Monday, July 30, 2007

Unfortunately, he won't be back in 2 minutes and 5 seconds.

Tom Snyder passed away yesterday at the age of 71. I'm afraid that he is remembered mostly today as the Dan Ackroyd parody on SNL -- and admittedly he was easy to parody, with the chainsmoking, the grey and bushy eyebrows, the teddy bear, that laugh. His show -- "Tomorrow" came on at 1 am and I rarely missed it. In order to watch it, I had to wait until my parents had gone to bed, sneak downstairs, taking care to avoid that creaky third step and turn the TV on with the volume down very low and sit right in front it. I was fascinated by Tom Snyder and I loved watching him talk to the cameramen and set people and crack private jokes with them. I loved watching his barely-concealed contempt for Rona Barrett when NBC forced him to give her a segment of the show. I didn't know what to make of frequent guest Nancy Friday, the world's weirdest sex researcher. I saw my favorite short-story writer -- Harlan Ellison -- for the first time on Tomorrow. I saw Ayn Rand and she struck me as such a nutjob that objectivism has never held any appeal for me.
But what I loved the most were the punk rock acts. The world was changing -- but not where I was. I was fascinated by the punk rock movement that I read about in Creem magazine every month, and I liked what little I was able to find of the records locally at the Purple Prism head shop. (I know, nowadays if there's a band you're interested in, it's easy to find out more about them and get to hear their music, but it wasn't like that then.) That show was the first time I saw and heard a lot of the bands and singers that are still my favorites today -- The Ramones, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello. And most unforgettably -- The Clash, which left me so excited and so wired I was unable to sleep the rest of the night and suffered mightily the next day in school. There was just no other way back then to see these people if you lived in a sleepy little South Carolina town. I mean, the Plasmatics and the Runaways were not going to be on "Sonny and Cher" or "Tony Orlando and Dawn" or even "The Tonight Show."
So I will always be grateful to Tom Snyder for introducing me to the music I love so much -- which I guess is kind of ironic, because he didn't try to disguise the fact that he hated most of it.

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