Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder

Infobox Person
name=Tom Snyder

image_size =
caption =
birth_date = May 12 1936
birth_place = Milwaukee, Wisconsin
death_date = death date and age|2007|7|29|1936|5|12
death_place = San Francisco, California

Tom Snyder (May 12, 1936 - July 29, 2007) was an American television personality, news anchor and radio personality best known for his late night talk shows "The Tomorrow Show", on the NBC television network in the late 1970s and '80s, and "The Late Late Show", on the CBS Television Network in the 1990s.

Snyder was also the pioneer anchor of the primetime "NBC News Update", in the 1970s and early 1980s, which was a one-minute capsule of news updates in primetime; later in the mid 1980s, local affiliates took over these news update timeslots for local headlines which also served as promos for the local late newscasts. [cite web |url= |title= 'Tomorrow' host Snyder dies at 71|accessdate=2007-07-30 |format= |work=AP Wire ]

Early life

Thomas James Snyder was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His parents, Frank and Marie, gave him a strong Roman Catholic upbringing: he attended St. Agnes Elementary School, and then graduated from Jesuit-run Marquette University High School. He also attended Marquette University, where he originally planned to become a doctor. (Duane Dudek. "After Years, Snyder's Back with Touch or 2 of Milwaukee." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 7 January 1995)

Newscasting career

Snyder had loved radio since he was a kid, and at some point changed his field of study from pre-med to journalism. He once told Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Tim Cuprisin that broadcasting became more important to him than attending classes, and he skipped a lot of them. [] Snyder began his career as a radio reporter at WRIT-AM (unrelated to the present-day FM station) in Milwaukee in the 1960s. For a time he worked at Savannah, Georgia AM station WSAV (now WBMQ). After moving to television in the 1960s, he was a news anchor for KYW-TV in Cleveland and Philadelphia, WNBC-TV and WABC-TV in New York City. He talked about driving cross country in an early Corvair from Atlanta to Los Angeles around 1963, where he landed a news job at KTLA-TV "Live On 5" then onto KNBC-TV also in Los Angeles, where from 1970 to 1974 he was an anchor for the 6 p.m. newscast, working with KNBC broadcaster Kelly Lange, who was then a weather reporter before serving as a longtime KNBC news anchor. Lange was Snyder's regular substitute guest host on the "Tomorrow" program, prior to the hiring of co-host Rona Barrett in the program's last year.

"Tomorrow with Tom Snyder"

Snyder gained national fame as the host of "Tomorrow with Tom Snyder" (more commonly known as "The Tomorrow Show)", which aired late nights after "The Tonight Show" on NBC from 1973 – 1982. It was a talk show unlike the usual late-night fare, with Snyder, cigarette in hand, alternating between asking hard-hitting questions and offering personal observations that made the interview closer to a conversation.

Unique one-on-one exchanges were common to the program, notably with author Harlan Ellison, actor and writer Sterling Hayden, and author and philosopher Ayn Rand. A one-on-one program with David Brenner as the sole guest revealed that Snyder and Brenner worked together on several documentaries.When not grilling guests, Snyder would often joke around with off-stage crewmen, often breaking out in the distinctively hearty laugh that was the basis of Dan Aykroyd's impersonation of Snyder on "Saturday Night Live" (11 occasions, from 1976 to 1979). [] His seemingly mismatched jet black eyebrows and gray hair were also lampooned on "SNL". Snyder was, as well, the inspiration for the cartoon "Tom Morrow", which appeared in "Playboy" in the late 1970s. The title card on Snyder's show had dovetailed "Tom" and "Tomorrow", by highlighting "Tom" in a different color.

Peak moments with Snyder on "Tomorrow" included John Lennon's final televised interview, in April 1975 (replayed in December 1980 as a tribute to Lennon, and later released on home video), and Irish rock band U2's first American television appearance in June 1981. Also memorable was the 1980 cigarette smoke-filled appearance of Public Image Ltd.'s John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) and Keith Levene, whose thoroughly uncooperative twelve-minute appearance on the show acquired a long-term notoriety. "Weird Al" Yankovic's first television appearance was on the show in April 1981. Another memorable moment came on a 1978 show when he had on one of NBC's West Coast staff announcers, Donald Rickles, one day after interviewing the same-named comedian Don Rickles. During the course of their segment, Snyder and Rickles (the announcer) spent ten minutes playing the then-new electronic board game, "Simon".

Another notorious segment was a 1981 prison interview with mass murderer Charles Manson. Manson was by turns quietly mesmerizing and disturbingly manic, suddenly getting a wild look in his eyes and spouting wild notions at Snyder before temporarily returning to a calm demeanor. [cite web|url=|title=Transcript of Manson interview]

Bizarre moments included a 1979 appearance by Chicago shock-jock Steve Dahl, and a March 1981 appearance by the rock band, The Plasmatics, during which lead singer Wendy O. Williams sledgehammered a TV in the studio. The explosion disrupted a live broadcast of "NBC Nightly News" being produced in a studio two floors above. Snyder himself referred to this occurrence on a May 1981 followup appearance in which the Plasmatics blew up a car.

