OAKDALE — The spotlight continues to shine on Laverne Everett, the 81-year-old retired cannery worker who became a media darling last week when a video of her nearly falling out of her skydiving harness at an altitude of 13,000 feet was posted on YouTube.
The video went viral. It has been viewed more than 500,000 times on YouTube and been posted on scores of news Web sites across the globe.
And Tuesday, Everett and her sister, Jimmie Campora, 72, were interviewed by "Today" show co-host Matt Lauer.
"Jimmie said he was just very personable and very nice," said family friend LJ Roulet. "They have been treated like celebrities. They are having a hoot."
The two sisters are getting the VIP treatment. They told Roulet that "Today" flew them to New York first class and put them up at The New York Palace, a Manhattan hotel where rooms cost $339 to $509 a night.
The sisters planned to dine at Lauer's favorite Italian restaurant Tuesday night after a day of sightseeing. (Lauer's not joining them; he just recommended the restaurant.) Everett and Campora are flying home Thursday.
The "Today" show did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.
They are sharing the adventure with cousins who drove in from Tennessee and two of Everett's nieces, who live in New York state, Roulet said.
For her 80th birthday last year, Everett fulfilled a longtime wish by parachuting from a plane. But her tandem jump with an instructor did not go as planned. Everett nearly slipped out of her harness. Her instructor frantically tried to secure Everett as the two hurled through the sky.
It was a hair-raising jump, but Everett and her instructor landed safely. That probably would have been the end of the story, but not in the age of social media and the Internet. Everett said one of her cousins posted video of the jump on YouTube recently so family members in Oklahoma could watch it.
Everett also has been interviewed by Sacramento TV news stations, and ABC, NBC and CBS news have done stories.
"I'm not used to this stuff, I'll tell you," Everett said Sunday from Oakdale as she packed for her trip to New York. "I guess you can say it's kind of nice in a way."
Everett made her jump in May 2011 at the Parachute Center at the Lodi Airport. Parachute Center owner Bill Dause declined to speak at length Sunday.
"Everybody landed fine. No one got hurt, and that's all I have to say. Thank you very much for your call," he said as he hung up the phone.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman confirmed Tuesday that his agency is investigating the incident. The spokesman, Ian Gregor, added that the FAA also has proposed civil fines of about $900,000 against the Parachute Center for violations related to other incidents.
Everett has lived in Oakdale for more than 40 years. She's a widow and retired from the Hunt-Wesson cannery, which now is owned by ConAgra Foods.
She lives in one of the second-story apartments in the Yosemite Hotel building, where ground-floor businesses include the H-B Saloon and the Oakdale Bicycle Shop.
Roulet said Everett told her she'd rather fly first class than jump out of an airplane.
"She was joking that she didn't have to wear a parachute to New York," Roulet said. "She said she prefers a seat belt to a harness."
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at (209) 578-2316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.