully inspire them to take better care of themselves. Lunden's major post-Good Morning America career has been about being a health advocate, particularly for breast cancer awareness. She gets her message across through speaking engagementsarticlesinternet-video channels, and television appearances.

"I found this breast cancer community to be such an amazing, powerful, compassionate alliance," Lunden told People magazine after completing her own breast cancer treatments in 2015. "I realize that maybe my treatment is over, but this journey is far from over for me." She continued, "Being able to say I'm done and I saved my life, it inspires me to keep motivating women to go to the doctor, get those lifesaving tests, the mammograms, your gynecological exam every year, your colonoscopy."

You can actually read all about Joan Lunden's post-GMA life, in her own words

Giving a book deal to Joan Lunden, a friendly and well-liked celebrity who was on TV five days a week in the '80s and '90s, was a no-brainer for a publisher looking to make a lot of money fast. In 1996 Putnam published Lunden's first book, a sensitive memoir (written with the help of Ardy Friedberg) called Good Morning, I'm Joan Lunden. In it, Lunden details her rise to the top level of TV, along with the story of how her surgeon father died in a plane crash when Lunden was only 14.

Lunden followed that with many more books, several during her tenure on Good Morning America. She found the time to knock out the What to Expect When You're Expecting-esque Your Newborn Baby, the inspirational Joan Lunden Wake-Up Calls, the also inspirational Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers, and a number of titles focusing on healthy living and healthful eating. Probably Lunden's most notable book, released in 2015, is her honest memoir Had I Known: A Memoir of Survival, which chronicles her painful, harrowing, but powerful story of her fight against breast cancer.

Call her Grandma Joan

Joan Lunden faced a tough fight against breast cancer in 2014, but all that was countered with a bit of life-affirming joy. Around the same time as her diagnosis, Lindsay Krauss Weinberg, Lunden's daughter with first husband Michael Krauss, welcomed a baby girl, officially making Lunden a grandmother. A little over one year later, Lunden's family grew again when her other daughter from her first marriage, Jamie Krauss Hess, gave birth to a baby boy. By that point, Lunden had completed treatment for her breast cancer, on the road to recovery, and ready to get down to grandma business.

Lunden spoke about the difference a year makes during a September 2015 interview on Today. "A year ago, my daughter Lindsay gave birth to little Parker, and it was one of the sickest days [for me]. I was in the middle of chemo, and I just wanted everything to be wonderful that day, and I didn't want anybody to know how bad I felt. And here a year later, little Mason was born," Lunden said. "And I'm strong, I'm through the journey. I survived."

Opening up to Closer Weekly, Lunden celebrated her ever-expanding family. "I came out [of my cancer battle] incredibly appreciative of every little nuance of life, especially new babies," she told the mag. "Holidays, birthdays — events at my house are big, rambunctious and maybe a little chaotic, but really, really full of joy and fun! I feel really blessed to be a grandma!

Joan Lunden is still all over TV

While Joan Lunden was allegedly ousted from one of the most coveted gigs in network television, she found plenty of work in TV after the fact. After all, what network wouldn't want to be in business with one of the most recognizable and popular people in the game? Her first-person documentary special series Behind Closed Doors with Joan Lunden, which aired on both ABC and A&E before and after her morning show dismissal, stayed around until the early 2000s. She's hosted all kinds of specials and shows for VH1 (Older Women/Younger Men), The History Channel (Live From Pearl Harbor), CBS (the reality show Wickedly Perfect), and Lifetime (Health Corner). Fans may also watch Joan Lunden on TV when they didn't even plan on watching TV — she appears on special programming piped into supermarkets and dentists offices, via the Women's Supermarket Network and America's Dental Health, respectively.

Her most high-profile TV gig — and her return to the morning show world — came in 2014 when NBC's Today show named her a special correspondent for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She's continued to appear on Today occasionally to discuss and report on health and aging issues. In November 2015, she went back to where it all began to help Good Morning America celebrate its 40th anniversary. Lunden has even delved into acting a bit...well, sort of. She played "Joan Lunden" in an episode of the Nick Nolte comedy Graves and "News Host" on CBS's Elementary.

Joan Lunden is a vocal advocate for elder care

In addition to raising a total of seven children (which, again, includes two pairs of twins) and working high-profile jobs in television news, Joan Lunden had even more responsibilities in the '90s and 2000s. She also took care of her older brother, Jeff Blunden, who had type II diabetes, as well as her older mother, Gladyce Blunden. "I was in my 30s and I became financially responsible for them," Lunden, who altered her surname in her early days as a reporter, told People in 2020. So she moved them into a house in Los Angeles together while she tried to prove whatever distance she could from her home in New York. "I would have a caregiver come in every couple of days, take them to doctor's appointments and help them around the house."

After Jeff Blunden died in 2007, Lunden sought out a live-in facility for her mother, by then 87 and suffering from rapidly progressing dementia. "I got thrown into having to find senior living care and I didn't know anything about it," Lunden told People, adding, "Had I educated myself first it could have been much easier." In trying to help others avoid her struggle, Lunden began giving talks about senior care, which led her to an assisted living referral company called A Place for Mom. Lunden became the service's spokesperson, appearing in their TV ads since 2012.

She's still writing (and learning)

Joan Lunden's first 10 books are a disparate bunch, including a memoir, a baby-rearing handbook, and cookbooks. The one through line that recurs in all of those titles is the same one that defines Lunden's post-Good Morning America professional life: They're about living a healthy and mindful life. That thesis is present in her eleventh book, too, the 2020 release Why Did I Come Into This Room? It's a book about dealing with the problems and issues that come from aging (Lunden turned 69 in September 2019), but it's the first one for the TV personality and author in which humor is at the forefront. (In expressing how it feels for someone of the forever-young Baby Boomer generation to inch toward the big 7-0, Lunden joked, "I'm too old for Snapchat, but too young for Life Alert.")

Why Did I Come Into This Room? is additionally a departure for Lunden in that it aimed to reveal truths to the audience but ultimately proved revelatory and therapeutic for the author. "This book morphed from the time I started writing it five or six years ago," Lunden told Publishers Weekly. "I was originally talking about staying younger longer. Then I realized I wanted to know more about accepting aging and understanding how to better prepare for it."