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Video: A look back at Meredith’s morning magic

updated 6/8/2011 12:34:24 PM ET 2011-06-08T16:34:24

Running arm in arm with her fellow anchors through a roaring, clapping crowd on Rockefeller Plaza to the tune of Journey’s arena anthem “Don’t Stop Believin,’ ’’ Meredith Vieira was overcome with emotion as her final day as co-anchor of TODAY reached a crescendo on Wednesday morning.

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The “Glee”-like production number included the entire TODAY staff, both on-camera talent and the people behind the scenes. Even late-night host Jimmy Fallon was on hand, shredding on a prop guitar.

“All of you I will put in my heart,’’ a clearly affected Meredith said after composing herself following the song and celebration.

Touching tributes
Meredith’s sprint through a throng of adoring fans and co-workers, a viral video moment that soon had #goodbyemeredith as one of the top trending topics on Twitter, came after she enjoyed a touching moment with one of her favorite artists, Carole King, who played a song that Matt said Meredith once played 30 times in a row upon graduating from high school. The legendary King then played “You’ve Got a Friend,’’ which was indicative of the feelings of the staff as well as of King herself.

“We are going to miss you,’’ King said. “It’s been so amazing having you in our lives on a daily basis. Thank you for so many great memories.’’

The anchors held hands on the couch before joining King around the piano and singing along.

Meredith says last 'good morning' on TODAY

The special send-off episode for Meredith included a message from actor Jack Black. He said he wrote a song for the occasion, then jokingly sang the first line of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind.’’ “OK, I didn’t write that, but I love you,’’ Black said.

Meredith also received special taped messages from NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and late-night host Jay Leno.

allDAY: 10 reasons we love Meredith

After being celebrated by a cheering crowd outside with signs lamenting her departure, Meredith was treated to a video montage of her tenure at TODAY while surrounded by her fellow anchors.

Archive video: Meredith recounts career on first day

“From the moment I came here, everybody embraced me and made me feel like I was part of this family,’’ she said in the video. “What am I going to miss most? Probably the sense of family.”

A musical farewell to Meredith began with her at a piano with Matt.
Lip-syncing to “Don’t Stop Believin,’ ” Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb led Meredith out to the plaza.

“I don’t think people realize how much pressure was on Meredith in those early days,’’ Lauer said. “She made it look easy. She made it look effortless. It was as if she had been here for 10 years.’’

The montage showed Meredith’s impressive range, illustrating her ability to do everything from celebrity interviews to hard-hitting interviews with President Barack Obama.

“She brings a piece of herself to every interview she does,’’ Matt said.

“Behind the scenes Meredith is one of the best girlfriends you could have,’’ Ann Curry commented.

“You showed us from day one when you first took over this job that it was all about you being just the way you are,’’ Natalie Morales said in tribute.

allDAY: Matt, Ann, Al and Natalie bid emotional farewll to Meredith

The montage also included highlights of some of Meredith’s most memorable work on TODAY, including the story of David Goldman, a father who fought to bring back his son from his ex-wife’s family in Brazil; Farrah Fawcett’s battle with cancer, and the saga of Charla Nash, disfigured by a chimpanzee attack.

It also illustrated her first big assignment, the Virginia Tech student shooting. Meredith said a candlelight vigil after the shooting was when she realized the true power of TODAY.

“These kids came up to me and said … ‘Can we please hug you?’ ’’ she said. “I realized in that moment the power of this show to really reach people, and to have that ability, I am so honored to have sat with all of you.’’ 

Lighter moments
The montage also highlighted Meredith’s zany side, whether it was on a trip to Ireland with Al or dressed up and dancing as Lady Gaga on Halloween. It also referenced her many travels around the world and her love of movies, including championing the Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire.’’

“I’m going to miss Meredith’s sense of spirit and sense of fun,’’ Al said. “You can’t put a price on it.’’

Al Roker leads Meredith through throngs of co-workers and well-wishers during an elaborate musical tribute on the plaza Wednesday.
Video: TODAY’s favorite Meredith moments (on this page)

The “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” extravaganza began with Meredith joining co-anchor Matt Lauer at a piano. Clad in an orange T-shirt worn by all the anchors, bearing their first names, a heart symbol and “Meredith,’’ Lauer grinned as the Journey song began to play.

Meredith soon was beckoned from the piano and joined Ann Curry, who took her downstairs, where she was surprised by a hug from special guest Abe Vigoda.

She was led outside by a lip-syncing Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb and passed to Al Roker, and then taken by a group of producers and staffers down to the street, where she rejoined Lauer as Fallon appeared with a guitar and the crowd roared and clapped rhythmically. The TODAY staff then broke out a choreographed dance number as an exclamation point, leaving Meredith overwhelmed.

