The Time I Did NBC Anchorman Tom Brokaw's Makeup


Yes, it's true...I really did do Tom Brokaw's makeup, back in October of 1998.

"Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye!"

I was living in Orlando, Florida at the time and working as a freelance makeup artist.

I mostly did weddings and photo shoots, but would occasionally do film and video work.

Magically one day, a makeup artist friend of mine called and asked if I would be interested in taking her place on a job she could no longer commit to because of a family emergency. It was a 2-day television gig out at Cape Canaveral that would be broadcasting John Glenn's returned to space on the Space Shuttle Discovery. He was 77 at that time.

And after she told me what they would be paying for my services, I quickly said, “Sure!...Yes!...Yes!...Yes!”

She informed me that I would be working for NBC, and most likely doing the hair and makeup for anchorman, Tom Brokaw.

(Kate Couric and Matt Lauer were also scheduled to be there)

Now to be honest, I had never worked on a celebrity before so I was extremely nervous.

But a few days later, I drove out to the Cape with all my hair and makeup gear in the hatchback of my Hyundai. I also brought along a few books and some snacks, because so much of the work you do in video and film involves waiting tedious hours between setups.

Once I got to the Space Center, I was given a security pass and then shown where I could set up my makeup chair and supplies. I arrived around noon, even though I knew the first broadcast wouldn’t be aired until 6 o’clock that evening. I'm very much like a Boy Scout, I am hyper-conscious about being on time and overly-prepared whenever I work.

So, after I set up all my supplies, I pretty much sat and sat, and read and read, and snacked and snacked, until finally one of the television crew members walked in and told me that Tom Brokaw had arrived, and was ready for me.

I grabbed my makeup case and was escorted to the roof of the NBC building.

I’ll never forget this moment for as long as I live because it felt so surreal.

As we got to the rooftop, I saw Mr. Brokaw sitting in a chair working on his laptop. The crew member pointed, and said to me, “Well, there he is…just go over and introduce yourself to him.”

OMG…I thought I was going to poop, faint, and then crack my head on the cement floor.

As I walked over to him, it felt as if everything was happening in slow motion.

When I got directly in front of him, I extended my hand and said, “Hi Mr. Brokaw, I’m Ron Carnavil and I’ll be doing your hair and makeup.”

He quickly looked up at me and said (with that distinct voice. yeah, you know the voice I'm talking about. that "tom brokaw" voice), “Hi Ron…you’ll have to work around me because I’m busy preparing, okay?”

I responded, “Sure…not a problem.”

So I took out my makeup and hair supplies, and began preparing him for the camera.

And need I tell you how much my hands were shaking? But I was proud of myself because I did so without dropping anything on the floor.

After I was done he said, "Thank you", and then walked to the set. He didn't even glance at himself in a mirror to see how he looked. I got the feeling that he was not at all self-conscious or concerned about his appearance.

Once the broadcast began, my job was to stand off-camera and watch Mr. Brokaw closely; making sure he looked perfect. And during the commercial breaks, I would run in front of the cameras and powder his face and re-comb his hair. I had been warned by one of the NBC producers that Mr. Brokaw had an annoying habit of running his fingers though his hair after a stylist would get it combed. And she was right. I spent the better part of those two days combing and spraying, and then re-combing and re-spraying his hair.

The second day was rather intense because the camera crew was constantly moving; shooting live footage in various locations (both indoors and out). So there I was, running behind everyone, trying to squeeze myself into where I needed to be, and then getting the hell out of the way of the cameras before they called, "in three...two...one...LIVE!"

It was on the second day that Katie Couric and Matt Lauer arrived, so I got to meet them as well.

It was extremely windy that day, therefore, Mr. Brokaw's hair was flying all over the place. And just as I got it all plastered down, he would run his hands through it, so I would quickly have to run behind him with a a comb and a can of hair spray.

And it’s funny because during those entire two days of working with him, he never actually spoke to me. Yet, I could sense that it wasn’t because he was being rude or uppity in any way, but rather that he had a million things on his mind and was focusing on those things. His demeanor was strictly business-like. He was there to do his job, and I was there to do my job. And, honestly, I was totally okay with that.

However, when he was getting ready to leave at the end of the second day, he did make a point of walking up to me and shaking my hand, saying, “Thank you for your help, Ron”

Which I really appreciated.

