Five weeks after their chic Hamptons wedding in 1998, former model Annette Roque kicked up such a fuss on hearing that Matt Lauer was heading to Florida to cover a space shuttle launch for the “Today” show that NBC staffers had to scramble to get her a set of last-minute press credentials so her husband would never be out of her sight.
“Friends of Lauer’s are stunned that the down-to-earth newsman is suddenly catering to such indulgent whims,” Page Six reported at the time. “Offers one insider: ‘He’s whipped.’”
But in hindsight, Roque, now 52, simply may have been trying to rein in her new husband’s wandering eye — a problem that, two decades later, would cost him his job.
Roque, perhaps the most overlooked victim in the sordid Matt Lauer scandal, is now reportedly hiding from the press in the Hamptons, as many wonder if she’ll finally free herself from a disastrous marriage that had been an open secret in media circles for years.
Lauer, 59, was fired as the long-term host of “Today” on Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after an NBC employee brought accusations of sexual harassment to company officials. As many as seven other women have since come forward with similar accusations. A Variety story claimed that the TV anchor “had a button under his desk that allowed him to lock his door from the inside without getting up,” so he could “initiate inappropriate contact” without fearing that someone might walk in.
Meanwhile, Lauer’s reclusive wife has kept quiet. For the last decade, the waifish mother-of-three and her husband have led separate lives, with Roque sticking to the couple’s properties in ritzy Sag Harbor, Long Island, while Lauer remains in their Park Avenue apartment during the week, insiders said.
“If she goes out to dinner, it’s always with Matt and one other couple,” a source in the restaurant world told The Post. “I’ve seen her in Manhattan only once or twice, and she’s painfully frail.”
For years, while Lauer spent his days hosting one of America’s most popular morning shows, Roque has honed her equestrian skills at the boutique 40-acre horse farm that the couple constructed near their home.
“When I see her, she’s always in riding clothes,” said one local.
It’s a far cry from the couple’s high-profile start, when the two were toasted by a glittering power crowd at a 1998 wedding that, People magazine claimed, “put a serious dent in the fantasy lives of multitudes of early-rising American women.”
She was a Victoria’s Secret and J. Crew model with an exotic background — part-Indonesian, part-Dutch. He was the highly eligible, nationally famous newsman whose romantic exploits had been tabloid fodder ever since his last marriage ended in divorce in 1988. But even though he was a playboy, he was a prude, colleagues said.
“He was incredibly worried about his image” and balked at covering risqué stories, said an insider who worked with Lauer at New York’s WOR-TV in the early 1990s.
“I had to do an hour-and-a-half on women who fake orgasm,” Lauer complained of his previous job in a 1997 interview, shortly after he started hosting “Today.”
“Do I look like the kind of guy who’d be comfortable doing that for half a minute, much less an hour and a half? That’s how low it got. I couldn’t wait to get off that program.”
Still, NBC brass feared that Lauer’s playboy ways could hurt his reputation with “Today’s” largely female viewership. Execs urged him to settle down.
Less than a year after meeting Roque on a blind date in 1997, he proposed to her — in Venice, while on assignment for his regular “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” segment.
As the wedding neared, Roque was a shadowy presence.
“We’d say, ‘This woman is a phantom. She doesn’t exist,’” Lauer colleague Elizabeth Vargas told People magazine shortly after their October 3, 1998 nuptials. “We teased Matt,” Vargas said, when he explained that his fiance — who modeled under the name Jade Roque — was frequently away on photo shoots.
Only 100 guests were invited to their intimate Bridgehampton wedding, including Katie Couric, Ann Curry, best man Bryant Gumbel, and actor Peter Gallagher.
Click here to read more.
Source: Page Six