“I adore you,’’ Matt told her. “Your sense of humor is what I will remember most. You have made me laugh every single day here, and I thank you for that. The bottom line is this — I have marveled over the fact that with someone who has talent as large as yours, how small your ego is. You have taught us to be great teammates, and that’s the gift that I will take away from you.’’

“You have changed my life and changed all of these people’s lives,’’ Al said. “I love you.’’

A crying Meredith caught her breath before joking in her usual way: “I don’t want to go now.’’

She then grew reflective about her time on America’s No. 1 morning show.

“I think life is about changing; I guess one door closes and another opens,’’ she said. “You are the best. It’s such a family and it’s really hard to leave a family, so I’m not going to say goodbye at all.’’

The lovefest continued into the fourth hour of TODAY, during which Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb continued to sport orange T-shirts saying “Wine Lovers [heart symbol] Meredith’’ as part of their weekly “Winesday Wednesday.” They reviewed the “Don’t Stop Believin’ ’’ tribute as well as a Tuesday-night party in Vieira’s honor.

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“It’s been a really bittersweet day for us,’’ Kathie Lee said.

“It’s been a blubberfest, let’s be honest,’’ Hoda added.

Then Meredith herself came onto the set, bearing glasses of wine for Kathie Lee and Hoda as well as one for herself. She joined the co-hosts for a segment spotlighting the best family beaches in the United States — which is just where Meredith may be putting up her feet sometime soon.

“At 2:30 in the morning tomorrow, you know what she’s going to do?” Kathie Lee cracked. “Keep sleeping!”

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: The many sides of Meredith

