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Lester Holt, NBC News Anchor, Moonlights as a Rocker

Lester Holt, NBC News Anchor, Moonlights as a Rocker

In the basement of Hill Country, a barbecue joint in the Flatiron district in Manhattan, Lester Holt, the NBC News anchor, struggled to recall the name of a musician popular in his youth. His face crumpled into a frown of concentration as he sang to himself: “Day-o, a day-o.” He shook his head softly and said, “I’ve totally run a blank here.”

Mr. Holt tried again: “Tally man, tally me banana.” He failed again. “I can’t think of his name,” he added, before returning to the chorus, “Day-o, day-o.” Suddenly his features relaxed as the name came to him. “Harry Belafonte,” he said, and took another stab at his mac ’n’ cheese.

It was late afternoon on the last Sunday in June, and all of New York City was consumed by Pride celebrations. Outside, the streets were jammed with overheated cops and underdressed revelers.

Inside, however, was a Texas wonderland scented with barbecue sauce. “A Fistful of Dollars,” the 1964 spaghetti western, was playing on TV screens. Bathrooms were designated by a cowboy and cowgirl. The beer came in Mason jars. The single nod to Pride was a small rainbow flag that dangled limply from an amp on the stage.

It was the band’s fourth or fifth outing at Hill Country, and a sizable portion of the audience appeared to be employees of NBC. But not all. Skei Saulnier, who described herself as “legit Cherokee,” had brought her daughters Ella, 11, and Leai, 10, from Virginia. “I’ve been watching NBC’s ‘Nightly News’ since I was 5 or 6,” she said. “In my home, the anchors were celebrities.”

Behind his wife, Mr. Holt played air guitar to “I’m So Excited,” by the Pointer Sisters. At some point, he had added a fedora to his ensemble. Ms. Hagen smiled fondly. “Everyone thinks of him as this strait-laced news guy,” she said. “But’s he very multifaceted, and he has a cracking sense of humor.”

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