The film blogosphere is abuzz today with the news that legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman has passed away at the age of 89 and rightly so. I have to admit that I don’t have much to add. I am hardly an expert on the man and his work, though I do tend to use him as proof that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a much cooler show than some people give it credit, to wit: In an episode where Buffy was going up against a monster that might possibly be Death itself, her friend Xander remarks: “And if he asks you to play chess, don’t. The guy’s, like, a whiz.” Get it?
No, I’d rather post a little bit about Tom Snyder who passed away on Sunday at the age of 71, due to complications from Leukemia. A newsman and raconteur, Snyder loved the broadcast business and was a news anchor, correspondent and most famously, a talk show host on both NBC and later, CBS. From 1972-1983 he was the host of Tomorrow, which aired after The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This was a legendary show in which the unapologetically un-hip Snyder interviewed everyone from Muhammad Ali to Howard Cosell to Charles Manson to, in one excruciating interview, a petulant John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten). U2’s first appearance on American TV was on Tomorrow, as was John Lennon’s last TV interview. Constantly surrounded by cigarette smoke and reveling in his deep-throated laugh, Tom was unlike anyone else on the tube.
Here’s a great tribute segment with clips from Elton John, Cosell, Ali and others.
I first really discovered Tom during his second late night stint as host of CBS’s Late Late Show, a program developed for him by David Letterman, from 1995 to 1999. His trademark tag line was always: “Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air” and I loved it. His being out of touch often made for the best moments and even though his Tomorrow Show interview with self-described “snot-nosed little git” Lydon and Keith Levene of PiL (part 1) (part 2) is one of the most awkward interviews in television history, he zings Lydon at the end and all is right. And then there was his interview with Kiss(part 1, part 2), including a completely shit-housed Ace Frehley. At one point Tom asks if Ace’s character is a spaceman and Ace shoots back, cackling, “No, actually I’m a plumber.” Without missing a beat Snyder responds with “well listen, I’ve got a little piece of pipe backstage I’d like to have you work on!” The band broke into hysterics. His often serious and some might say square demeanor, combined with his guests not quite knowing what to make of him made for some great TV, although as you can see from the Kiss clips, he was very capable of having a lot of fun with his guests, no matter how strange they looked.
Unlike most of today’s talk show hosts (Craig Ferguson excepted) Tom was upfront about his proclivities (martinis, admitting to smoking a joint at a party) and made frequent remarks about mother Snyder (and her martinis) as well as his dog, Ollie. They gave his show a much more personal touch that you don’t usually get from TV these days. Tom was like that wacky uncle that your parents didn’t trust but you loved because you knew he saw through the bullshit and gave it to you straight.
Rest in peace, Tom.