We Are Sunshine

The Story Behind the ‘Today’ Story

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Smart Tan Executive Director Joseph Levy’s appearance Friday morning on NBC’s Today Show came about in about 18 hours of coordination involving many in the tanning market — a coordinated effort that gave the market a rare opportunity to tell its story.

Here’s how the whole story happened:

Beach Bum Tanning — a New York salon chain — was contacted last Thursday afternoon by NBC producers searching for a tanning bed and someone to participate as a model in a Today Show segment. Beach Bum owner James Oliver got the ball rolling, giving the market an opportunity to tell our story on live television.

“James contacted Joe Levy at 3 pm about the segment. Joe was on a flight for New York four hours later,” said Matt Russell, Smart Tan CEO. Oliver also coordinated the delivery of a Montego Bay tanning bed with the help of Susan Miller and Paul Manke from PC Tan in New Jersey. “It all came together so fast. James did an amazing job of coordinating all of this in just a matter of hours,” said Russell.



3:06 pm — Beach Bum Tanning’s James Oliver calls Levy, after Today contacted Beach Bum looking for a sunbed for a segment that would air the next morning. At first, Today is talking about taping a segment Thursday evening for use the next morning. Oliver gives Levy’s name to Today and contacts New Jersey-based PC Tan to arrange for a sunbed.

4:20 pm — Today producers contact Levy and discus having Levy fly out to do the segment live Friday morning. Today also asks us to provide a tanning model for the demonstration.

4:30 pm — Levy, Oliver, Smart Tan’s Matt Russell, Ashley Lynn’s Tanning founder Bart Bonn, Fabutan President Doug McNabb, Celsius Tannery President Roger Holmes and Midnight Sun’s Dan Van Dine discuss the Today proposal. It is agreed: The ability to lead off the interview by explaining how a sunbed works gives us the opportunity to frame the discussion. Points to be emphasized in the interview are discussed, and It is agreed that the tanning model should be male — and Beach Bum Tanning’s Fitzpatrick is chosen.

5:00 pm — Levy contact Today producers and shores up details. The piece is going to involve a 3-minute description of how tanning works, and then a sit-down discussion with Levy, Today host Ann Curry and NBC Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

7:30 pm — Levy boards a plane from Denver to New York.

11:30 pm — Levy lands in New York. He’s not in bed until 1:30, after checking emails (ironing his shirt) and going over last-minute details with Russell on what points we are going to emphasize: The plan was to compare sunbeds with natural sunlight, point out how sunlight is a key element to life on this planet, illustrate that our equipment is just like what dermatologists use but not as intense, show how exposure times are based on formulations from FDA and administered after a careful screening from a certified technician and ask for an opportunity for a further discussion.


5:00 am — Wake-up call. Levy, Oliver and Fitzpatrick meet at 6:00 am and discuss the plan for the morning.

6:30 am — The team arrives at Today for make-up (Levy had a tan — very little make-up was used) and a quick run through of the staging of the interview.

7:00 am — Today show begins. Comedian Stephen Colbert is one of Today’s first guests. A short promo before his interview is shot with Colbert lying fully-clothed in the unlit sunbed reading from his new book.

7:50 am — While in the green room at Today, producers inform us that the piece will be just 3 minutes now and will all take place near the sunbed. This change happens 19 minutes before the piece is set to begin. Levy texts Russell, “Segment instructions just changed again. I’m on it.”

8:09 am — Segment takes place live.

8:15 am — When the segment concluded, Snyderman high-fives Levy, laughs heartily, punches Levy in the shoulder and says “good job.” Today’s Curry seems pleased that the discussion was lively.

“I saw on a monitor that there was a Neutrogena SPF100 ad on before the segment began,” Levy said. “I’m sure everyone watching noticed that. I think Today and Snyderman have to bow to the Neutrogena gospel — they can’t just come right out and say that any tan can be helpful. But Snyderman was cordial — we’ll continue to show her that the science supports our position, show her examples of good tans and show her that melanoma is more common in indoor workers — which she didn’t seem to understand. I’m sure the people who supply her with her information didn’t get that at all.”

Levy was back home in Denver Friday night.