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Between interviews Hagerty takes time to catch up on email. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

Marilyn Mania continues: Piers Morgan interview 'wasn't much fun'

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Here's how big Marilyn Hagerty has become: She snubbed Jay Leno.

To be more precise, an invitation to appear on "The Tonight Show" was declined because of an earlier commitment to media in New York City. Leno's people didn't want to wait until she was available next week.

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The mania about Hagerty's restaurant review of Olive Garden started last week with an online frenzy that has slowed only slightly. As of Monday evening, the Eatbeat review had almost 700,000 story views.

Television's interest in the story started with her appearance on "The Early Show" on CBS Saturday morning. On Monday, the "Today" show and the "Piers Morgan Tonight" visited Grand Forks to interview her.

NBC's "Today" show taped its segment with correspondent Kevin Tibbles and Hagerty sharing lunch at the Grand Forks Olive Garden. The 2½-minute segment will air between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. today.

"Two and one-half minutes is a long time on the 'Today' show," Tibbles said.

CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" aired a short segment Monday night with a taped interview from Hagerty's home on Cottonwood Street. The questioning by actress/comedian Jane Lynch, subbing for a vacationing Morgan, was awkward.

"It wasn't much fun," Hagerty said. "I felt really good about the other interview."

She also received a mention Monday on "The View."

More media is waiting for Hagerty in New York City, as the Grand Forks Herald flies her there today to review two five-star restaurants and also the Olive Garden on Times Square. At the Olive Garden, she will have lunch with Anderson Cooper, who will have her as a guest on his show Wednesday or Thursday.

Her story and photograph even made it across the Atlantic, as they appeared in the London Daily Mail. "But they misspelled my name," she said.

Grand Forks Herald staffers also were in communication Monday with representatives of the "Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

Eatbeat repeat?

After not allowing local affiliate WDAZ-TV to bring a camera into the Olive Garden for a story on Hagerty last week, the restaurant reconsidered when the "Today" show made the same request. Heidi Schauer, a corporate manager of media and communications, flew in from Orlando, Fla., to han-dle the midafternoon lunch/interview.

"We greatly appreciate all of the attention we've received due to her re-view," Schauer said. "It just goes to show all the positive comments we've received from the commu-nity here. We're glad she enjoys her dining experience."

As Tibbles was interviewing her, Hagerty got out her notebook and interviewed him, no doubt for a future Eatbeat piece.

She also gave a preview of what that review might include. When the server asked if she enjoyed her soup, she said in her usual measured appraisal that: "It's a pretty good soup, but I'm not sure I'd order it again. But I'm glad I got to taste it."

Tibbles opted for the chicken Alfredo, which Hagerty recommended in her review.

Hagerty confided with Tibbles that she often steals a menu at restaurants she reviews. And she spoke of her fatigue over the last few days' developments:

"I feel like I've been out for a long night of drinking and don't remember what happened," she said.

White House next?

Yet, for all the attention she has received, she said the day's highlight was reading the letter to the editor written by her granddaughter, Carrie Sandstrom of Bismarck.

"Nothing has touched me more than that," she said.

Sen. Kent Conrad's office also was working on landing Marilyn a White House lunch visit with first lady Michele Obama.

Since she always uses her lunch partners' initials in her Eatbeat reviews, she was asked if she would use BO and MO if she broke bread with the president and his wife.

"You bet," she said.

Ryan Bakken writes for the Grand Forks Herald.

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