Tom Snyder as host of the TV program Tomorrow in 1977.
May 12, 1936|
|Died||July 29, 2007
San Francisco, California
|Alma mater||Marquette University|
|Notable credit(s)||The Late Late Show
Tomorrow with Tom Snyder
NBC Nightly News
|Spouse(s)||Mary Ann Bendel (1958–1975)|
|Children||Anne Marie Snyder|
Thomas James "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 1970s and 1980s, 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.
Snyder was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to parents of German, Cornish, and Irish descent, Frank and Marie Snyder. He received a Catholic upbringing and attended St. Agnes Elementary School and graduated from Jesuit–run Marquette University High School. He attended Marquette University, after which he had originally planned to study medicine and become a doctor.
Snyder had loved radio since he was a child 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 (unrelated to the present-day FM station) in Milwaukee and at WKZO in Kalamazoo (where he was fired by John Fetzer) in the 1950s. 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 (now WKYC-TV) and, after a 1965 station switch, Philadelphia, and 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, then on to 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 long-time KNBC news anchor. Lange later became 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. Even after attaining fame as host of Tomorrow, Snyder kept his hand in news anchoring with the Sunday broadcasts of NBC Nightly News during 1975 and 1976.
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 to 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, John Lydon of PiL and The Sex Pistols in 1980, John Lennon in 1975, actor and writer Sterling Hayden, convicted serial killer Charles Manson, 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.
An infamous edition of The Tomorrow Show broadcast on October 31, 1979, saw Snyder interview the rock group KISS. During the episode, a visibly irritated Gene Simmons (bass) and Paul Stanley (guitar) tried to contain the bombastic (and drunk) Ace Frehley (lead guitar), whose nonstop laughter and joking overshadowed the rest of the band, though Snyder was obviously enjoying it, chiming in with several jokes, much to Frehley’s delight, and Simmons’s disgust. Drummer Peter Criss made repeated references to his large gun collection, to the chagrin of Simmons. Some of the footage from this show was later included on the Kissology – The Ultimate KISS Collection Vol. 2: 1978–1991 (2007) DVD.
In the late 1970s, Snyder interviewed Disney animator Ward Kimball regarding his toy train collection and his full-size trains. Snyder appeared to be as happy as a “kid in a candy store,” picking up various locomotives and asking lots of questions. The video segments could still be viewed on YouTube in 2014. Snyder’s love of toy trains started with his first Lionel locomotive, a scale steam switcher, which he claimed never worked too well. His collection was later donated to a New Jersey toy train club, the NJ Hi-Railers.
When not grilling guests, Snyder would often joke around with offstage crewmen, often breaking out in the distinctively hearty laugh that was the basis of Dan Aykroyd’s impersonation of Snyder on Saturday Night Live (12 occasions, 1976–79 and 1995). 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.
In 1982 Snyder joined WABC-TV in New York, anchoring the 5PM Eyewitness News program with Kaity Tong. He stayed at WABC for two years, then returned to the talk format in 1985 at KABC-TV in Los Angeles with a local afternoon show. He had hoped to syndicate the program nationally the following year, but 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.
In 1988 Snyder inaugurated a very similar three-hour program on ABC Radio. 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 Snyder’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, in part due to the rapid rise in popularity of The Rush Limbaugh Show, which aired in the same time slot and which ABC had already begun airing on many of its stations.
Snyder returned to television on CNBC on January 21, 1993, 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 brand its color broadcasts. He also continued his trademark of talking to offscreen crew and made frequent reference to the studio, reminding viewers of its location in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The final CNBC show aired on December 1, 1994.
The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder
Meanwhile, Letterman had moved on to CBS and was given control of creating a new program to follow his at 12:35 a.m. Letterman, who had idolized Snyder for years, hired Snyder in 1994 as host of The Late Late Show; the announcement was made by Letterman and CBS President Howard Stringer on August 9 that Snyder's show would begin on January 9, 1995. 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. As part of the joke, Snyder appeared as himself in 1993 in The Larry Sanders Show episode Life Behind Larry, in which talk-show host Sanders (Garry Shandling) steals Snyder from Letterman to host a talk-show in the slot immediately after his.
The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder 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 interviews conducted on The Late Late Show 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 with murder. Snyder's final Late Late Show aired on March 26, 1999. It was then reformatted for Craig Kilborn; his successor, Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson, maintained a similar format. When Snyder took ill with the flu, comedians Martin Mull and Jon Stewart filled in as hosts.
In February 2000, Snyder hosted two shows of The Late Show Backstage done during the time Letterman was recovering from heart surgery.
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 colortini.com 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” as his show was also heard on selected radio stations.
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.” However, some 140 pages at the Wayback Machine have been preserved at web.archive.org. The domain name has since been reused for other purposes.
Snyder was married once, to Mary Ann Bendel; they divorced in 1975. Their daughter, Anne Marie, and two grandchildren live in Maui, Hawaii. After his divorce he lived for at least 20 years with a woman to whom he referred only as “The Companion” — later identified by the New York Times as Pamela Burke, a former executive producer of the Tomorrow program.
Final years and death
In April 2005 Snyder revealed that he had been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. In June 2006 he sold his home in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles, where he had lived for almost 30 years, and relocated to Belvedere, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he owned a second home.
Snyder died of complications from leukemia on July 29, 2007, in San Francisco at the age of 71.
The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia posthumously inducted Snyder into their Hall of Fame in 2008.
- "'Tomorrow' host Snyder dies at 71". AP Wire. Archived from the original on September 17, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
- Dudek, Duane (January 7, 1995). "After Years, Snyder's Back with Touch or 2 of Milwaukee". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Cuprisin, Tom (July 30, 2007). "Remembering Tom: How he got started". Retrieved 2009-05-14.[dead link]
- KYW-TV moved back to Philadelphia in 1965
- "Tom Snyder, Late-Night Television Talk Show Pioneer, Dies at 71".
- "Colortini is Gone". Colortini. Archived from the original on August 3, 2005. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
- Carter, B. (July 31, 2007). Tom Snyder, a Pioneer of Late-Night Television, Dies at 71. nytimes.com archive. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
- Rona, Tom to be Reunited (November 22, 1980). Star-News archive. Retrieved December 30, 2013.
- "Profile: Tom Snyder", Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
- Tom Snyder at the Internet Movie Database
- Tom Snyder at Find a Grave
- Tom Snyder Radio Show Episodes
- Tom Snyder's trains
- David Hinckley's tribute to Tom Snyder in the New York Daily News
|Host of The Late Late Show