The now-infamous “Cigar Guy” was spotted at the window of the studio during the early morning hour of TODAY Friday, and Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira and Al Roker brought him front and center on the plaza to talk about his unexpected brush with fame.
“Obviously, it’s hilarious; it’s fantastic, it’s fantastic, when you see all the pictures and the effort people have gone to …” said the Cigar Guy, who is really a 30-year-old London investment analyst named Rupesh Shingadia. “At the same time, you can’t help being slightly embarrassed by it,” he told the TODAY crew while smiling.
Shingadia’s journey to fame began when London Daily Mail photographer Mark Pain captured an amazing image of Tiger Woods botching a chip shot on the 18th hole during the Ryder Cup competition. But all anyone talked about was the googly-eyed guy in the gallery behind Woods, wearing a ginger wig, Groucho Marx mustache and chomping on an enormous cigar.
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The Daily Mail published the picture of the man dubbed “Cigar Guy” on Oct. 3, and a worldwide online phenomenon was born. Enterprising Internet cut-and-pasters put Cigar Guy’s face in the middle of historical events, from the first moon landing to the cover of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album — even pasting Cigar Guy’s head onto Muhammad Ali’s body as Ali struck a triumphant pose over a defeated opponent.
The intrepid British press finally tracked down Cigar Guy through friends of friends, who revealed Shingadia’s identity. They learned Shingadia purchased his costume online to dress up as one of his favorite golfers, Spanish pro Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Shingadia says he’s a real golf enthusiast, and plunking down 50 bucks or so to dress up as Jimenez just struck him as a fanciful thing to do. “Golf doesn’t get any better than the Ryder Cup,” he told TODAY.
And while he figured he would get some amused looks at the Celtic Manor Resort Golf Club in Wales where the Ryder Cup was held this year, he’s gobsmacked at how his fame spread virally.
But could Cigar Guy’s 15 minutes of fame extend to say, a half hour? Well, he isn’t opposed to it — if a sponsor wants to send him to the Super Bowl in his Jimenez getup, he’s willing.
“I’m not trying to let it take over, [I'll] see what happens, really,” he told TODAY.
Roker suggested the Cigar Guy hysteria may have hit at just the right time. “I can see a lot of Halloween costumes,” he joked.
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