Willie Geist, today named 9 a.m. co-host of NBC’s “Today,” harbors only one fear about his new gig – he might have to wear a dress.
“I have a feeling I’m going to be a woman on the Halloween show,” he says in his trademark understated style. “I’m afraid it might be some kind of initiation, like paddling. I’ve never been a woman before, at least not professionally.”
Geist, a regular on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” since 2007, doesn’t officially begin until Nov. 12, but don’t be surprised to see him cross-dressed on “Today” on Oct. 31. Co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, a good pal, was Prince Charles on last year’s show.
The peripatetic Geist will remain a co-host on “Morning Joe” during the 6 a.m. hour, but will have to give up his 5:30 a.m. baby, “Way Too Early with Willie Geist,” which he created in 2009. It will live on under a new host.
“I don’t feel great about losing my show, but there was no way to keep doing it,” Geist, 37, says. “I couldn’t give it the time and attention it needs. It’s important to me that it live on. I started it as a lark. It’s amazing how many actual responsible human beings are watching at that hour – movers and shakers of the world.”
Geist will continue as a backup for Matt Lauer, co-anchor of ‘Today’s’ 7 to 9 a.m. hours since 1996. Conventional wisdom says Geist is being groomed to succeed him, but that’s not how Geist sees it.
“If I’m being groomed to replace Matt, I haven’t been told,” says Geist, who signed a new multi-year contract. (His previous deal expired at the end of September.) “There’s not even the implication of