Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio


Millions watch Seneca, Chris tie knot

Her security detail was official-looking, too, a middle-aged man who stayed close, umbrella in hand, and wore the close-cropped hair and expressionless face of a retired police officer, or a high school football coach forced to endure the marching band. They beat a retreat with heads bowed.

Docked behind them was the tour boat Celestial. The wedding reception for Seneca and Chris Janowicz was under way inside. The Toledo area couple were married on NBC's Today show earlier in the morning.

Rain streamed down the glass dome wrapped around the ship's deck. A hundred yards away, you could hear the band grooving through a Barry White cover. Couric stayed for about an hour with her co-host Matt Lauer, and she danced with the wedding singer, a burly dead ringer for Cedric the Entertainer; she shook hands with the guests, dozens from northwest Ohio; she signed autographs, and chatted with grandmothers; and she never dropped her smile, even as she left.

On the pier, Couric looked back at the boat and the wedding party dancing inside, and she said, “I got to know Senny and Chris a little bit. As well as I could. I didn't spend a lot of time off the show with them. But of course, you know, I related so much to Senny and her situation.”

Seneca Janowicz's first husband, Chris Bowers, died unexpectedly of a heart condition. He was 38. Couric's husband, Jay, also died unexpectedly, of colon cancer. He was 42. “I mean, naturally, that made this particularly poignant for me.”

Still, would Couric get married on TV? On her own Today show? Before not only hundreds of family members and friends, clutching umbrellas until seconds before air time; before not only 8 million anonymous viewers empowered to choose everything from the wedding gown to the honeymoon location - but before dozens of stage hands and cameramen and makeup artists and businessmen power-walking through Rockefeller Center, and onlookers from Iowa with rolled-up cardboard messages for home and dreams of an Al Roker encounter; before a dozen New York City cops watching with bored faces and an ambulance racing up 49th Street and the comedian Jimmy Fallon (a guest on the show, watching with ironic detachment) and stage manager Dave Auerbach, who watched the couple step into the chilly air and said, “I'm more nervous than they are, man, and I was barely involved with my own wedding.”

Would Couric go for that?

She thinks for a long while. “No,” she says, then giggles and cracks her huge toothy grin. “I think I do enough on television. I mean, come on, don't you agree?”

eThey say your wedding day goes by in a blink. So let's rewind to earlier yesterday morning and walk through the strange details of this one, step by step. At 4, as it pours outside, executive producer Tom Touchet wakes up and gets ready for work - when it hits him: “Oh, God, I have to go to real wedding today - this morning.” At 5:15 an NBC car picks up the bride-to-be and drives her to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home of Today. White floodlights can be seen in the dark morning from blocks away. By 6, guests begin arriving; two large men with airport security wands screen purses. At 6:15, the chairs are covered in plastic. A steady drizzle falls. At 6:20, aliens land. These are five men and women in fluorescent green wigs and Martian antennas; unlike the three dozen tourists anxious to stand in the fenced-in pen outside the Today studio, they're turned away.

Nearby a police officer looks hurt. “What's going on with the aliens?” he asks a female officer standing beside him in a full-length orange police raincoat. She just shrugs. “I don't know. All dressed up for nothing, I guess.”

The female officer leaves and the other cop calls after her, “Where you goin'?”

“To put my dress on,” she says and twirls discretely, and rolls her eyes.

Among those who made it into the onlookers' pen: two regulars the NBC staff has nicknamed Lenny and Einstein. Lenny wears a Boston Red Sox cap and stares straight ahead, the entire morning. Einstein looks just like Einstein, except he wears a yellow sweater. Today publicist Lauren Kapp spots him. “Einstein dressed up today,” she says.

“Everyone dressed up today,” an NBC photographer replies, and he's not kidding. It's a little disconcerting to see the cameramen and stage hands wearing navy suits, looking like network executives. Not far away, a Teamster sits in overalls and smokes.

“This is definitely strange for a wedding,” says Douglas Coon, a longtime friend of the bridegroom. “It's bizarre to get up at 4:45 in the morning for a wedding. I mean, how many family members have you ever had who got married on a television show?”

At 7, the scene inside the lobby of 30 Rock is happy chaos. Guests walk in and out to escape the rain. Technicians snake green cable through doors. Assistants carry manila folders pressed to their chests; inside each folder contains the day's script, planned to scary perfection: “8:20: Outside, Couric/Lauer w/ Senny and Chris. Re: Toast to the newlyweds. 8:37: Jimmy Fallon interview.” Unplanned is the partial meltdown an NBC page has at 7:05. “I cannot have you standing here,” he says to a startled woman in a peach dress, and he draws an invisible line around himself to illustrate.

“I'm a guest,” she says.

“Yes. But I cannot have you standing here.” He draws the circle again and sighs.

Roker walks by. “I'm on TV,” he says. “So the thought of getting married on TV holds no allure. I do have a video of my wedding, though - but it's nothing I'd like broadcast.” On the third floor of the Today show offices, at 7:25, the hallway is filled with human traffic. At one end is a door with a piece of paper taped to it that reads “Senny.” This floor is the headquarters of what the show calls “Team Wedding,” the four producers and their assistants - almost entirely women - who spent the past 12 weeks planning the event. Seneca walks by in a tank top, her hair finished but nothing else.

Everyone stops and gushes. “I know where you're going on your honeymoon,” sings a Today staffer, and Seneca stops and perks up and says, “Where? Where?” and the guy says, his voice deadpan, “Secaucus, New Jersey.” (The couple later learned that they would be honeymooning in Fiji.)

At 7:50, Lauer interviews an author about terrorism and the man says, “Islamic militants hate us more than they love life,” and the guests take their places and listen to this over the monitors. At 8, the ceremony begins and the rain stops. Then after video love letters from the couple to each other, Lauer says the wedding will continue, “right after these messages.” At 8:15, with the vows being exchanged in front of officiating Judge John Bradley, anchor Ann Curry wanders outside and, though standing feet away from the wedding, watches on a monitor. Tears well up in her eyes and she blots at them with a tissue.

Watching from the onlookers' pen are Roseanne Welser and Cathy McEllaney of Illinois.

“I don't like the idea of this,” Ms. Welser says.

“I always thought of a wedding as a personal thing,” Ms. McEllaney says.

“But the crowd likes it,” Ms. Welser says.

“All that matters,” Ms. McEllaney says.

Beside them is a couple who applied three times to be married on the Today show. They drive from Massachusetts every year to watch and dream.

At the reception, plates of sushi are circulated and the band sounds good, and despite the cameras, the emotions are genuine. It feels like a wedding. The singer gets ready for introductions.

“This boat is rockin' y'all,” he shouts. “Ohio is in the house! Somebody scream!” Seneca and Chris Janowicz wait for their names, and Couric, standing off to one side, spots Seneca and yells, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” and they hug, and the band leader says, “Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to announce, to the whole world, to all your family members and your friends, to all those special well-wishers all around the world who sent so much love - for the first time, Senny and Chris Janowicz!”

And with that, Couric has left the building.

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