Counting Her Blessings
By Lesley Dormen
This season, Meredith Vieira is grateful for the right job at the right
time, her fabulous kids, her mom's Thanksgiving legacy; and even the tough
times that strengthened her marriage.
"Sit here," Meredith Vieira says in that delicious butter-pecan
scoop of a voice (serious shot through with sexy, the A student who's still up
for mischief). She offers me one of two small, straight-backed chairs in her
cluttered dressing room/office, pulls up the other — ignoring the big, comfy
leather desk chair — and sits facing me, knee to knee. "This way we're on
the same level.
"It's a wet Friday in New York City, and the Today show has
just wrapped. We're upstairs from NBC's Studio 1A in Rockefeller Center, where
the show has been broadcast live since 1952. I congratulate Vieira on her
one-year anniversary as coanchor. "I know," she says with a mock-tired
groan. "Well, I didn't keel over and die." Another facet of Vieira's
considerable charm is the ability to laugh at herself.
After nine years of winning fans by being loosey-goosey and candid on the
ABC morning talk show The View, Vieira did some marathon mulling when
she was offered the opportunity to take Katie Couric's place on the
Today team with Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, and Al Roker.
"I thought, I'll have to be careful with my personality — The
View was anything goes, but this is the news division. I'm basically a
night person, and those hours are daunting. Will I be able to pull this
off?" With the essential blessing of her family — husband Richard Cohen,
59, a writer, and their three teenagers, Ben, 18, Gabe, 16, and Lily, 14 — and
a little self-restraint, Vieira hasn't looked back.
There hasn't been time, for starters. "You sign up here, and time just
go-go-goes," says Vieira, who turns 54 next month. As she speaks, one hand
now and again drifts upward to run absently through her silky chestnut hair
sparked with blond highlights. She's dressed somewhere between on-air attire
and going-home clothes; still perfectly made up, she's wearing the kind of
generic white cotton V-neck T-shirt we all sleep in, and dark pants.
"This is a phenomenal job, but when I leave here I don't have a
glamorous life," she says. "My idea of heaven is puttering. I just want
to be home." On her wrist is a gold bracelet that her family gave her the
night before she started on Today. The single charm on a simple chain
reads We are with you. Love, Richard, Ben, Gabe, and Lily. "I've
only taken it off once — and it was a terrible day," Vieira says. "It's
never coming off again."
Terrible days have been blessedly rare for her on the show. But glorious or
difficult, all of them start at 3 a.m. "It's not so much the getting up,
it's having to get up and bring something to the table every day," Vieira
says. "The most difficult thing is to stay in the moment and be able to
switch gears. One minute you're with Hillary Clinton or covering a mine
disaster, the next minute you're baking a pie or talking to Kool & the
Gang. It's like a roller coaster. It takes a lot out of you."