Talk Show Host Tom Snyder Dies

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Late-night talk show host Tom Snyder died Sunday in San Francisco after a battle with leukemia. He was 71.


Television lost one of its formative figures yesterday, someone who you might recall from late, late at night.

(Soundbite of "Tomorrow")

Mr. TOM SNYDER (Host): Doesn't surprise you at all? Does that bother you at all? What the hell is going on?

CHADWICK: Tom Snyder came out of that TV screen looking and sounding like someone you hadn't heard before. He had a bold cut of iron gray hair. He had jet-black thick eyebrows, and he had a robust laugh that cut right through the ever-present cigarette haze. This was late at night. And through the '70s on his "Tomorrow" show guests said things that they might not have otherwise revealed, including a very young Steven Spielberg.

(Soundbite "Tomorrow")

Mr. STEVEN SPIELBERG (Movie Director): "Close Encounters" came from my imagination, but my imagination is stimulated by a lot of factual research.

Mr. SNYDER: Do you believe in UFOs?

Mr. SPIELBERG: I'm a want-to believer. I'm really anxious to have an experience myself so I can come on a show like yours and say I believe in UFOs and I'll tell you why. But the problem is, I can't tell you why so I shouldn't tell you I believe in UFOs.

CHADWICK: He'd begun in radio in the 1960s. For a few years in the mid-'90s he hosted "The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder" on CBS. Here he judged Barbara Walters for not recognizing a marijuana plant, something that many viewers figured Tom had encountered.

(Soundbite of "The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder")

Mr. SNYDER: Bless you...

Ms. BARBARA WALTERS (Journalist): Does that make me sound awfully square?

Mr. SNYDER: Not at all.

Ms. WALTERS: Well, so be it.

Mr. SNYDER: You're the hippest thing in television, kid. Don't let them tell you otherwise.

CHADWICK: Tom Snyder died Sunday in San Francisco. He was 71.

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Leukemia Claims Talk-Show Icon Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder's big laugh and singular style made him one of TV's most recognizable figures. i

Tom Snyder's big laugh and singular style made him one of TV's most recognizable figures. Diane Freed/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Diane Freed/Getty Images
Tom Snyder's big laugh and singular style made him one of TV's most recognizable figures.

Tom Snyder's big laugh and singular style made him one of TV's most recognizable figures.

Diane Freed/Getty Images

Talk show host Tom Snyder, whose smoke-filled interviews were a staple of late night television, has died after a struggle with leukemia. He was 71.

Snyder died Sunday in San Francisco, his longtime producer and friend Mike Horowicz told The Associated Press on Monday.

Known for his improvised, casual style and robust laughter, Snyder conducted a number of memorable interviews as host of NBC's The Tomorrow Show. Among his guests were John Lennon, Charles Manson and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.

Snyder began his career as a radio reporter in Milwaukee in the 1960s, then moved into local television news. He anchored newscasts in Philadelphia and Los Angeles before moving to late night.

"He loved the broadcast business," said Marciarose Shestack, who co-anchored a noontime newscast with Snyder at KYW-TV in Philadelphia in the 1960s. "He was very surprising and very irreverent and not at all a typical newscaster."

In 1972, Snyder left news to host The Tomorrow Show, which followed The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

His catch phrase for the show was: "Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air." Snyder smoked throughout his show, the cigarette cloud swirling around him during interviews.

He gained more fame when Dan Ackroyd lampooned him in the early days of Saturday Night Live.

In 1995, he returned to late night television as the host of The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder on CBS. The program followed David Letterman's Late Show until 1998, when Snyder was replaced by Craig Kilborn.

Snyder announced on his Web site in 2005 that he had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

"When I was a kid leukemia was a death sentence," he wrote then. "Now, my doctors say it's treatable!"

Horowicz met Snyder in 1982 and worked with him at WABC in New York before producing the Tom Snyder television show.

"He was a great guy and very talented," Horowicz said.

Snyder is survived by his daughter and longtime girlfriend, who live in the Bay Area.

From Associated Press reports



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