Pioneering later-night host

'Tomorrow' took talk into wee hours

Tom Snyder, who hosted TV's first late-late-night network talk show, has died. He was 71.

Snyder died Sunday in San Francisco of leukemia complications, his longtime producer and friend Mike Horowicz told the Associated Press on Monday. He was diagnosed with leukemia in April 2005.

Snyder hosted NBC's "Tomorrow" from 1973-82 in the time slot following "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." His catchphrase for the show was: "Fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air." Snyder smoked throughout his show, the cigarette cloud swirling around him during interviews.

With his percussive laugh and opinionated bent, the silver-haired Snyder defied the bland, middle-of-the-road persona of hosts and anchors. His manner bemused or annoyed late-night TV viewers through three decades.

As a talk show host, Snyder was known for his offbeat monologues and carefree discussion with the crew while on the air. His eclectic array of interviewees included John Lennon, Ayn Rand, Johnny Rotten and, via hookup, Charles Manson.

He gained more fame when Dan Aykroyd lampooned him in the early days of "Saturday Night Live."

"He was one of the best interviewers of his time, a truly gifted conversationalist who was at ease with any guest and topic," CBS said Monday. "He created a talk show that was simply about talking and listening. He spoke to his viewers, and they, in turn, felt as if they knew him personally."

In 1995, with prodding from David Letterman, CBS hired Snyder as host of "The Late Late Show," which aired live on the East Coast and was simulcast to other time zones on radio. He fielded an eclectic array of guests for the one-on-one interview show: authors, celebrities, newsmakers, politicians. Snyder hosted "Late Late" for four years..

Renowned for his provocative questions and jocular style, Snyder mixed news with entertainment, often to the chagrin of network executives. In 1979, he launched "Primetime Sunday" for NBC, which was an overhaul of the network's newsmagazine "Weekend."

Snyder was born May 12, 1936, in Milwaukee. He began his radio career as a news correspondent in 1965 on WRIT-AM in Milwaukee. After a two-year stint, he moved on as radio and TV news anchor in Savannah, Ga., with WSAV. He served in numerous capacities in Kalamazoo, Mich., Philadelphia and Los Angeles before landing his first gig as a talk show host with "Contact" on KYW-TV Philadelphia in 1966.

In 1973, he launched "Tomorrow" in Los Angeles, moving it the next year to New York, where he also served as anchorman for WNBC-TV's two-hour "Newscenter 4." In 1975, Snyder inaugurated "NBC News Update," a one-minute primetime news report.

He often jousted with NBC executives who saw no mix of news and entertainment, and when his NBC contract was near expiration in 1979, he contacted ABC. It was under those contentious circumstances that "Prime Time Sunday" was formulated.

After "Tomorrow" was canceled in 1982, it was replaced by a new show called "Late Night With David Letterman."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.