Linny, the TODAY superfan who has been a fixture on Rockefeller Plaza for nearly 20 years, is gravely ill in a New York City hospital, according to one of his friends.
Linny, 71, whose full name is Linwood Boyette, is at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, the hospital confirmed to TODAY.com on Thursday. Sonia Villa, another TODAY superfan who has been coming to the plaza regularly for the past nine years, visited Linny in the hospital on Thursday and said his health is failing.
“I had to go up there today and just say goodbye to him and make sure he knew people were thinking about him,’’ Villa told TODAY.com. “I was also there when this happened to (late TODAY fan) Manny, and I hoped to never have to do this again.”
A military veteran and New York City native, Linny would usually wake up at 3:30 a.m. every weekday at his home in the Bronx to get ready to arrive on the plaza by 5:30 a.m., rain or shine, to grab a spot. He'd then chat with other fans and read the paper until the show started.
“It’s something to do every morning that makes my day,’’ he told TODAY.com in 2012. “It’s something I enjoy doing. It’s not like a job.” On the plaza for TODAY's 60th anniversary in January 2012, he told TODAY.com that he had barely missed a morning there over a period of two decades.
The anchors interacted with him regularly and got used to seeing him every day.
“He’s as much a part of our family as any cast member, and has been for a long time,’’ Matt Lauer told TODAY.com on Thursday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him.”
Linny had a previous health scare earlier this year before returning to the plaza in March, saying he was feeling much better after getting a warm welcome back from the TODAY anchors.
He was born in Jamaica, grew up in London and then moved to New York 50 years ago. He served in the military in Vietnam, Korea and Europe. It was while in Europe that he began watching TODAY, which aired at 4 p.m. via satellite, and he told himself he had to see it in person.
Linny became known for his signature point at the camera and his stylish hats that often matched his outfits. He owns more than 200 hats.
“My father always reminded me, ‘You’ve got to put on a hat, it doesn’t matter how nice they look or what the weather is, always put on a hat,’’’ he told TODAY.com last year.
During the portion of the show where the TODAY anchors venture outside to the plaza, Linny is usually the first one they greet.
“It’s sort of like the family I’ve not had before,’’ he said.