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Inside Mary Hart's "ET" good-bye

Tonight marks the final edition of "Entertainment Tonight" ("ET") with Mary Hart as host, ending a record-breaking 29-year run.

On the final "Entertainment Tonight" featuring Hart, she'll be joined by five of her co-hosts, Bob Goen, Rob Weller, Mark Steines and John Tesh. To see the big reunion and good-bye, check your local listings.

Nancy O'Dell will take Hart's place on the show.

On "The Early Show" Friday, CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker took a look back at a career that helped to usher in a new era of entertainment journalism.

Hart's image has become as iconic as the theme song of her signature show. She made her first appearance as host of the weekend edition of "Entertainment Tonight" in 1982.

Her co-host at the time, Steve Edwards, said, "Now it is my pleasure to introduce you to Mary Hart, who joins me as the co-host of 'Entertainment This Week.' And welcome!"

Hart said, "And boy, is it good to be here with you, Steve. And with you (the audience)."

William Keck, senior editor of TV Guide magazine, said, "You know, a lot of people make fun of Mary Hart for being Mary Sunshine, but it's worked for her. People trust her. Everyone, whether it's politicians, or Tom Cruise, they feel safe sitting down with her."

Over the past 29 years, Whitaker reported, Hart has interviewed everyone from a future President of the United States, Barack Obama, to the King of Pop to the Chairman of the Board.

In a session with Frank Sinatra, Hart asked, "Are you mellowing? Has your attitude changed?"

Sinatra replied, "My attitude has never changed. I treat people as I find them. And how they treat me."

When interviewing George Burns, Hart asked, "Did you ever dream that you would be pushing 93 and still be doing it?"

Burns answered, "I'm not interested in anything I did yesterday anyway."

Cher also sat down with Hart.

Hart had the gumption to ask the star if she ever thinks about age.

Cher said, "Yeah. What I usually think is that I'm doing pretty good."

Whitaker noted the television landscape has changed enormously since Hart's "ET" debut 29 years ago. On her first show, Hart highlighted the day's stories, including a meeting with Jeanie Francis and Scott Baio.

Topping the ratings in '82 were "Dallas," "Three's Company," and some youngsters on a show called "60 Minutes."

"Entertainment Tonight" turned into a ratings powerhouse, spawning the likes of "Access Hollywood," "Extra," "E! News" and "Showbiz Tonight." And now, everyone can get instant Hollywood news from websites like "Perez Hilton" and "TMZ." But with Mary at the helm, "ET" remained an entertainment news force to be reckoned with.

Keck said, "There have been copycats. Some have been around for awhile and have been successful. But 'ET' has always been the No. 1 leader in entertainment news. And will it succeed without Mary Hart? I guess we'll wait and find out."

He added, "Sure, this has been a 30-year job for Mary Hart. But more than a job, it's her passion. She loves entertainment. She loves Hollywood. She loves the stars. She really is a throwback to an old era that is gone."

Since the announcement of her exit from the hit show, Hart has been lauded by the likes of Regis Philbin, who is leaving his morning show soon, and Michael Douglas.

When speaking of her career in TV entertainment news, she said, "The very first time somebody put a microphone in front of my face, I knew I wanted to be on the other end of the microphone. And here I am now, doing what I love to do."

Whitaker concluded, "The queen of entertainment news ends her reign tonight. And Hollywood's red carpets are losing one of their brightest smiles -- and biggest hearts."

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