Meredith Vieira's 'Today' Farewell: Tears, Parties and What You Didn't See on TV
"We're all emotionally drained. I think today it finally hit us," Natalie Morales tells THR after Wednesday's show.
The Today team bid farewell to co-host Meredith Vieira with tears, hugs – and disco.
On Tuesday, the Today staff fêted Vieira with a private party at the Hurricane Club on Park Avenue South in Manhattan.
There were speeches. There were tears. And there was a dance floor.
When ABBA’s "Dancing Queen" began to play, Natalie Morales pulled Vieira onto the dance floor.
Later, Vieira led everyone in a Conga line through the restaurant.
Not that the morning show staff was burning the midnight oil. “We don’t do late nights around here,” said Morales. “I think we all left by three in the afternoon.”
Apparently it was a warm-up for this morning’s sprint through Today’s Rockefeller Center plaza. The show’s on-air and production staff took turns dragging a surprised Vieira (though someone clearly instructed her to wear comfortable shoes) through the Today studios and onto the plaza while Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’" played. The live montage featured a plethora of NBC News faces (Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Al Roker, Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotbe, Lester Holt, Amy Robach, Willie Geist, Jenna Bush-Hager, Today executive producer Jim Bell), as well as Abe Vigoda and Jimmy Fallon with his guitar. (Everyone donned HEART Meredith shirts.) When the show came back from commercial, a tearful Vieira joked: “I don’t want to go now.”
The number was conceived by producer Jen Long, who along with senior broadcast producer Don Nash was behind Today’s Black Eyed Peas’ "I’ve Got a Feeling" lip-dub.
This time it had to be live and planned and rehearsed right under Vieira’s nose.
“Yesterday we had a producer take [Vieira] out for coffee,” said Bell. “She was pretty close to the plaza, but we knew she was a safe distance. So we were able to pull off a bunch of rehearsals.”
For a final rehearsal this morning, Vieira was ordered to stay in her dressing room and Bell posted a guard outside her door to make sure she complied.
“She really was surprised,” he added. “Throw in a little Abe Vigoda and a great cameo by Jimmy Fallon and you have some TV magic."
“I think we were just all glad not to see Meredith trip because there was a lot of running for her,” said Morales. “I think she was having a hard time breathing, not just from running but from the emotion. We’re all emotionally drained. I think today it finally hit us.”