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Raise a Colortini for Tom

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It seems unlikely that I actually saw it, but I’d swear to you that I was up on the night that Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics destroyed a car on the Tomorrow Show. I would have been nearing the end of eighth grade and I can’t imagine that my parents let me stay up, but it sure feels like I did.

That’s the problem and the beauty of current technology. We can’t really remember the first time we saw something, but we can buy the DVD or search YouTube and see it over and over again.

For that, I’m grateful, because we’ll forever be able to watch the great Tom Snyder interviewing the likes of Wendy O. Williams, U2, Charles Manson and John Lennon. (In a weird way, those people are all musicians.) We can also watch Ayn Rand, David Letterman and Timothy Leary share Snyder’s second hand smoke.

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AP Photo by CBS, Bonnie Schiffman

Prior to blazing a post-midnight trail for talk show hosts, Snyder was a successful anchor of the local news on KTLA and KNBC. He also held the anchor chair in Philadelphia and New York at other times in his career.

Of course, he’ll always be best known as the chain-smoking host of the Tomorrow show, a late night experiment that had no real predecessor in its time slot. Before Snyder's Tomorrow, most networks signed off around the time the Tonight Show wrapped up.

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The fact that Mr. & Mrs. Middle America had hit the sack by the time Snyder had lit up his first butt of the evening meant that Tomorrow could cover topics and host guests that other shows wouldn’t touch. Can you imagine Carson, in the late 70s or early 80s, interviewing Charles Manson or featuring bands like The Clash or The Jam?

Tomorrow went off the air in 1982 and I imagine that by the time he came back to network late night in 1995, I’d seen Dan Aykroyd as Tom Snyder about as many times as I’d seen Tom Snyder as Tom Snyder. Aykroyd’s portrayal with the ever-present cigarette, crazy comb-over and rapid fire, guttural laugh is probably as well known as the actual product.

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While Snyder hosted some of the most interesting musicians, entertainers and celebrities of all stripes, David Letterman said it best in his short tribute tonight, “It didn’t matter who was on the show, it was all about Tom.”

That’s not to say that Tom overshadowed his guests, he just made sure that you didn’t forget who was asking the questions.

Well, it’s about time that Tom would be coming on the air, so I’ll get out of the way and let Tom show you why the hosts of every current late night show have already paid tribute to the man who came before them.

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Tribute to Tom Snyder by Conan O'Brien

The Plasmatics on Tomorrow