Fan’s Therapy: ‘Today’ and Yesterdays
His name is Linny Boyette, and to die-hard fans of the “Today” show he is almost as familiar and beloved a face as Katie, Matt, Ann and Al. That is because Mr. Boyette, arguably the show’s ultimate fan, has been standing in the audience outside the NBC Midtown studio every day for nearly 12 years, except Sundays and the rare sick day. Unlike the throngs of shrieking, overcaffeinated, poster-waving tourists who surround him daily, jockeying for air time, Mr. Boyette, 63, is a quiet, unassuming man
But his presence at “Today” has been greatly felt. “Every day there’s a sea of faces from all over the country and in fact the world,” said Katie Couric, who ends her 15-year career at the morning show today, in an e-mail message. “It’s been great seeing his familiar face every morning. We usually high-five each other.”
Mr. Boyette and Ms. Couric did not always have the best relationship, however. “She was a bit nervous about me in the beginning,” he said. “Who is this nonchalant guy? He never has a sign. He’s never screaming.” He was eventually introduced to her and assured her that he was not a stalker. He has since met members of her family.
“I’ve met all their families,” he said, breezily rattling off the names of the cast members’ spouses and children. He, meanwhile, is a childless bachelor. “No wife,” he said, “no kids, no stress.”
Mr. Boyette said he was particularly fond of Ann Curry, the show’s news reader, and that he was saddened when she was passed over for Ms. Couric’s spot. “She is an absolutely wonderful person, always has warm greetings,” he said of Ms. Curry. “She would have been great.” He knows little about the woman who was named to replace Ms. Couric, Meredith Vieira, but said his sister, a fan of Ms. Vieira’s show, “The View,” loves her. Mr. Boyette remained noncommittal: “We’ll see.”
He begins his day at 3:30 a.m. with a shower and a shave. By 4:40 Mr. Boyette, who lives in the Bronx, is off to the train. He usually arrives in Midtown an hour later, and after a quick cup of tea, he heads over to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where “Today” is taped. “I can’t wait to get here,” he said one morning late last week. “It’s like therapy for me.”
Born in Jamaica and raised in both New York and London, Mr. Boyette, who is a retired United States Army man, speaks in a deep British accent, peppering his conversation with words like “bloke” and “telly.”
Dressed that morning in jeans and a loose-fitting shirt, a straw hat and his signature oversize glasses, he had just finished watching Jimmy Buffett whip the crowd into a frenzy with the song “Margaritaville.” As he exited, some in the crowd stopped to chat with him. It was nothing new for Mr. Boyette, who is regularly asked to sign autographs or pose for pictures. Some of his admirers have even taken him hats and T-shirts from their hometowns, he said.
Diana Jones and Vondell Cook — both from San Diego and dressed in matching yellow and white ensembles — did not come bearing gifts, but they were eager for photos with Mr. Boyette. “I always look for you in the crowd,” said Ms. Cook, smiling brightly.
Ms. Jones wanted to know where he usually stands. “Anywhere I want to,” he replied, only half-jokingly.
Being the show’s “fifth personality” has its privileges, Mr. Boyette said. He never has to wait in line for prime viewing of the action, and he’s often invited into the studio for coffee or tea, though he prefers to remain perched outside, behind the metal railing, he said.
“It’s quite busy in there, quite maddening, and I don’t want to get in their way,” he said. Over the course of the interview, which took place at the plaza, several “Today” crew members and security guards stopped to shake his hand or pat him on the back.
“He’s a man of few words, but he’s always smiling,” said Franco Coello, a crew member. “We all love him.”
While in the Army, Mr. Boyette said, he visited many trouble spots, but it’s the gruesome memories of Vietnam, where he worked in a hospital recovery room, that still haunt him. “People you would see at 8 o’clock in the morning would come back in body bags,” he said quietly. Going to “Today” helps keep his mind away from such thoughts, he said.
Mr. Boyette was first drawn to the show’s summer concert series. After seeing Al Green years ago, he was hooked, he said. Last year he missed three days because of the transit strike and “I was out of my head, all out of sorts,” he said. In 2001 a collapsed lung landed him in the hospital for 35 days. When he returned to the plaza, he said, the “Today” gang had a special chair and an envelope filled with donation money waiting for him. “I thought I was dreaming,” he said, still a bit incredulous. “I still have the chair at home.”
Over the years some people have tried to discourage Mr. Boyette from his daily “Today” visits, he said. “My sister thinks I’m a bit mental,” he admitted. “She can’t believe I come down here in the winter.”
But he’s glad he’s ignored the naysayers. “The show has been wonderful for me,” he said. “Most of my friends are dead or divorced, and I’m still standing.”