Monday, July 30, 2007

The Pall Malls are on the house

Sad news this morning from the world of TV. Interviewer Tom Snyder has passed away. I became a really big fan of his back in the early 80’s when he brought on a wide variety of rock & rollers for interviews. He wasn’t condescending no matter how outrageous or controversial they were. From these interviews his style grew on me and when his 90’s show aired following Letterman at CBS I spent many a sleep-deprived night listening to his warm tone and genuine curiosity for the people he was interviewing.

Back in the early 80’s I saw on his show The Clash, The Grateful Dead, The Plasmatics, John Lydon, U2 and I even remember seeing Adam Ant during the days when the art school girls all had the hots for him. He never seemed out of it even when he was clearly mystified by the performer and it was always obvious that a key to his style as an interviewer was getting to know his subject. The good-natured humor and understanding of a generation gap seemed to make his interviews all that more vital. In many ways he seemed like an old friend in his interviews.

On the strength of those rock and roll interviews alone I would say that if anyone wants to know how to properly interview a musician, especially a young musician, for the television format, look to Snyder for your guiding light. He allowed the musicians to explain themselves and have fun and be themselves. All the while he probed from the standpoint of being a middle-aged man, who was confused by all the hub-bub and it brought out the performer’s ability to explain their music and what they were doing it for.

He never kowtowed to the guest, never talked below the viewer and always seemed to match wits with whoever was in the chair opposite. The show could be smart, light, cutting, deep and entertaining all within the time frame between commercials. He was more fun than Charlie Rose and much more at ease with his guests than Travis Smiley. He could be more insightful than either man and he was much less conspicuous in showing his intellect than they are. The man just had a great presence and a great style.

Adios, Tom. The Pall Malls and martinis are on the house.

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