Many years later, whilst walking into a Barnes & Noble bookstore, I just so happened to spot Tom Brokaw's latest book sitting on a shelf.

I smiled as I picked up the book, and thought, "I remember when I did that man's makeup for NBC!"

And as I closed my eyes, I recalled how fabulous he looked on-camera after I did his makeup and combed his hair 500,000 times within those two days.

In fact, I don't ever recall him looking any better...


Is it any wonder that he thanked me?


Have a delightful weekend, everyone!
X

24 comments

  1. Valerie DaggattJuly 27, 2019

    Oh I loved reading this, Ron. I didn't realise the make-up was so professional. Actually, I thought they did their own...... ha ha - joking.
    It was an unforgettable experience for you and I am glad you told us about it.

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  2. Lol, he looks lovely, Ron! What a great memory. I always picture people getting their makeup done in front of a mirror, but I suppose not on location. I have to say, I'm not sure I could go on TV without looking in the mirror . . . Now, that's trust! He must have known they would only hire the best for him! Thanks for sharing such a special few days.

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  3. Ron, I can truly relate to your arriving early, then having to cool your heels until the newsman arrived! I'm like that, too. Better to be early than late though.


    HeeHee, he looks real cute in all that blush and pink lipstick!


    What a great experience -- one professional working on another! We newspaper reporters never had the benefit of makeup artists and hair stylists (we weren't going on camera, of course), but I find it fascinating to see your behind-the-scenes memories of this moment in time. I hope the pay was good because you sure didn't get much time to evaluate whether you wanted the job (or to shuffle your previous appointments!)


    Great post, my friend. You've got some wonderful memories, and I'm glad you're sharing them with us! xo

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  4. Hey there Valerie!

    A few days ago I recalled this experience, so I decided to share it. It was back 1998, yet it seems like it was only yesterday.

    Most news stations here in the US (and I'm referring to the BIG ones, like NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX) have their own makeup and hair staff in the studio to assist the anchormen and anchorwomen if they so desire. Yet, when they go out on the road, as they did when they came to Cape Canaveral, they usually hire outside people (like myself) to assist the anchormen and anchorwomen.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a great weekend! And you take care!

    X to you and Charlie

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  5. HA! Yes, have you ever seen Tom look better?

    I was very lucky to get that job because they don't come along that easily. I thanked my friend VERY MUCH for passing that job onto me because the money was GREAT and so was the experience!

    "I always picture people getting their makeup done in front of a mirror, but I suppose not on location. I have to say, I'm not sure I could go on TV without looking in the mirror . . . "

    Yes, you're absolutely correct, on location it's a totally different thing. However, I do carry hand mirrors in my makeup kit so that when I'm on location, whoever I'm doing makeup/hair on can take a look before they go in front of the camera. Yet, Tom Brokaw didn't care to do so. I think he's been doing this for so long that he just trusts who's doing his makeup and hair.

    However, I will say that Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were very different; especially Matt. He primped in the mirror CONSTANTLY to see what he looked like. I got the feeling that he was VERY vain. LOL! And it 1998, he was just starting his career so he was very self-conscious.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a faaaaaabulous weekend!
    X

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  6. "Ron, I can truly relate to your arriving early, then having to cool your heels until the newsman arrived! I'm like that, too. Better to be early than late though."

    Ha! Debbie, it is so funny that you mentioned that because when I was putting this post together and shared about how particular I am when it comes to my work, I KNEW you would identify because in knowing you all these years, I know how you are very much the same way. I agree, better to be early than late though!

    "HeeHee, he looks real cute in all that blush and pink lipstick!"

    OMG...I had SO MUCH fun editing that photograph of Tom! Doesn't he look prrrreeetty?

    Yes, it's funny because I suddenly remembered that experience and thought I'd share it. Looking back, it was very cool experience. I was very lucky to have gotten that job. And I thanked my friend A LOT for passing it onto me.

    Thanks a bunch for stopping by, my friend. Have a fantastic weekend! It hasn't been as hot and humid here lately, so I've been spending a lot of time outdoors enjoying it.

    X

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  7. Ron, that is so COOL! How fortunate you were to have met and worked on Tom Brokaw, he's a legend! I ROFLMAO when I saw the last picture of Tom. Hilarious!

    I'm curious though, did you get to work on Matt Lauer or Katie Couric? We they nice/ Friendly?

