Tom Snyder is leaning back in his heavenly chair, a cigarette in hand, a big laugh ready to explode when God finishes a funny story ...
The newsman and talk-show host, who worked for a few months in Cleveland in 1965 before becoming a star, has died. (See a report here.) He's a fond memory for those of us who had trouble sleeping at night in the '70s, when Snyder and his "Tomorrow" show were a cheerful way to pass the late-night hours.
Although he made later forays into TV, that's the place I remember him best from. Oh, he could ramble on about himself, and his verbal tics were so numerous that he was ripe for parody (as Dan Aykroyd demonstrated). And, as some recent DVD releases from his show have demonstrated, he wasn't always comfortable with his wide range of guests.
But that wasn't always a bad thing. As I said when reviewing a DVD of music performers from the show:
(John "Johnny Rotten") Lydon's vulgar, combative dialogue with Snyder is electrifying TV; You keep waiting for someone to throw a punch, and Snyder appears as ready as Lydon.
Overall, too, these telecasts capture a moment in musical history when fans of rock 'n' roll and even hard rock were confronted by something they did not understand. Impresario Bill Graham, appearing in a discussion of the new music, seems nonplussed by where the music has gone. Snyder himself, not exactly a rocker, struggles to understand, say, the difference between New Wave and arena rock. And (guest host Kelly) Lange's mocking remarks about the Ramones' look are astoundingly offensive -- an '80s variation on a crewcut newsman interrogating the Beatles around 1964.
And Snyder was never afraid to have an opinion. Even when he was diagnosed with leukemia, he was talking about it on his Web site (later shut down, alas). And not just about that. Here's a sample I put on the blog on April 2005:
Early morning network television is not news anymore--its a joke. I miss Dan Rather. And Tom Brokaw. And I pray in my own stupid way for Peter Jennings to get well soon. David Letterman's son is a very cute kid. But I'd like Dave to introduce us to his Mom. "Saturday Night Live" is not funny. HBO exists because people must have a place to say (bleep) on television as many times as they can. GM and Ford have lost the way when it comes to designing and building sexy cars that make us wanna buy them. There is no Iraqi oil money to pay for reconstruction. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice don't have a clue as to what is going on there. The worst Italian reastaurant in New York (if there is such a thing) is better than the best Italian restaurant in most other American cities. Books by celebrities about themselves bore me to tears.
Wouldn't you chat with this guy?