Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade NYPD Keeps Crowds Moving During Pre-Tape

The NYPD is doing its best to stop the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade from becoming a super spreader event -- cops are posting up around the parade route to make sure large crowds don't form.

The turkey day tradition is now a shortened parade stretched over 3 days, and with pre-taping going on Tuesday and Wednesday, police are busy standing guard for trouble and herding folks along.

As you can see, there's a ton of barricades set up on the blocked-off side streets around Macy's flagship store, where most of the pre-taping is going on ... and cops are holding the perimeter.

Police are making their presence known, but a high-ranking NYPD official tells TMZ the police detail for the parade has been slashed by 80 percent from last year, which is a huge cut. The reduction in force, we're told, is because the parade is much smaller.

We're told NYPD is not expecting any large crowds or any trouble, believing most people will be smart and shy away from gathering to watch pre-tapings ... but if people do come to watch, cops will educate them about crowd dangers in a pandemic and move them along.

So far, things seem to be running smoothly as Macy's tackles a new-look parade, which is essentially only the final section of the usual 2.5-mile route.

Honchos at Macy's tell us there haven't been any issues pre-taping floats, balloons, Santa Claus and performers on the side streets around the flagship department store ... thanks in part to the secure perimeters. Organizers didn't telegraph where they were filming, which also helped prevent crowds from forming.

Macy's says Thanksgiving Day will see a live show outside the flagship store anchored by Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Hoda Kotb during a shortened parade ... and we're told there will be a larger police presence.

Bottom line ... Macy's is hoping folks stay home because of the pandemic, but there are cops standing by to handle any issues that crop up.

Hoda Kotb I'm Running for Al, He's 'Looking Good' After Cancer Diagnosis

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PRAYERS FOR AL
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Hoda Kotb says things are looking up for Al Roker in his battle with prostate cancer ... and she's got a message for fans who want to help out.

We got the "Today" host jogging through NYC Tuesday -- she says she's running for Al, BTW -- and asked for an update on his health. She'd just recently spoken to him, and was happy to report Al's in a great mood ahead of surgery this week to remove his prostate.

As you know ... Al revealed his cancer diagnosis on the air Friday, saying he learned about the diagnosis Sept. 30 and explaining why he's going to be taking time away from "Today" for surgery and recovery.

Hoda says Al feels things are "looking good" for him, but she had a message for all of his fans looking for a way to help.

It's great news Al's doing well, but we can't say as much for our photog. Watch the clip and one thing is obvious ... Hoda can teach our guy a thing or 2 about cardio.

Al Roker Reveals Prostate Cancer Diagnosis ... Surgery Set for Next Week

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Al Roker's sharing some scary personal medical news ... he's been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but he's taking aggressive steps to beat it.

The longtime "Today" host and meteorologist announced it Friday morning on the air, and said he's going to undergo surgery next week to have his prostate removed. Al said he learned about the diagnosis on September 30 but shared the news now to explain to viewers why he'll be taking off some time for the surgery and recovery.

Al called it a good-news-bad-news situation, saying, "Good news is we caught it early. Not great news is that it's a little aggressive, so I"m going to be taking some time off to take care of this."

Dr. Vincent Laudone will perform the procedure at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC, and said they decided removing the prostate was the better option over radiation.

66-year-old Roker says he hopes sharing the news will encourage Black men to get screened for a cancer that's very treatable if detected early. Al's been advocating for that since 2013, when he and co-anchor Craig Melvin got prostate exams live on "Today."

Matt Lauer Dating Life Getting a Yacht Better ... I'm Very 'Resilient'!!!

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DATE NIGHT
TMZ.com

Matt Lauer is enjoying himself as a newly-single bachelor ... wining and dining his date and taking her for a ride on his $1.4 million floating escape that screams resilience.

The fired "Today" show host pulled out all the stops this week while on a date with a mystery brunette in Orient, NY, a picturesque town at the end of the North Fork of Long Island.

Check out these videos and pics of Matt and his mystery woman as they dine at Duryea's Orient Point. They're awfully chatty as they pick at a shared vegetable platter.

Things went well for Matt ... after an hour at their table, the two left the fancy restaurant and boarded his yacht, named "Resilient."

As you know ... Matt was canned from NBC in Nov. 2017 in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him, and not long after his wife, Annette Roque, filed for divorce. He's now officially single.

Matt's on his best behavior here ... helping his date onto his expensive Hinckley T38 yacht before shoving off and taking the wheel as they head out into the beautiful blue waters for more summer fun. They even wore masks in public.

While Matt's date remains a mystery ... she bears a striking resemblance to Shamin Abas, his longtime friend who reportedly started dating him toward the end of last year. Abas, by the way, looks a lot like his ex-wife.

