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Dressing for 'Today'

October 2003

When the producers of NBC's "Today" needed someone to create the costumes for Katie, Matt, Al and Ann for their Halloween show, they called on 1994 St. Ambrose graduate Brian Hemesath, who's been making a name for himself in New York as a costume designer. And once again, the show raked in the ratings. So what was the key to Hemesath's success?

Be flexible. The anchors cancelled several appointments when the D.C. area sniper story broke in early October. Yet, Hemesath says, "There were no prima donnas. Everyone was extremely friendly and enthusiastic."

Think outside the "box."

When Katie Couric chose popular kids' character SpongeBob SquarePants, the challenge was coming up with how to make the costume functional and comfortable. Hemesath hired former Muppet designer Bob Flanagan to create a foam costume for Couric. "We put part of SpongeBob's face on a pair of goggles Katie could remove so people could tell it was her."

Even if they haven't got it, let 'em flaunt it. Matt Lauer and Al Roker had their hearts set on being flamboyant Las Vegas entertainers Siegfried and Roy-pompadours, gold lamé and all. Hemesath got the "Saturday Night Live" wig department on board and found himself in the unique position of shopping leather pants for Roker.

Teamwork saves "Today."

The day of the Halloween show, eight people devoted themselves to costuming the anchors, who would finish a segment and come up one at a time. "We had a finite amount of time for them to get ready and get downstairs to reveal their costumes," Hemesath explains. Ann Curry's Statue of Liberty costume entailed the most lead time, since her face, arms and legs had to be made up in verdigris paint. Yet it all came off without a hitch. "A breeze blew just as Ann appeared, making for a very dramatic entrance."

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