Good Morning America’s pop-up broadcast from Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway Thursday morning was accompanied by the popping up of umbrellas, as a crowd of more than 700 turned out to stand for three hours in a drenching rain at Eakins Oval to see the ABC morning show.
No one at GMA can say Ginger Zee didn’t warn them.
ABC’s chief meteorologist came prepared for the deluge, with a securely sprayed updo, a bright printed raincoat, and boots. “Hair down wasn’t an option,” she said. “The nice part is that I’ve got a radar that I can read and tell me that,” she said.
So, did anyone come to her before scheduling Thursday’s open-air broadcast?
“Oh, yeah,” she said with a laugh. “Everyone kept saying, ‘I want an optimistic forecast.’ I said, ‘No, you don’t. You need reality. It’s gonna rain.’ .”
If you caught the show on television, the way nature intended, rest assured that you probably had a better view than most of the in-person audience. Those in the back, facing a sea of umbrellas at the front, eventually organized a chain to ferry ponchos to people who were blocking their views.
And, OK, there might have been some less-than-subtle pressure applied to get some holdouts to close their umbrellas. But by the end, most were down and it was only GMA’s own camera operators who might have stood in the way of someone’s perfect view of Robin Roberts, George Stephanopoulos, or Michael Strahan.
Or, of course, Gritty, who somehow squeezed into a poncho for his appearance with the Phillie Phanatic and the rest of Philadelphia’s sports mascots.
Philadelphia — we get things done. And we don’t complain (much) about rain.
Those who stayed home, of course, missed their chance for a selfie with Roberts or Strahan, who waded in to the crowd during commercial breaks.
Strahan’s clearly well-practiced selfie move had him in and out of each photo-op in seconds.
Not everyone was there just for the selfies or even just to see Philly’s own Patti LaBelle perform.
“It was raining when I left home at 4 o’clock this morning,” said Sharon McGrier, of Willingboro. McGrier and her daughter, Monique Head, were wearing T-shirts under their clear ponchos that she’d designed for her fledgling cancer charity, the Kingdom Cancer Awareness Foundation, which she started, she said, after losing family members to the disease.
Janelle Harper, a community school coordinator in the Mayor’s Office of Education, had come out to see a colleague, Charles Reyes, get an early Father’s Day surprise.
Reyes, a community school coordinator at Murrell Dobbins Technical High School, was doing charity work when GMA’s T.J. Holmes showed up to escort him, blindfolded, in a stretch limousine, to the show. There, as his family looked on, the Dobbins graduate was honored for his work with students, which ranged from giving away fresh produce to students to helping to find a home for a student who’d lost hers.
Mayor Jim Kenney then came on to congratulate Reyes, who received a family trip to Aruba, courtesy of Holiday Inn.
Roberts, whose jeans by the show’s end looked as if she really had been wading, spoke afterward about how the first of a planned series of pop-up broadcasts around the country had gone.
“I don’t see how it could get better,” she said. “It could get better weather-wise, but as far as the story, highlighting Charles Reyes ... and being able to send his family on vacation, and people were having a great time, and [there was a performance by the] legendary Patti LaBelle."
Plus, she noted, Stephanopoulos had had more of his interview with President Donald Trump, in which the president said, among other things, that he thought he’d want to hear information about rival candidates from foreign sources.
“This has been an interesting 48 hours. He couldn’t come to the [Phillies] game last night because he was interviewing the president,” she said.
A Phillies fan from Day 1?
Roberts, who’d mentioned the Phillies during the show more than once, said she thinks her father “secretly” named her after Robin Roberts, the late Phillies pitcher who famously led the team known as the “Whiz Kids” to a National League pennant in 1950.
“I’m the youngest of four and my three older siblings are all named after a grandparent,” and when she was born, they demanded to name her, and chose Robin. Her father, a big baseball fan, said, “OK, that works!”
(It certainly works as a story to tell in Philadelphia.)
Roberts has been to the city “lots of times,” and said she likes it for the people, and the culture. “It’s not just the history, but the culture as well. I love walking around in the city. It’s its own. You know, it’s not Boston, it’s not New York, it has its own flavor. But it’s the people more than anything that draws me here.”
The former sportscaster said “it was really fun walking around with Michael Strahan in Philadelphia. They were giving [the former New York Giant] a hard time. And you know what? He loved it.”
She’d also gotten to run around Philly in the sunshine for a pretaped piece — set, naturally, to the theme from Rocky.
Back to Thursday’s weather: “I spent time out with the audience, and they were not complaining,” Roberts said. “I was so shocked when we pulled up at 6 a.m. in pouring rain, and there’s this big line.”
Though the two stages were covered, it was wet enough where “I had to take my contacts out. I couldn’t see because it was foggy. I had my glasses on. And then it was just like, you just go with it,” she said.
“But I’ll tell you what: A rainy day in the field beats a sunny day in the studio, any day of the week.”