Hugh Downs Broadcast Legend Dead at 99

Hugh Downs -- a broadcasting legend with 60 years experience on "Today," "20/20" and 'The Tonight Show' -- has died.

Hugh died Wednesday at his home in Scottsdale, AZ ... according to his family, who released a statement Friday, saying his passing is not related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hugh was one of TV's most familiar faces during his incredibly long and successful run as a broadcaster ... he co-anchored NBC's "Today" show from 1962 to 1971 and is most remembered for his 21 years as Barbara Walters' co-host on ABC's "20/20."

Downs was also known for his signature sign-off during his time at "20/20" ... ending the nightly program with this gem, "We're in touch, so you be in touch."

Hugh was on the tube for so long, at one point he held the record for most hours spent in front of a TV camera with a whopping 15,188 ... a long-standing record eventually topped by Regis Philbin.

While Hugh officially retired from "20/20" way back in 1999, he lent his smooth voice to a number of TV specials and documentary films during the 2000s.

Hugh was born in Akron, Ohio and he got his broadcasting start on radio in Detroit and Chicago before moving to TV in 1949 as an announcer on a classic children's puppet show called, "Kukla, Fran and Ollie."

Downs also served as the announcer for one of the earliest versions of NBC's "Tonight Show," working alongside Jack Paar in the late 1950s and early '60s.

He even launched one of the most popular daytime shows in the 1960s, "Concentration," a memory-matching game he hosted for over a decade.

Downs worked for PBS too, for much of the 1990s he was the host of the network's "Live From Lincoln Center" broadcasts.

Hugh was 99.

RIP

Zamboni Goalie David Ayres Tryouts with Other NHL Teams? ... Not Interested!!!

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BACK TO THE ZAMBONI
TMZSports.com

Here he is ... David Ayres -- the Zamboni driver was called out of the stands to play goalie for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes team on Saturday ... and he's a rockstar!!!

The story is amazing ... the 42-year-old was sitting in the stands at the Maple Leafs vs. Carolina Hurricanes game in Toronto when both of the 'Canes top two goalies suffered injuries and couldn't play.

So, the 'Canes called for the emergency backup (there's one in the stands at every game who could play for either team if the situation deems necessary) ... and he strapped on the pads and got in the game!

Ayres was rusty at first, letting in 2 quick goals -- but he stepped up and blocked several shots to close out the game ... helping the 'Canes beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3.

Now, the guy is turning into a superstar in front of our very eyes ... he hit up the "Today" show on Monday morning and on the way out, was stopped by fans for pics!

Ayres told TMZ Sports ... the fan reaction has been amazing -- with a bunch of his old coaches reaching out to give him props!

We asked if he would be chasing an NHL contract now that teams now he's legit -- but Ayres told us he completely happy staying as the emergency backup in Toronto.

Guessing at the very least he'll get some minor league offers in the near future -- so stay tuned on that!

As for compensation, Ayres was reportedly paid $500 for his appearance and allowed to keep his game-worn jersey.

FRAME THAT THING, BRO!

Kim Kardashian West Rodney Reed Said 'Praise Jesus' When Execution Got Halted

FAMILY PLAYS A HUGE ROLE
NBC

Kim Kardashian West says an overwhelming sense of relief and hope filled the room when Rodney Reed learned his execution had been delayed ... and she could "feel his soul" as he got emotional about it -- she could feel it, because she was there.

Kim told Jenna Bush Hager on "Today" about visiting with the death row inmate last week as he was just days away from his scheduled execution for a 1996 murder conviction -- a crime she believes he did not commit.

She was sitting with Reed when he got word that the highest court in Texas has issued a stay of execution and remanded the case back to the trial court for further consideration, and Kim says it was extremely emotional ... Rodney let out a "Praise Jesus."

Kim was also asked about getting involved in the Reed case and how she came to the decision to tweet at Texas Governor Greg Abbott about it ... she says it's a strategic process, and she does her homework.

She adds that she's extremely proud of the bipartisan support for Rodney's cause, and explains why she turned her focus to prison reform in the first place. Hint -- it starts with her own family.

Kim also responds to the victim's family's belief that Reed is indeed guilty ... she says she's sympathetic, but still wants to make sure all the evidence is released.

As we've reported, Reed is on death row for the murder of Stacey Stites, a white woman he claims he had a consensual affair with. Reed was convicted of raping and killing Stites, but has maintained his innocence for over 20 years ... and new evidence has come to light suggesting another suspect -- Stites' fiance at the time.

Kathie Lee Gifford Sorry, Hoda ... I Don't Miss My 'Today' Job!!!

