From left, "Today" team members Savannah Guthrie, Jennifer Long, Matt Lauer, Hoda Kotbe and Al Roker. | Nate Congleton/"Today" show
April 30, 2017 02:23PM
Every now and again it becomes next to impossible to photograph an Easy Chair guest here in Westerly. While we could have waited until the next time Jennifer Long, this week’s guest, came home to visit her parents in Quonnie, we knew it would be a long wait, so we decided to be creative. When Long suggested she have her Easy Chair photo taken alongside the well-known people she works with every day — “Today” show hosts Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotbe, Matt Lauer and Al Roker — we thought it was a dandy idea.
BORN, RAISED & GREW UP IN: Born in Tarrytown, N.Y., raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with summers in Quonochontaug.
RIGHT NOW I’M IN THE MIDDLE OF: Brainstorming special summer series ideas for our show. The summer is always such a great time to hit the road with our anchors ... we have some great ideas so stay tuned!
FAVORITE WAY TO SPEND MY TIME: Saying “Yes” to everything and anything. If you ask me to try something new, I will always say yes. No matter if it’s a last-minute trip halfway around the world or learning to scuba dive or a Beyoncé dance class … I’ll do it!
PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Quitting my first job in the CBS Sales Department. Selling network ad time was a very lovely, comfortable job. But I wanted to be the one creating the content. The CBS News division wouldn’t hire me because I had no experience in TV news production. But I knew I could do it. So I quit by job at CBS, sold everything I owned, and moved to Hong Kong, where I heard CNBC Asia had just opened up. I had a hunch they would be looking for young, spirited English-speaking production assistants. I fudged my resume a bit to include some time working with Dan Rather (whom I had never met). I was hired on the spot. I knew I could do the job, just needed to get creative about obtaining it! I worked there for a year and then moved back to New York, where I was hired at Weekend Nightly News. And a year later the “Today” show came calling ... 19 years later … here I still am!
I’D LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR: Being a loyal friend and a hard worker.
TOP ON MY BUCKET LIST: I just got crossed Egypt off my list after a wonderful trip in January. Up next I would like to go to Iran, New Zealand and Peru.
ALWAYS IN MY POCKET: I hate carrying a purse so I generally only carry around a debit card, a lipstick and my phone in my pocket. Gets a little tricky with dresses.
WHAT I WANTED TO BE WHEN I GREW UP: An artist. I majored in art in college ... until one of my art professors asked me if I planned to make a living as an artist. When I said I did, she said, “You shouldn’t. You’re not good enough.” Rather than be offended, I took that advice to heart and realized ... I really was bad! I changed my major to writing, which I was actually good at. Turns out that insult changed my life.
PEOPLE WHO HAVE INFLUENCED ME THE MOST: First, my parents. They have been the most amazing guiding lights in my life. Their work ethic, humor and love of life have shaped who I am. Second, Matt Lauer. I have worked with Matt for 19 years and I have never seen him be unkind to anyone … ever. And we’ve been all over the world in tough circumstances like natural or national disasters. He treats everyone the same …with great respect. Plus he is the funniest person I know.
FAVORITE AUTHOR: Shel Silverstein ... always. But every summer I do buy the latest Elin Hilderbrand beach romance novel ... I can’t help myself.
I AM READING: I just finished “Lincoln in the Bardo,” by George Saunders, which was both creepy and amazing. It takes place in 1862 in a Washington cemetery the night after 12-year old Willie Lincoln’s death … legend has it Abraham Lincoln, in his grief, went to visit his body several times in the night. The story is told from the perspective of the ghosts and spirits who live in the cemetery, including the ghost of Willie Lincoln.
I AM LISTENING TO: Sufjan Stevens ... basically on constant replay.
LAST MOVIE WATCHED: “Manchester By the Sea” … I thought it was a masterful portrait of grief.
FAVORITE TV SHOW: Ummmmmmm ... The “Today” show, obviously!!
FAVORITE PET: I’m just gonna say it out loud — I am a huge cat person! Although I don’t have any myself ... I travel too much to take good care of a pet.
FAVORITE COMFORT FOOD: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, except I add twice the butter and half the milk!
AMOUNT OF TIME I SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA: Quite a bit ... especially Instagram. I follow a lot of travel Instagrammers for inspiration.
TRAIT I MOST ADMIRE: Cleverness.
PET PEEVE: Loud talkers on planes or trains ... especially on the Amtrak Quiet Car to Westerly!
FAVORITE QUOTATION: I am stealing this favorite quote from our anchor, Savannah Guthrie, as I know it’s hers as well: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” — Martin Luther King
MY FAVORITE THING ABOUT OUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD: I’ve been all over the world and I have NEVER seen a prettier sunset than on Quonochontaug Pond. If I am up in town, I race down to the pond about 10 minutes before sunset and watch as the sky turns purple and pink and golden.
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Reale’s Grocery turkey grinders and Mint Chocolate Crunch ice cream from St. Clair Annex.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT ABOUT ME: I do not like cinnamon ... or anything in the entire cinnamon family.
BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: I had a colleague years ago who shared a philosophy called the 70-30 rule. The rule was: 70 percent of your time you should do your own job ... and 30 percent of the time you should spend helping others do theirs (without expecting credit). When the show looks good, we all look good.
ADVICE I BEST LIKE TO GIVE: The same advice I gave to my nieces when they started kindergarten at Bradford Elementary School: be a friend to EVERYONE ... but if someone hits you, hit ’em back!
IF I RULED THE WORLD I WOULD: Ban adults on razor scooters. Make every car on Amtrak a Quiet Car.
IF I WON THE LOTTERY, THE FIRST THING I WOULD DO IS: Hire someone to blow-dry my thick unruly hair every day ... then obviously give the rest of the windfall to charity.
I DRIVE A: Nothing! I’m a New Yorker ... I take the subway.
I WISH I DROVE A: My college car: a 1991 maroon Dodge Shadow now in the car graveyard.
ALWAYS IN MY FRIDGE: Curdled quarts of milk dating back by at least two months.
IF I COULD INVITE ONE SPECIAL PERSON TO JOIN ME FOR DINNER AND CONVERSATION, I WOULD INVITE: My beloved grandmother Arlene passed away before I had my success at the “Today” show. I would love to fill her in on all my adventures.
— Interview arranged and edited by Nancy Burns-Fusaro