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  1. Meredith Vieira, a TODAY co-anchor from 2006 to 2011, rejoined TODAY for a morning after the broadcast teased that a "legend will return." After she hung out for a bit with Linny on the plaza, she revealed she'd play a part in TODAY's 2012 London Olympics coverage. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Meredith was named a special correspondent on "Rock Center with Brian Williams." She debuted with a story about Mimi Alford, a woman who said she had an affair with President John F. Kennedy while serving as a White House intern in 1962. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Meredith stopped by Kathie Lee and Hoda's hour of TODAY Feb. 2 to chat about what she's been up to since leaving the broadcast. After the fourth-hour gals congratulated her on her success, Meredith joked they must be "drunk." (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Meredith stands with Deborah Norville, far left, Katie Couric, Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, Savannah Guthrie, Ann Curry and Natalie Morales during TODAY's special 60th anniversary show Jan. 13. (Peter Kramer / Peter Kramer/NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. After nearly five years as co-anchor of TODAY alongside Matt Lauer, Meredith took leave of the show on June 8, 2011. Ann Curry took her place as co-anchor of America's No. 1 morning show. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. In an emotional farewell on Rockefeller Plaza June 8, 2011, Meredith received heartfelt tributes and good wishes from Al Roker, Matt and Ann. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. On June 8, 2011, her last day as a TODAY anchor, Meredith received a rousing musical tribute from the show's entire family, as well as late-night host Jimmy Fallon (with guitar), on Rockefeller Plaza. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Meredith has been the host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" since 2002, and that same year she hosted the "Super Soap Special Edition" of the show (pictured). Here, she talks with the contestant and Eva LaRue and John Callahan from "All My Children." (Matt Stroshane / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Meredith served as a co-editor of CBS’s “60 Minutes” from 1989 to 1991. Here, past and present correspondents of the program join Don Hewitt, the executive producer, lower left, on stage for a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards held in New York on Sept. 3, 2003. From left to right, at rear, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Steve Kroft, Meredith Vieira, and executive editor Philip Scheffler. Middle row, Bob Simon, Lesley Stahl, Ed Bradley, Morley Safer and Andy Rooney. (Stuart Ramson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Meredith has been honored with eight Emmy awards, including a Daytime Emmy for best morning newscast for her work on TODAY. She earned five Emmys during her 10-year tenure at CBS News, and picked up two Daytime Emmys as outstanding game show host for her work on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” (Scott Gries / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Meredith joined ABC’s “The View” as one of its original moderators in 1997. She left the show in June 2006 and joined TODAY in September of that year. Here she bids goodbye during her farewell show, as her co-host Barbara Walters looks on. (Steve Fenn / ABC via AP file) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Meredith and her husband, Richard Cohen, who has battled multiple sclerosis and colon cancer, steal a kiss at a New York news conference in 2006. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bronx resident Linny Boyette is one of TODAY’s biggest fans, appearing on Rockefeller Plaza every morning during the show’s broadcast. Here Meredith poses outside the NBC studio with Linny on her first day at TODAY, Sept. 13, 2006. (Jason Decrow / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. For TODAY’s annual Halloween extravaganza, Meredith has transformed into Princess Leia, Pinocchio, Lily from “The Munsters,” and most recently, Lady Gaga. In 2006, she arrived to the set on a clamshell, dressed as a mermaid. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. During her TODAY tenure, Meredith conducted numerous newsmaker interviews, from chimp attack victim Charla Nash to singing sensation Susan Boyle. On Dec. 18, 2006, her interview with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton aired. During the interview, Clinton offered the broadest indication yet that she was close to a decision on whether to enter the 2008 Democratic presidential field. (Virginia Sherwood / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Actor Will Ferrell took Meredith for a spin on the Rockefeller Center ice rink during his show appearance on March 27, 2007, just before the opening of his comedy film “Blades of Glory.” He attempted to show Meredith a stunt, but instead the good sport fell on her back and hit her head, exclaiming, "Ow, that hurt!" (Richard Drew / ap) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. On April 19, 2007, Meredith and Matt reported on a video manifesto and photos sent to NBC from Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho, shown on a studio monitor at left. NBC said the package contained a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement, 28 video clips and 43 photos. Gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many others before committing suicide during the Virginia Tech attacks on April 16, 2007. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Author J.K. Rowling reads to fans in Edinburgh, Scotland, from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" during Meredith’s July 2007 interview. This was Rowling’s only television interview about her final Harry Potter volume. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. On Feb. 21, 2008, TODAY broadcast live from Vermont’s Sugarbush Resort. The always-intrepid Meredith took the Penguin Plunge into the freezing waters of Lake Champlain to benefit Special Olympics Vermont. (She probably did not opt for the double-dip.) (Toby Talbot / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Meredith will be the first to admit that she’s useless in the kitchen, but in November 2009, she bravely battled consummate hostess Martha Stewart in a heated holiday apple-pie bake-off. Even though Meredith shamelessly admitted to using a pre-made crust, we give her points for panache. (NBC ) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Viewers saw Meredith’s compassion as a journalist in her coverage of events like the devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. In July 2009, Meredith and TODAY team broadcast live from the Michael Jackson Memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Trae Patton / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Always game to try something new, Meredith shares a laugh with the Paralympic curling team during the 100 Days to Vancouver celebration on Nov. 4, 2009, at Rockefeller Center. Meredith, Matt, Al, Ann and Natalie all traveled to Vancouver in February 2010 to broadcast live from the XXI Olympic Winter Games. (Mike Stobe / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and Meredith go way back: During the Vancouver Games, the skater and “Dancing With the Stars” champ gave Meredith some skating tips, and showed her how to dance the tango. Eight months after the Games, Ohno sat down with Meredith to chat about his new book, “Zero Regrets,” and his journey to becoming a record-breaking athlete. (NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Jasper, Meredith’s dog and jogging partner, has appeared on the show several times alongside the anchor. Always the loyal companion, here Jasper participates in a segment about canine learning abilities and vocabulary recognition. (Richard Drew / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. On Aug. 20, 2010, Meredith and actress and cancer survivor Maura Tierney threw the first pitch at Fenway Park before the Boston Red Sox game against the Toronto Blue Jays in support of the Jimmy Fund, which supports adult and pediatric cancer care and research. Meredith’s husband, Richard Cohen, has survived two bouts with colon cancer. (Gail Oskin / Getty Images ) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. For Halloween 2010, Meredith channeled her diva spirit and took the stage as Lady Gaga, working it to “Bad Romance” – with blond locks, bold outfit and back-up dancers to boot. (Jonathan D. Woods / Today.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. There’s no denying that Meredith has a way with the fellas, including cheeky actor Russell Brand. Anchor and actor have had a couple of innocent, flirtatious exchanges during Brand’s visits to the TODAY set. (Peter Kramer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. One of Meredith’s most recent newsmaker interviews was her sit-down with Donald Trump. In the wide-ranging interview that aired April 7, 2011, Trump spoke pointedly about Obama's presidency, foreign affairs, and the possibility of running for president. "Right now, I have some real doubts" about Obama’s citizenship, he told Meredith. (Kelly Conaty / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. In her nearly five years at TODAY, Meredith covered several major news stories, from the 2008 presidential election to the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Along with Ann, Matt and Natalie, Meredith reported live from London for the widely-watched nuptials. (Mark Allan / NBC) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Today - 2012
    Above: Slideshow (29) The many sides of Meredith
  2. Today - Season 2012
    Lisa Berg / NBC
    Slideshow (30) Ann Curry’s distinguished career at NBC News


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