(Back 03 February 2010 I answered a question burning on many a mind. It remains one of the most viewed articles of all time answering the second most important question after Where in the World is Matt Lauer? -Ed)
Every day the 1st hour of the US NBC Today Show downloads onto my iPhone. At 34 minutes after the hour, the camera crew steps outside the studio to pan the crowd of fans gathered and there is one man who is always there. He is African American, always wears a hat or hooded parka and slowly points his index finger with a faint smile as the camera passes by him. A few times I have heard host Matt Lauer call out “good morning Linny.” So who is this man?
“My sister called me on my cell a little while ago and said I was crazy!” says a brown parka clad Linny Boyette, 69. It was very cold and we stood together leaning against metal barriers in frigid and blustery 17°F (-10°C) temps on the ‘Plaza’ outside the street-level studio. Every Monday-Saturday morning from 7-9 am for the last 17½ years, Linny has watched their live broadcast. Forget the US Postal Service and their “neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will keep us from our daily appointed rounds” mantra, this guy lives it and puts them to shame.
This long-underwear wearing UK-based, teeth chattering reporter was no match for two hours of cold and snow. Yet there was a diehard crowd of 20 or so people who cheered every time the camera trained its eye on the group. I watched most of the event from behind the safe and warm picture window of the nearby Dean and DeLuca coffee shop. I was very curious though to meet this ‘biggest’ fan of the The Today Show’s Big Four: Matt, Meredith, Al and Ann.
Linny is a Jamaican-born Brit who has lived in New York and London and now resides in the NYC borough of the Bronx. Every morning he rises at 3:30 am, leaves his house by 4:40 and then takes a series of subway trains to Rockefeller Center where he stands outside the 49th Street studio of the Today Show.
During this particular show he stood next to the featured visitors as interviewed by weatherman Al Roker and the camera always includes him in the opening shot of the interview. It was fascinating to watch the steady stream of camera operators, lighting technicians and crew members who went out of their way to come over and say good morning to Linny. Their attention caught the eye of everyone else assembled who in turn would visit with him. When Al came out for his weather shot, the first person he greeted was Linny with a big smile before working the rest of the crowd. Same with Matt and Meredith.
You then saw many in the crowd come up to him with a combination of “who are you’s?” and “oh wow, yes, I’ve seen you before, can I have my picture taken with you?” Linny never once changed his demeanour and was kind to all comers. This was his theatre.
For most of the time he is off-camera, Linny chats up visitors and poses for photos. “This is therapy for me, I love this show.” Said Linny. “It energises me.” Having lived a full and interesting life, he is quite philosophic, almost zen-like about his daily two hours of joy.
Boyette served as a medic in Vietnam where he saw lots of unspeakable pain and suffering so now he just enjoys each day. The cast and crew missed him for almost a month a few years back as he recovered from surgery. When he returned, there was a special chair waiting for him and the entire NBC production took up a sizeable collection for him. Now, on the rare day Linny is missing, a call goes out before the show airs to check on his well-being. Literally it seems this is one show that cannot go on without him.
During Thursday’s driving snowstorm he was gone shortly after the 8:00 hour outdoor segment. But Friday, with the sun shining brightly, he hung around to the bitter cold end. While it was far too cold for a Friday concert on the plaza, Linny squeezed between the barricades and left as silently and anonymously as he arrived.
Of course I waved and watched his departure from inside that coffee shop with both frozen hands tightly gripping a freshly made cup of cappuccino for warmth.