Tom Snyder cracks have been de rigeur since the ’70s when Dan Aykroyd began spoofing him on SNL, but Snyder — who died yesterday from lukemia at age 71 — always had my absolute respect for a single interview he did with Sterling Hayden in, I think, 1977 or thereabouts.
That interview, which ought to be on You Tube or at least on DVD, felt to me like one of the greatest TV chats I’d ever seen because it was so nakedly confessional. I knew Hayden slightly in the late ’70s to early ’80s — he was my first movie-star interview (i.e., on the set of Frank Pierson‘s King of the Gypsies) and he lived in my hometown of Wilton, Connecticut — and so I recognized to some extent how candid he was being with Snyder. I especially remember Hayden saying on that late-night show how “booze really sneaks up on you” and “you’re always a little bit drunker than you think you are.”
Snyder, in any event, was good enough to not get in Hayden’s way — he mostly just guided him along and let him rip.
I last spoke with Snyder when he dropped by the offices of Entertainment Weekly around ’93 or ’94 and hosted a big lunch with a group of staffers (bureau chief Cable Neuhaus) and freelancers. Snyder wanted to pick our brains and put his ear a little bit closer to the rails. I respected him for that also.