In the 10 years since the Today show began broadcasting live from its “storefront” studio overlooking Manhattan’s Rockefeller Plaza—just as the show had done back in the 1950s—enthusiastic crowds have waved and peered through the bulletproof “Window on the World.” Today regulars Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and Al Roker have reciprocated by venturing outside to greet the faithful. They’ve also hosted weddings and rock concerts and dressed up for Halloween. (Matt as J.Lo? Scary.) PEOPLE’S Mark Dagostino sat down with the Today gang to reminisce about their favorite moments on the plaza.
KATIE: Initially, in the days and weeks leading up to this whole idea, we were very wary about the behavior of our visitors. We didn’t know if people would be well-mannered or make obscene gestures, if we’d have streakers.
MATT: It was a throwback to the ’50s, but the ’50s were a different time in this country—a lot more innocent time. And we were afraid that in the ’90s it would attract the fringe element.
In fact, the fringiest element to appear on the Plaza has been the hosts themselves on Halloween—like when Al dressed up as Puff Daddy and Matt as J.Lo.
AL: This was not the first time Matt wanted to do a man-woman act. He wanted to do Mork and Mindy. All I know is we had to run down the back steps, and he seemed very comfortable running in heels. I said, “Once is a costume, twice is a lifestyle, so let’s do a guy-guy thing next year.” And we came up with Siegfried and Roy. Never mind…
Couple acts are a crowd staple.
KATIE: I remember with the first wedding segment I was really violently against it. I just found it to be too cheesy. And of course, by the end I was crying at the wedding. And I was angry they didn’t pick the bridesmaid dress I wanted!
AL: We had a guy who wanted to propose to his girlfriend and we got her on the phone, and he says, ‘Will you marry me?” There’s this pause, then she says, “I don’t know.” The crowd went, “Ohhhh.” And you thought, “Well, she didn’t say no.” And then it was, “Actually, no.”
ANN: It was terrible. We all died a little.
Then there was the female flasher…
ANN: The camera was moving across the crowd, so it was just this flash of very large and gorgeous breasts, actually.
AL: All you can think of is, “Your parents must be so proud.”
…and the flashbacks.
MATT: Sometimes people will bring photos of us from years ago, like a picture of me in a kiddie pool at 2. It was taken by some person who used to live in our neighborhood. They bring in pictures of Katie in high school.
KATIE: They bring yearbooks—things that we really wish they didn’t bring.
Still, nothing psychs the Today team like the loyalty—and decibel level—of the fans.
AL: When you come through those revolving doors, people go, “Yaaaaa!” and you go, “Yeah! Love me!” It’s the closest you’re ever going to come to feeling like a rock star.
ANN: One time there was a thunderstorm, people were drenched, and Al brought them into the lobby.
MATT: Sometimes I see them on Fifth Avenue as I turn the corner, waiting in line at 10 to 5 in the morning.
AL: We just show up—and they show up. They really are the fifth cast member of the Today show.
In a Halloween tradition, Matt and Al mimic celeb duos
“He enjoyed it a little too much,” says Al (as Puff Daddy in ’00) of Matt’s J.Lo.
What’s new, pussycat? The pair preened as Siegfried and Roy in ’02.
“You make a terrible me,” the real Paul Simon told Al (with Matt as Art Garfunkel in ’03).