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NO THANK YOU
TMZ.com

Kathie Lee Gifford's definitely not wistful over her old gig at NBC ... but she's still got love for all her old friends there.

The famous TV host was leaving the NBC building in NYC Tuesday afternoon when we asked if she misses her morning news days with 'Today' as the cohost of the fourth hour, "Today with Kathie Lee and Hoda."

In a word ... nope!

Kathie tells us she misses the people, but not the work, and she's very happy doing what she's doing now ... so don't expect an NBC comeback.

It's interesting ... Kathie just made her return to her old stomping grounds this week for the first time since leaving the show in April, and told her pal, Hoda Kotb -- who now hosts the show with Jenna Bush Hager -- she's happier than ever.

As for why ... Gifford moved to Nashville, and she says the people and the culture there are just so much kinder, and the atmosphere is more joyful and fun.

Kathie's also expressed a desire to produce Christian movies, which she's been doing with the Hallmark Channel, and has a Christmas flick called "A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love" coming up.

Sounds like more than anything ... her new situation just suits her better than the Big Apple.

Matt Lauer Denies Rape Story 'Today' Crew Responds

8:57 AM PT -- "Today" anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb seemed to have Brooke's back Wednesday morning during their reporting of the story, somberly saying the allegations she made were "shocking and appalling" and that they fully support Brooke coming forward.

SHOCKED AND APPALLED
TODAY

Hoda went on to explain that this new revelation -- much like the initial wave of allegations against Matt -- was like opening a door on somebody you thought you knew, but realizing there's an ugly side to them. She notes that these aren't just allegations of an affair, but allegations of a crime ... and that news was a shocking bombshell to the "Today" crew.

Both of them said they were going to take time to process the claim, but made a point of saying they were disturbed nonetheless.

Matt Lauer is firing back against a bombshell claim of rape against him by an ex-NBC employee, saying all the sexual encounters they had were consensual and mutual.

The disgraced "Today" show outcast penned a letter Wednesday in response to a salacious claim made in Ronan Farrow's new book -- in which a woman named Brooke Nevils says Matt anally raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Nevils -- a former NBC producer -- claims she and Matt had several drinks together one night, and that on two separate occasions ... she went up to his hotel room. During that second visit, Nevils alleges Matt pounced on her, put her on the bed and penetrated her.

In the book, Ronan says Nevils told him she repeatedly said "no" during the alleged rape.

Matt says that account is "categorically false" though, going on to explain that the episode was completely wanted and reciprocated on both sides ... which carried over into what he describes as an "extramarital affair" back in New York.

In his letter, Matt writes ... "In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having, was in fact an assault. It is categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense."

Matt Lauer Erased from 'Today' In 25-Year History Montage

Matt Lauer did not have a single special moment on "Today" during his 20-year run as cohost of the show ... at least according to the producers of an anniversary montage.

NBC released a highlight video Thursday in honor of its morning program celebrating 25 years in the famed indoor/outdoor Studio 1A ... but Lauer's nowhere to be seen.

Check it out ... the 5 and half minute vid opens with Savannah Guthrie talking about the big move to 1A in 1994, and features clips and interviews with several other "Today" stars like Al Roker, Hoda Kotb, Lester Holt, Craig Melvin, Jenna Bush, Carson Daly and of course Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel.

The montage leaves out Lauer, though, who took over for Gumbel back in 1997 and remained there until November 2017 ... when he was fired by NBC for sexual misconduct.

11/29/17
THE ANNOUNCEMENT
NBC

As you know, Lauer's accused of sexually harassing multiple female NBC staffers during his time with the network, along with specific allegations of exposing himself, giving sex toys as gifts, and having a button under his desk to lock the door without getting up.

The scandal is still clearly on the minds of "Today" honchos who decided to keep him out of the "special" tribute. Interestingly, Ann Curry -- who had issues with Lauer and claims she told NBC brass he was a problem back in 2012 -- was also left out of the montage.

Colin Kaepernick's Lawyer Calls BS On Goodell ... You Think Mark Sanchez Is Better?!

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Colin Kaepernick's attorney just went off on NFL Commish Roger Goodell -- claiming his explanation that teams just don't think Colin can help them win is the biggest crock he's ever heard.

And, Kap's lawyer is using Mark Sanchez to make his point.

Mark Geragos appeared on "Today" Thursday and was asked about the comments Goodell made at his State of the NFL Address this week ... when Goodell said Kap's unemployment status is based on football, not politics.

"Anybody who believes that will believe that Mark Sanchez was a better choice," Geragos said ... noting several other QBs who are "well past their prime" were also signed this season.

Geragos also asked why NFL teams did NOT give Kap a workout in 2018 -- "Why didn't anybody ever bring him in and see where his skills were at? I think the whole thing is basically a ruse."

