07.30.07 Tom Snyder Died At
The Age Of 71
Tom Snyder - Wikipedia
Tom Snyder, king of very
late-night TV, dies at 71
Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Tom Snyder, the late-night talk show host whose
free-form program and intimate interviewing style
influenced a generation of broadcasters, died in his
Tiburon home nearly two years after he announced he had
chronic lymphatic leukemia.
Snyder, who was 71, died Sunday of complications from
leukemia, associates said. Funeral arrangements are
pending and will be private.
Best known for his 1973-82 stint as host of NBC's "The
Tomorrow Show," which aired after Johnny Carson's
"Tonight Show," Snyder showed that the wee hours of
weeknight mornings didn't have to ceded to B-grade
movies and reruns. There he showed how conversation - be
it goofy, serious, provocative and occasionally edgy -
could be compelling on its own.
With the camera pulled in tight on his face, the screen
filled with the cigarette smoke from the host and often
his guests, Snyder created a living-room atmosphere that
allowed conversation partners such as John Lennon or
Howard Stern to relax in ways they didn't on other
"There was a quality about him that was electric - and
yet there was this intimacy on his program," Public
Broadcasting System talk show host Charlie Rose told The
Chronicle on Monday. Rose, whose dimly lit interview
program is one of television's last bastions of the same
style of intimate, albeit usually more serious, chat,
said, "I never tried to copy Tom, because nobody ever
could. To have that electricity and that intimacy, that
Born in Milwaukee, Wis., Snyder began his career as a
radio reporter there in the 1960s before anchoring local
television news broadcasts in Philadelphia and Los
Angeles. In 1973, long before the advent of 24-hour news
channels and cable television, Snyder began "Tomorrow,"
and late night was never the same.
Working live without a script and talking directly into
the camera, Snyder created an arresting image for the
late-night audience on "The Tomorrow Show."
Conversations would veer from Snyder offering his
personal opinions to hard-hitting questions, to him
displaying photographs from a July Fourth barbecue he
Over the years, he hosted a parade of guests - including
Charles Manson - that few prime-time programmers would
touch. Several of his legendary interviews - with the
makeup-wearing band Kiss and the punk rockers the
Plasmatics, who once blew up a car on his show - live on
on the video-sharing site YouTube.com. There fans can
still see Snyder, wearing a tie tucked under a V-neck
sweater, smoking and laughing and jousting with the
provocateurs of the era.
"His show was a home for the rock 'n' roll sensibility,"
said Wally Podrazik, a television historian and author
of "Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television."
"It was a free-wheeling place where you let your guard
"Tom was a personality unto himself. He'd go off on his
own personal opinion, then laugh about how ridiculous
something was, and then ask his guest a pointed, serious
question about that topic - it's sort of the same thing
Jon Stewart does, in a way," Podrazik said.
Television producer and writer "David Milch used to say
that coming on Tom's show was like his therapy," said
Michael Naidus, a producer on CBS' "The Late, Late Show"
who worked with Snyder there as a publicist during his
mid-1990s late-night talk show and remained in touch
since. "You'd see Dennis Miller relax and behave
differently on our show than he would any place else."
Over the years, Snyder's mannerisms - from his
chain-smoking, to his staccatoed form of questioning, to
his booming guffaw of a laugh, which surfaced frequently
at his own jokes - became part of the cultural
conversation, thanks to Dan Aykroyd's spot-on Snyder
impersonation on "Saturday Night Live" in the mid-1970s.
"Tom got a kick out of it," said his longtime lawyer and
agent Ed Hookstratten.
Snyder's NBC show left the air in 1982, and his spot was
taken by another late-night groundbreaker, David
Letterman. After stints as a newscaster in New York, a
nationally syndicated radio program and his own program
on CNBC, Snyder returned to network television, thanks
to a man who long idolized him: Letterman.
In 1995, after Letterman moved to CBS and was given
control to create what would appear in the time slot
after his, he invited Snyder to host "The Late Late Show
with Tom Snyder." It ran for three years on CBS.
"Tom was the very thing that all broadcasters long to be
- compelling," Letterman said Monday in a statement.
"Whether he was interviewing politicians, authors,
actors or musicians, Tom was always the real reason to
watch. I'm honored to have known him as a colleague and
as a friend."
"Tom was a true broadcaster, a rare thing," said Peter
Lassally, executive producer of Snyder's CBS show, in a
statement released by the network. "When he was on the
air, he made the camera disappear. It was just you and
him, in a room together, having a talk."
Or, as Snyder told his audience in his catch phrase,
"Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax and watch the
pictures, now, as they fly through the air."
Several years ago, Snyder moved to the Bay Area and made
it his primary residence. "He loved San Francisco," said
Naidus. "He said 'it had no bad angles.' "
He is survived by a daughter and his longtime companion,
Pamela Burke, according to his Hookstratten.