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Santa Monica Showcased on Today Show

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Melonie Magruder
Staff Writer

February 11, 2013 -- In a major publicity boon for the beachside city, the recently redeveloped Santa Monica Place will be the backdrop for the popular network morning talk show, the “Today Show,” this week.

Photos by Melonie Magruder

Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb – the amiable pair who anchor hour four of the “Today Show’s” broadcast – entertained locals and visitors at a show taping in the Central Plaza of the open-air mall this weekend.

Under warm, azure skies, the chatty ladies of the “Today Show” amused capacity crowds gathered to watch the taping and take part in segments that highlighted Santa Monica Place retailers’ best Valentine Day’s gift suggestions, from lingerie to Sonoma Wine Garden’s more robust offerings.

Civic leaders were clearly enthusiastic about the heightened profile the show’s taping would bring the city.

“With more than four million viewers, it’s exciting to see Santa Monica in the national spotlight, and it’s fun to share our wonderful destination," said Misti Kerns, president and CEO of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Santa Monica Place and the visitor’s bureau “worked closely with producers to ensure that individual Santa Monica businesses representing a broad variety of our Business Improvement Districts were included in the pre-taped segments,” Kerns said.

Debbie Lee, vice president of Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM) said, “Hosting the ‘Today Show’ at Santa Monica Place is a fantastic way for America to get a glimpse of our great Downtown. It's this type of positive national media exposure that will keep our brand relevant and strong.”

With a massive snowstorm dumping two feet of snow in Manhattan (where the show is usually taped), and with rain in Santa Monica, Macerich Marketing Manager Nicole Flynn was blessed with fair weather just in time to roll out the red carpet in Santa Monica this weekend.

“The stars really aligned for us weather-wise,” Flynn said. “Kathie Lee and Hoda are the perfect demographic for people who shop at Santa Monica Place. And for visitors who want to see some celebrities, this is the place to be.”

Celebrity-viewing on Saturday also included players from L.A. Galaxy, the local professional soccer team, who coached the high-heel clad duo into trying their luck at scoring some goals (Kathie Lee scored first). Sunday’s taping included segments featuring celebrity chefs like Richard Sandoval of La Sandia and Zengo.

Visitors enjoying the taping had the chance to participate in such segments as “How Much Do You Know About Los Angeles?” “What was selling on the beaches of Santa Monica in the 1930s?” (answer: Frisbees). Even participants who had wrong answers got a copy of Kathie Lee’s and Hoda’s recent CD and book. But one lucky participant got a bigger surprise – a Toyota Rav4 that rolled into the Central Plaza to wild cheers.

“Everyone at Santa Monica Place has been so amazing and helpful,” “Today Show” Senior Producer Tammy Filler said. “We taped spots around L.A. like the La Brea Tar Pits, but the crowds and crew here have been wonderful.”

The talk show hostesses themselves worked the crowd as the likeable pros they are. In sleeveless sundresses, bare legs and masterful heels, they riffed with the crowd on L.A.’s peculiar characteristics, like the traffic.

“What are some things you can do to pass the time when you’re stuck in traffic,” Kathie Lee asked. “How about make up a sign saying ‘Honk if you have to pee?’”

It was a well-received suggestion.

One segment featured some of the newer gift items available from Santa Monica Place retailers, such as a solar charger for your mobile phone, or a Dry Case to keep your electronic gear safe from moisture. Kathie Lee and Hoda sipped from bottles with their own water filters and tried their hand – fairly unsuccessfully – at a ring tossing game.

Sara Haines -- who hosts the popular segment “What the What?!” where viewers send in funny, strange and bizarre photos -- said narrowing down submissions to share on public airwaves is sometimes a challenge.

“The thing is, we end up getting photos and videos that go viral,” Haines said. “But that’s the best way to engage this newer generation of viewers. We use Twitter and Pinterest to our favor. All the content comes from our viewers, and that keeps us relevant and on our toes.”

Haines said that dogs and babies are usually winners, but that “funny always works.”

When asked if the recent New York City weather might convince them to consider a “Today Show – West” version, Kathie Lee laughed.

“I’d do it in a minute,” she said. “My husband (pro football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford) was born here in Santa Monica, and we lived here 10 years. It would just be like coming home.”

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