Geragos believes Goodell's statement will help Kap's collusion case against the NFL -- saying, "The collusion actually was the NFL kowtowing to [President Trump]."

He also says ... "There isn't anybody who's got a couple of neurons firing that wouldn't say this is collusive activity."

For the record, Mark Sanchez was signed by the Washington Redskisn at the end of the NFL season after starting QB Alex Smith went down with an injury.

When he played in 2018, Sanchez performed horribly -- completing 19 of 35 passes for only 138 yards, 0 TDs and 3 INTs.

MAGA Hat Student My Smirk Wasn't Really a Smirk ... Here's What It Meant

I FELT THREATENED
Today Show

The MAGA hat-wearing student who faced off with a Native American Vietnam-era vet says his smirk seen 'round the world wasn't out of smugness ... just peaceful defiance.

Covington Catholic High School junior Nick Sandmann appeared on "Today" Wednesday with Savannah Guthrie, who grilled him on a number of topics -- most importantly ... why didn't he just walk away, and what was up with that smirk on his face?

Sandmann says, in hindsight, he wishes he would've just walked when Nathan Phillips came up to him drumming. That said, he explains that, in the moment, he felt leaving or making any sudden movement would've escalated the situation.

On that smirk ... Sandmann says it was just him smiling with the message of, "[T]hat is the best you're going to get out of me, you won't get any further reaction of aggression and I'm going to stand here as long as you want to hit that drum in my face."

Sandmann further explained people who have come to judge him based on one expression they saw have jumped to harsh conclusions based on mere assumptions.

The full interview can be watched on the "Today" website.

Nick Sandmann No Apology for Nathan Phillips ... But I'd Like to Talk to Him

NO DISRESPECT INTENDED
TODAY

The MAGA hat-wearing high schooler who drew the ire of many for standing and smirking at Vietnam-era vet Nathan Phillips during a protest says he meant no disrespect ... but it doesn't seem like he's planning on saying sorry either.

Nick Sandmann is speaking in public for the first time since the incident went down in D.C. Friday, telling 'Today' show co-host Savannah Guthrie he feels he had every right to do what he did.

Sandmann also tells Guthrie, who asks him if he sees any fault in his actions, he respects Phillips and hopes he can talk to him ... and wishes he could have avoided the situation.

As you know, Sandmann and his classmates from Covington Catholic HS in Kentucky were seen on video surrounding Phillips -- a Native American participating in the Indigenous People's March -- laughing and chanting at him while he was singing and drumming.

Sandmann particularly stood out as he stood face-to-face with Phillips, steadfast with a smirk.

Many believe the vid shows the students harassing Phillips, but others came to the defense of Sandmann and the students later, claiming a longer video shows Phillips was the instigator of the confrontation. Sandmann backed this in a full written statement, claiming Phillips singled him out and he simply stood his ground.

Sandmann's full interview will air on Wednesday morning on "Today."

Megyn Kelly Ready For Jury Duty ... It's Been A While Since I've Had Time For This!!!

WHATCHA PACKIN'?
PC/MEGA

Megyn Kelly is keeping herself busy during her work furlough ... because she just reported for jury duty in New York, the first time in years she's had time to perform her civic duty.

The former NBC and Fox News host showed up Thursday morning at Manhattan Supreme Court, and she was ready for a long day ... Megyn was packing a couple newspapers, two crossword books, and an iPad with "Crazy Rich Asians" on deck.

We're guessing she's been hitting the gym in her downtime, too ... sounds like one heavy purse!

As you know ... Megyn hasn't been on the air since October, when she was ousted from NBC for her blackface remarks.

Megyn was in a joking mood even before she showed up to the courthouse. Of course, you can really take advantage of funemployment when you're raking in around $35 million.

Watch ... Megyn says she hasn't served on a jury in forever, and she drops another hint about when she might return to TV.

Kathie Lee Gifford My Replacement's All Up to Hoda ...

Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb can't seem to decide who has more word in choosing a replacement for KLG on the "Today" show ... but it's definitely one of them.

We got the NBC morning show anchors Wednesday in NYC, the day after Kathie announced she's leaving "Today" at the end of her 11th year. Our photog asked who's in line to fill Kathie's shoes, and she enthusiastically says, "Whoever Hoda wants, Hoda gets."

For her part, Hoda played it coy, saying ... "This is all about KLG." Kathie immediately refutes that, though, but Hoda insists it is. It's like an Abbot and Costello bit here, really.

Our camera guy throws out Jenna Bush Hager as a possibility -- who's said to be in the running -- but Hoda and Kathie are definitely playing this close to the vest.

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