    Thanks for sharing your experience, dude!

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  8. Ron, no can tell a story like you! What a great experience you had! This is like one of those things that happens that you never think will happen, but it does. Wow...Tom Brokaw's makeup?!? OMG, I laughed my ass off at the final picture, and the way you described how you had to run around like a crazy person trying to do your thing. Had you ever done anything like this (a news show) before? I bet it's different in that it's probably very hectic no matter how much you prepare because being live, anything could happen.

    I'm dying to know what Katie Couric was like. I remember when she first went on the air, I thought she was so cute. I was much younger at the time, so to me she seemed like a big deal.

    Nice to hear that Tom made a point of saying thank you to you.

    Wonderful story, Ron! Thanks for sharing it!

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  9. What a fantastic post, Ron!!! I could actually picture everything that was happening as you described it. Doing the makeup and hair for a big TV personality is something I'd NEVER be able to handle. I'd be far too nervous. Fortunately he was dignified and behaved professionally - - well, all except for running his fingers through his hair....


    I remember when Brokaw was a news anchor for NBC (channel 4) back in Los Angeles. I can't recall how long he was in L.A. but I was only about 13 when he started.


    That final photo on your post REALLY made me laugh, and - trust me - I desperately needed a laugh today.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing this great story.

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  10. HA! I couldn't resist editing that final photo of Tom. Doesn't he look so dang purrrty? LOL!

    No, I didn't get to work on Matt Lauer or Katie Couric, someone else did. However, I got to observe them and see how they interacted with people. They were a bit more standoffish and overly concerned with their appearance (particularly Matt). Of course, they were both fairly new to being anchors, so I think they felt they had more to prove than Tom.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, bud. Hope you're having a FAB weekend!
    X

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  11. Hola Denise!

    You're right, this is one of those experiences that happens that you NEVER think WOULD happen, but then it does. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to take over for my makeup artist friend. I was very grateful that she thought of me.

    " Had you ever done anything like this (a news show) before?"

    No, I hadn't. I had done still photography shoots, video shoots, and one television pilot show, but never NEWS. And yes, it is very different because it's live, so you have to be on your toes to adjust for things that happen unexpectedly. It was an intense experience, but it was also exhilaration and satisfying.

    Katie was nice, but distant. She was a new anchor at that time, so I felt like she was trying to prove herself. She was much more concerned about her appearance than Tom. So was Matt. He constantly looked at himself in the mirror.

    I genuinely liked Tom Brokaw. Like I said, he was very business-like, but not at all uppity or a "celebrity."

    Thank so much for stopping by, girl. Hope you're enjoying a fantastic weekend!
    X

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  12. What a great story! And the photo-shopped bit at the end made me laugh out loud. I can only imagine how nervous you must have been.

    I miss Tom Brokaw. Of course, I still miss Walter Cronkite, too!

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  13. Tee-hee! I just couldn't resist edited that final photograph of Mr. Brokaw! I edited about four times because I kept adding more blush and lipstick. He ended up looking like a really BAD drag queen!

    OMG, yes, Walter Cronkite! Such and ICON! And he's another one who such a distinct speaking voice that was PERFECT for the news. You didn't have to see him to know it was his voice you were hearing. I was so happy to hear that back in 2014, Tom Brokaw's cancer was is in full remission and he's currently doing very well.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Hope you're weekend was fantastic!

    X

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  14. Aw...thank you, Jon :) A few days ago, I suddenly remember about my experience with Tom Brokaw, so I decided to share it. In one way it seems like it was a million years ago, but in another way I remember it like it happened yesterday.

    Yes, even though it wasn't overly talkative or demonstrative, he was dignified and a total professional.

    "I remember when Brokaw was a news anchor for NBC (channel 4) back in Los Angeles. I can't recall how long he was in L.A. but I was only about 13 when he started."

    Thank you for sharing that because I never knew he was an anchor in LA. I always associated him with NY. It's funny, as a kid, I can still remember hearing his voice on the Nightly News on the TV in the den of our home. His voice (and also Walter Cronkite) were such American traditions!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend! Hope your weekend was okay and that you're doing well. Glad you had a laugh :)

    X

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  15. Haha! What a great post, Ron. I had no idea you met Tom Brokaw. Talk about a fantastic story - I'm surprised it's taken you this long to share it with us!