Perhaps the most outrageous interview seen on Snyder's show occurred on Halloween 1979, when the rock band Kiss appeared to promote their album, "Dynasty". During that 25-minute "interview", the conversation degenerated into a somewhat chaotic exchange between Snyder and a very drunk Ace Frehley, who picked up Snyder's teddy bear, put the wristlets from his costume on the bear, and laughed, "the only Spacebear in captivity! I've got him — he's captured!". When Snyder asked Ace if his costume was that of some sort of spaceman, Frehley quipped, "No, actually I'm a plumber." Snyder shot back, "Well, I've got a piece of pipe backstage I'd like to have you work on." The inebriated Frehley replied "Tell me about it!" and clapped his hands and cackled hysterically at the exchange. Years later, Gene Simmons revealed on his website that he felt "betrayed" by the other band members during this interview. Shortly thereafter, drummer Peter Criss officially left the band and subsequently appeared on the show, making Snyder the first host to have a member of Kiss appearing without makeup in public.

Following a disastrous experiment with turning "Tomorrow" into a more typical talk show — renaming it "Tomorrow Coast to Coast" and adding a live audience and co-host, Rona Barrett (all of which Snyder resented) — the show was canceled in 1982, to make way for the up-and-coming young comedian, David Letterman.

After "Tomorrow"

Soon after the cancellation of "The Tomorrow Show", Snyder returned to work as a New York television news anchor, this time sharing the anchor desk with Kaity Tong on the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. Eyewitness News broadcasts on WABC-TV. [cite web|url=|title=Tom Snyder, Late-Night Television Talk Show Pioneer, Dies at 71] . In 1985, he returned to the talk format at KABC-TV in Los Angeles, with a local afternoon show he had planned to gear up for national syndication the following year; those plans were scratched after Oprah Winfrey's Chicago-based syndicated show entered the market first and took over Snyder's time slot on KABC-TV.

An older, slightly more mellow Snyder returned to virtually the same format on ABC Radio. The show's three-hour format was a natural for Snyder. The first hour was spent chatting with a celebrity guest, during the second hour Snyder engaged someone in the news, and the final hour was consumed chatting with his legion of fans. Occasionally the caller would be a well-known fan like David Letterman or Ted Koppel. One of Tom's favorite callers was Sherman Hemsley, the actor who played George Jefferson on the hit television sitcom, "The Jeffersons". The "Tom Snyder Show" for ABC Radio Networks went off the air in late 1992. Snyder returned to television on CNBC in the early 1990s, adding the opportunity for viewers to call in with their own questions for his guests. Snyder nicknamed his show "the Colorcast", reviving an old promotional term NBC-TV used in the early 1960s to hype its color broadcasts. He also continued his trademark of talking to off-screen crew, and made frequent reference to the studio, reminding viewers of its location in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Letterman had moved on to CBS and was given control of creating a new program to follow his at 12:35 am. Letterman, who had idolized Snyder for years — hired Snyder in 1995 as host of "The Late Late Show". The idea had actually begun as a running joke on Letterman's show, that Snyder would soon follow him on the air as he had once followed Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show"; the unlikely suggestion caught on. This show aired live in the Eastern and Central Time Zones, and was simulcast to other time zones on radio to allow everyone a chance to call in. Snyder's CNBC show was taken over, largely unchanged in format, by Charles Grodin. One of the many memorable Late Late Show interviews was with Gloria Vanderbilt about her son's suicide, told dramatically over an entire hour. Another was a lengthy interview with Robert Blake very soon before Blake was charged for murder. In 1999 Snyder left "The Late Late Show," which was then reformatted for Craig Kilborn. It has since been turned over to Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson.

Snyder also hosted a video production called "A Century of Legendary Lionel Trains", commemorating 100 years of Lionel Trains. Additionally, he hosted another program from the same production company called "Celebrity Train Layouts 2: Tom Snyder", featuring his own collection of trains.

Snyder posted regular messages on his own now-defunct website, during the early 2000s. A "colortini", according to Snyder in the CNBC era, was the drink you should enjoy while watching the show ("Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air."). For the CBS show, he redubbed the mythical drink a "simultini".

On July 28, 2005, Snyder announced he was deleting his website after six years, stating: "The novelty of communicating this way has worn off." On August 1, 2005 his page was abruptly taken offline. The front page was replaced with a white screen with the simple phrase: "Colortini is gone. Thanks for the Memories". [ [ This Site is Temporarily Unavailable ] ] However, some [*/ 140 pages] have been preserved at The domain name has since been reused for other purposes.

Final years and death

In April 2005, Snyder revealed that he was battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia, but that his doctors had told him it is "treatable".

In June 2006, Snyder sold his home in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles, California, where he had lived for almost 30 years. He headed to Belvedere, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he owned a second home.

Snyder died on July 29, 2007 in San Francisco from complications of leukemia.

Snyder had one child, Anne Mari Snyder, who lives in Maui, Hawaii, and two grandchildren.


External links

*imdb name|0811571
*Find A Grave|id=20693874
* [*/] listing in's Wayback Machine
* [ Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia: Tom Snyder]
* [ Tom Snyder Radio Show Episodes]
* [ Broadcaster Tom Snyder dies at 71]

NAME= Snyder, Tom
SHORT DESCRIPTION=American television personality
DATE OF BIRTH= May 12 1936
PLACE OF BIRTH=Milwaukee, Wisconsin
DATE OF DEATH= July 29 2007
PLACE OF DEATH=San Francisco, California

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