When many of the younger people around me heard that TV host Tom Snyder had died they looked at me with a totally blank stare. They had absolutely no idea who he was or what he meant to the evolution of television into what we’re watching today.
Tom Snyder was a pioneer in late night talk shows. Not that talk hadn’t been done before but Snyder broke new ground.
It was the 70’s & early 80’s when a man in a polyester suit who chain smoked brought on people who I want to hear from. I was a punker in the late 70’s and anything that broadcast TV in the US would have on that would highlight my type of music I would watch. ( I still have fond memories of a ABC 20/20 show that highlighted the birth of New Wave.)
The Late Late Show was edgy and funny and driven by Snyder’s nervous tics which were captured hilariously by Dan Aykroyd in the early years of Saturday Night Live. Snyder was confrontational. His combative interview with Johnny Rotten remains one of TV’s greats. It was the interview that my friends talked about for years. Go find it on Youtube – you will be entertained.
I stayed up late to see Iggy Pop, Wendy O. William’s of the Plasmatics, the first TV appearance of Weird Al, the last TV interview with John Lennon, and the first US interview with U2.
It was ground breaking TV and I loved every minute of it thanks to Tom Snyder’s remarks. Here is a few of my favorite moments:
With mass murderer Charles Manson:
Snyder: “Were you happy when you found out you weren’t going to go to the gas chamber, Charlie?”
Manson: “Uh, I knew I wasn’t going to go to the gas chamber, ’cause I hadn’t done anything wrong.”
With film director Steven Spielberg:
Snyder: “Do you believe in UFOs?”
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.’”
With singer John Lennon in 1981, in the former Beatles’ last interview:
Snyder: “What got you into this?”
Lennon: “You know you went to see those movies with Elvis or somebody in it when we were still in Liverpool, and you’d see everyone would be waiting to see it, and I’d be waiting there too, and they’d all scream when he came on the screen, so I thought, ‘That’s a good job.’”
With Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, in a 1980 interview, about a new company ( Public Image Ltd.) he set up:
Snyder: “I’ve wanted to talk about it, and I’ve made five passes at it, and I’m not getting anywhere.”
Rotten: I’ve studied your history on this. Come on, prompt, do your business, humor us.”