    I don't know which would be worse: pooping first and then fainting, or vice-versa. At least if you fainted first, you'd be spared the embarrassment of pooping in public. Err...until you woke up, that is...

    Have a great week!

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  16. "I don't know which would be worse: pooping first and then fainting, or vice-versa. At least if you fainted first, you'd be spared the embarrassment of pooping in public. Err...until you woke up, that is..."

    Bwhahahahahahaha! OMG Mark, that cracked the hell up because you're so right!!!

    I don't know why I never shared this story before. I recalled my meeting him while on You Tube one night and watched an old interview with him after he was first diagnosed with cancer. That was back in 2012. Blessedly, he's a live and doing well.

    Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a faaabulous week!

    X to you and Tara

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  17. http://ladyfi.wordpress.comJuly 30, 2019

    LOL! Loved your story and that last shot! Ha ha.

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  18. HA! I just couldn't resist. Doesn't Tom look so purrrty?

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend! Hope you're having a spectacular week!

    X

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  19. Ron, when I got to that ending photograph, I laughed so hard. You are hysterical! I am so impressed that you actually met and did Tom Brokaws makeup!!! He is such an icon in the broadcasting world. And I know what you mean about that "tom brokaw voice" because it's so recognizable. You could have your eyes closed and hear that voice and immediately know who it was.

    Cate Couric and Matt Lauer too? I never cared for Matt Lauer but I do like Katie Couric. I used to watch her show "Katie" when it was on, but it didn't last long.

    Great story, Ron! You have led such a diverse and interesting life.

    Stay cool! It's going to be another HOT week! X

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  20. Hey there Elaine!

    I was lucky to have found TWO of the same photographs of Tom that were slightly different, but from the same moment because I was able to edited the last one because his face expression adds so much to the makeup!

    Whenever I hear his voice, I immediate think of my childhood because he (and Walter Cronkite) were the STAR anchormen of that time. Both of them had such a unique voice.

    Me neither, never cared for Matt Lauer. I didn't do his makeup and hair for the broadcast, but I could tell he was a bit of a DIVA.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, neighbor! Hope you're having a grrrreat week! OMG...the heat is so freaking horrendous, isn't it? Just think, in about 6 more weeks, FALL will start moving in. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

    X

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  21. Rob LenihanJuly 31, 2019

    Wow, Ron, what a terrific story! Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    As a newspaper reporter, I never had to worry about my looks. I just got my story and raced back to the newsroom to write it.

    But it's a different world on TV where looks are (almost) everything, so I can see the vital role you played. I'm glad that he thanked you for your efforts because you made him look so good!

    And how exciting to be at Cape Canaveral when John Glenn landed. You were witnessed some serious history, my friend!

    Great post, buddy! In fact I was so impressed with your work on Tom, I'm going to let you work on me!

    Take care!

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  22. Thanks, Rob! Yes, you're right, as a newspaper reporter it's completely different in that you're not on-camera, so the whole makeup and hair thing doesn't matter.

    "And how exciting to be at Cape Canaveral when John Glenn landed. You were witnessed some serious history, my friend!"

    OMG...to actually witness the shuttle taking off was AMAZING! You could actually FEEL the earth shaking as it lifted off. It was the coolest thing!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. And if you ever need a makeup man, let me know because I'll try to make you look as good as Tom LOL!

    Have a great weekend!
    X

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  23. LOL! Great job....with PhotoShop! What an amazing and wonderful experience. I've always liked Tom Brokaw as a news anchor. He always seemed very professional and didn't get sucked into media hype. But, I could be wrong. I hope he was gracious to you. 1998 seems like a lifetime ago! Hope all is well in your world. I'm a bit behind on my blogging and visits.

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  24. HA! I couldn't resist a bit of PhotoShop on Tom!

    " I've always liked Tom Brokaw as a news anchor. He always seemed very professional and didn't get sucked into media hype. But, I could be wrong."

    No, you're not wrong. In fact, you're spot on because even though I only spent two days with him, I could tell knew what was important and what was not. He didn't at all have a "celebrity" attitude. He was simply professional and to the point.

    I know....doesn't 1998 seem a lifetime ago?!? And in a way...is was LOL!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Hope you're enjoying a FAB August. Gosh, can you believe summer will be over in about 5 more weeks and Fall will be moving in?

    Yahooooooooooooooo! I am so ready for cooler weather.

    X

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