Tom Snyder, late night TV icon, dead at 71

In the 1970's, the late nights belonged to a wry and bemused host, Tom Snyder.  His signature smoke-filled interviews were a staple of late-night television.  Snyder has died after a struggle with leukemia. He was 71.

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

As the host of NBC's "The Tomorrow Show" Snyder was famous for his improvised, casual style and hearty laughter, Snyder conducted a number of memorable interviews Among his guests were Charles Manson and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.

Peak moments with Snyder on Tomorrow included John Lennon's final televised interview, in April 1975 (replayed in December 1980 as a tribute to Lennon, and later released on home video), an interview with philosopher Ayn Rand in 1979, and U2's first American television appearance in June 1981.

"Weird Al" Yankovic's first television appearance was on the show in April 1981. Other notable moments included The Clash in 1981 and a 1980 appearance by rock band The Plasmatics during which lead singer Wendy O. Williams blew up a TV in the studio; the explosion disrupted a live broadcast of NBC Nightly News being produced in a studio two floors above.

Snyder's show on Halloween 1979 featured the rock band KISS. promoting their album Dynasty.

The interview became a chaotic exchange between Snyder and a visibly inebriated Ace Frehley, whose bizarre antics were ratcheted up during the 25 minute exchange.

Gene Simmons has revealed on his website that he felt "betrayed" by the other members during this interview. Shortly thereafter, the band broke up. Following the break up, Snyder was the very first to have a member of the band appear without make up in public. Peter Criss, the former drummer, appeared to announce his departure.

Snyder began his career during the sixties in radio, then moved into local television news. He anchored newscasts in Philadelphia and Los Angeles before moving to late night.

The AP quoted 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."

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

"Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air." Snyder smoked cigarettes throughout his show.

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.

The AP writes that 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, reports the AP. "Now, my doctors say it's treatable!"


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