June 1, 2006

Tears, toast mark “Today” send-off for Couric

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - "Today" said goodbye to
Katie Couric on Wednesday after 15 years of moments and
memories on TV's No. 1 morning show.

With only a few nods to the news and weather during its
three-hour run, "Today" threw a big party on the plaza at
Rockefeller Center that featured Couric, longtime co-host Matt
Lauer, Couric's two daughters and parents as well as the rest
of the cast and crew and several surprises.

Couric said in April that she would be leaving "Today" for
the anchor/managing editor job at "CBS Evening News." Couric
will be replaced by "The View's" Meredith Vieira, but NBC has,
since early April, devoted increasing amounts of time to
honoring Couric, who has been -- with Lauer -- the face of
"Today" for years.

Wednesday's show pulled out all of the stops, with songs
from Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, and the cast of
Broadway's "Jersey Boys," who sang a song written specially for
Couric to the tune "Bye Bye Baby."

Legendary crooner Tony Bennett sang the standard "The Way
You Look Tonight" to Couric in the last hour of the show.

Lauer paid tribute to his broadcast partner, saying he most
of all appreciated the laughs that she had given him over the
years. He said that even on the weekend, he would often laugh
over something that happened either on or off the air.

"You need to get a hobby," Couric joked.

Lauer said the two had chemistry on the air and were
friends off air and that they had lived through the good and
the bad, including the death of Couric's husband, Jay Monahan,
her sister Emily and Lauer's father, who died of lung cancer.

Couric agreed, telling him he has been a wonderful friend.

She later told Lauer: "I know I'll never have a partner
like you again because I'll never be working with a partner

Also on hand for the tribute were contributors Gene Shalit
and Willard Scott, who joked that he was going to CBS to be
with her. A final toast -- with the "Today" staff in New York,
Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and London as well as the
control room -- was led by Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry.

"I hope you know we are going to be wishing you well (in
your new job), if quietly," Lauer said.

Couric closed the tribute with, "To everyone in TV land,
thanks so much."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter