The Day I stalked Al Roker

Theresa Young is Bon Voyage’s own resident American and our Business Development Manager.  She has lived in the UK for 15 years and this is her perspective on the Queen’s Jubilee………with, of course, a Yankee twist! 

I have to start with an apology as I believe this blog may be lost on 87% of the UK public, to whom the name Al Roker will mean nothing .  For the other 13% and various Americans who might stumble on this, you will know Al as the affable weatherman/co-host on NBC’s Today Show.  And, for the past few years, Al has had his own show on the Weather Channel too.

If you’ve ever been to New York City, or watched a broadcast of Today while in America, you will know that many people trudge down to Rockefeller Center at stupid o’clock every weekday morning to wave banners and try and get the attention of the hosts and the folks back home.  Well, this is exactly how I met Al – the first time!  I was already living in the UK and would try and meet two of my gal pals from Alaska somewhere once a year.  In 2004 it was the Big Apple.  The first morning, still dark outside, we dragged ourselves to the NBC studio to get a prime spot.  We didn’t know at the time – you can have banners, but not banners on poles!  All that work the night before – never mind.  Sticks in the nearest garbage can and we were good to go right in the front row.  Only 3 hours until the show airs!

We sent Kelly in to Dean and Deluca to grab some coffee for us as it was a wee bit nippy at that time of the morning.  Kathy and I stayed to patrol our spot and watch for Matt Lauer, Katie Couric or Al Roker as they were known for passing by before hitting the studio.  Our eyes were trained on the NBC back door – no one was getting past us.  So, no surprise we completely missed Kelly 50 feet behind us, in the deli talking to Al!  Somehow he got past us and we were oblivious to him and Kelly’s subsequent frantic waves.  According to Kelly he was a lovely man!  We were sure he would look for us later in the crowd.

Roll on 7am and we suddenly realise we are definitely going to be right behind the news anchors every time they are outside, so I am frantic to find someone in my family who would be awake and able to record my television debut!

Theresa accepting her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

It was only 6am in the Midwest (I am from Milwaukee) and 4am back in AK, so it wasn’t looking hopeful.  Luckily, I managed to catch my cousin – still asleep, but with it enough to know that this was going to be life changing television.  She got up long enough to shove a VHS tape in the recorder.  Were we still using VCRs in 2004???  In any event, for all posterity my first encounter with Al was documented.  Kelly, Kathy and I were happily waving our Alaska banners and along came Al.  As he approached us, he said “Here are a few girls from Alaska…I’ll aska their names!” And one by one he went down the line and we got to say our name on live television in front of 6 million Americans eating their cornflakes.  I was a hit – thank you Al Roker!

“Hey, is that Al Roker down there?”

Now you’re wondering – that doesn’t sound very stalkerish.  Well, that wasn’t that day.  It is now Tuesday,  June 5th, 2012 and I have been incredibly lucky to be invited by South Carolina Tourism to a Diamond Jubilee luncheon at the Royal Society.  Yes, that one, right on the Mall next to the Duke of York steps.  So there I am on the balcony (it was pretty cold incidentally before you start hating me) watching the festivities unfold below and then someone in our group says “Hey, isn’t that Al Roker down there?”  What? Not my good friend Al?

True enough there he was, not looking much different than they did in 2004.  The savvy  South Carolina people saw an amazing opportunity to  grab some free air space on NBC and show the gang back home how incredibly supportive the UK Travel Trade are to tourism in South Carolina.

Next thing you know, Al is on the balcony and I can just about touch him – see for yourself!

I’m this close!

All of a sudden I’m straight back in 2004 and I realise….I am going to be on live television once again with Al Roker.  Same problem – it’s 6am back in Milwaukee….who would be awake?  I manage to email my brother and hope he spreads word to the rest of the family.  I mean, NYC was great, but I am now in London on television – what are the chances?  Now I managed to get my way right to the front of the balcony, which is a bit embarrassing when you know all the people you are trying to elbow out of the way, but I didn’t care – I’ve been in the UK for 15 years and here was a piece of home and a good friend of mine too – he had to know I was there!  Finally, I’m right next to Al and I just can’t help myself…..”Mr. Roker!” I exclaim – “Hello!”  “You can’t imagine how incredible it is for an American who has been in the UK for 15 years to be standing next to Al Roker!  In fact, we’ve meet before!”

Theresa, is it really you?

Yep – I then went through the whole story of “I’llaska their names….” He looked at me with a curious grin and was just about to say something – probably WTH? – when his producer interrupted to tell him “2 minutes til we’re with Matt and Meredith”…..  From that point on he never took his eyes off his phone – see for yourself again.  I imagine he is texting CRZY WMN NXT 2 ME…HLP!

HLP ME SUM1 😦

But I don’t care because I can see the lights on the t.v. cameras below firing up and I know we are seconds away from being on US television.

Then it happens, the tap on my shoulder.  One of the very tall South Carolina Tourism officials would like me to move.  WHAT? NO?  Al isn’t going to like this – we’re old pals.  Well suffice it to say, I’ve seen the NBC footage from the balcony – I’m not in it.  Our Marketing Manager (Karen Niven) and her husband both succeeded in cameos when they panned the balcony, but not this displaced American who wanted nothing more than her family and friends to see her and her good friend Al reunited in London.

It’s getting a bit wet.

Al stayed for a while on the balcony, but then had to get back down to the NBC crew.  I watched him all day though; eating lunch, working the crowds, standing under an umbrella when the rain started.

It would have been a complete failure of a day but then I remembered; I was actually there to see the Queen – Her Majesty – coming down the Mall.  And we did, from the most amazing vantage point I could have ever imagined.  The Red Arrow flypast was the icing on the cake.  I love you Al, but I’ve moved on – I’m an honorary Brit now.  God Save the Queen!

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