And that’s where I saw him – standing in line with me at Cassell’s hamburgers in Koreatown. Now granted, they’re the best burgers in Los Angeles, but still, it ain’t the Palm or Spagos.
It was a riot seeing the top executives of the National Broadcasting Company, all in their expensive suits, holding trays, being chided by the counter guys for not yelling out their orders loud enough.
But that was Tom Snyder. Never taking himself or anything too seriously – even his “big break”.
In many ways, Tom was the Jack Paar of the boomer generation. An eccentric personality who wasn’t afraid to show his emotions on national television, he was a master of the conversational in-depth interview. And he did his homework. Unlike Larry King recently, he would never get his Beatles mixed-up.
You would tune into the TOMORROW SHOW one night and Julie Andrews would be his guest. The next night it was Charles Manson. And again, unlike Larry King, he didn’t ask them both the same questions.
There was a touch of Edward R. Murrow in Tom Snyder. He would sit back in a chair, cigarette dangling in one hand, and very formally inform the audience that his guest that night was “Mr. Johnny Rotten”.
Dan Ackroyd enhanced his popularity with a dead-on impression on SNL, exaggerating all of Tom’s quirks, his boisterous laugh, and comb-over that seemed to wrap around his head twice. Tom apparently loved it. Imagine if it were Bill O'Reilly.
In the mid 90’s Tom had a late night talk show on CBS as well as a syndicated radio program. I was his guest once on the radio show, pimping my book. To my amazement he had actually read it (thus making him one of five). The interview was relaxed and fun. No wonder Charles Manson felt so at ease. Off the air I reminded him of the Cassell’s incident and heard that loud boisterous laugh for real. He said he had all his best meetings there.
Tom Synder will be long remembered, especially in Los Angeles, where his back-up news anchor from the KNBC days, Paul Moyer, has been imitating him for thirty years.