Pioneering late-night television host Tom Snyder died Sunday San Francisco at the age of 71. The cause was complications from leukemia according to Bloomberg.com
Snyder gave insomniacs a reason not to seek treatment with his groundbreaking late night talk show "Tomorrow," which aired on NBC after Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show from 1973 to 1982. Known for his deep laugh and great rapport with his off-camera crew, the chain-smoking Snyder was a major influence on future late-night host David Letterman whose own show replaced Snyder's in 1982. Snyder's catch-phrase for his show was "Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax and watch the pictures, as they fly through the air." Snyder entered the pop culture pantheon when comedian Dan Ackroyd parodied him perfectly on "Saturday Night Live." However, Snyder will be best remembered for his ground-breaking, and often bizarre, interviews with newsmakers of the day.
One of his strangest interviews came in 1980 with an appearance by John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten and Keith Levene of Public Image, Ltd. who refused to acknowledge the cameras and according to rumor, allegedly proceeded to inhale lines of cocaine off the coffee table. It was 12 minutes of painful, but memorable, television for Snyder who handled it with his usual wit and acidic bonhomie. Later that year, Wendy O. Williams and her band, The Plasmatics, blew up a television on the show. Other interviews throughout his career include cult leader Charles Manson, John Lennon, and ground-breaking punk musicians Iggy Pop, The Ramones, and Patti Smith.
Tom Snyder was born May 12, 1936 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He abandoned pre-med classes at Marquette University to become a reporter. In 1965 he moved to Philadelphia to co-anchor the nation's first noontime news broadcast. Moving to Los Angeles in 1970 he was lead news anchor at KNBC and from there hosted his first "Tomorrow" show on October 15, 1973. The next year Snyder and his show moved to New York and also became early evening anchor of "News Center 4" on local affiliate WNBC. A few years later they all moved back to Los Angeles amidst rumors he would take over "The Tonight Show" which never happened.
While earning a reputation as a newscaster and pioneering talk show host, Snyder was introduced to a new generation of fans thanks to Ackroyd's spot-on impersonation. "I was flattered." said Snyder in a 1994 New York Times interview. "It wasn't a spiteful parody at all. And it was hilarious."
Later on, Snyder was a guest host on Larry King's radio show and had his own call-in show on the ABC radio network. NBC hired him again for their failing financial news network on CNBC. In 1995, he was back on late night television as host of "The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder" on CBS. This program followed Letterman's "Late Show" until 1998 when someone at CBS thought it a good idea to replace Snyder with Craig Kilborn.
Snyder is survived by his daughter and a long-time girlfriend who live in the Bay Area.