On this date seven years ago, Tom Snyder passed away in San Francisco. To honor the broadcaster’s life and legacy, longtime friend and producer Michael Horowicz likes to annually at this time share a fond Snyder anecdote.
Adding to the significance of this anniversary is the fact that July 29 is also the date that Horowicz himself was born.
“Much has been made recently about a new talk show’s ‘first guest,'” Horowicz tells FishbowlNY. “There was excitement over Jimmy Fallon’s first guest on The Tonight Show (Will Smith), as well as Seth Meyers on his first show (Amy Poehler). It was the same in December 1994, as we prepared to debut The Late Late Show with Tom on CBS the following month.”
“I guess network execs think the ‘first guest’ sets the tone for the show,” he continues. “Tom and I never really agreed with all that urgency, but we certainly felt the pressure and made the effort to reach out to A-List guests.”
Two weeks before The Late Late Show was scheduled to debut, Horowicz and Snyder were interviewed by LA Times reporter (and friend of Tom’s) Rick Dubrow. When Dubrow asked Snyder who the first guest would be, the host answered as follows:
“You know how it is. They’re all in there trying to book God, and in the end, we’ll be lucky if we can get Suzanne Somers.”
After the LA Times story came out, the reaction from Somers was predictable and, understandable. “I walked by the fax machine and there was a fax to Tom, from Somers,” Horowicz recalls. “It had only two words on it, and the second word was ‘You.'”
“The show bookers knew something bad was coming when Suzanne’s people called to ask for our fax number,” he continues. “They had been working furiously to curry favor with Hollywood publicists so we could get decent guests, and now everyone at CBS was pissed.”
On Horowicz’s instructions, he and Snyder drove down to Somers’ home in Marina del Rey armed with a gigantic flower bouquet. However, the actress was not home, so they left the bouquet at the door.
“About a month later, Suzanne appeared on The Late Late Show and gave Tom a lot of shit about that quote,” Horowicz says. “It was a magical interview that you can see by logging onto the Paley Center archives.”
P.S. The first guest on Snyder’s January 9, 1995 debut turned out to be Candice Bergen.
Update (July 30):
The revisiting of this classic episode has continued, warmly, on Twitter:
Previously on FishbowlNY:
Tonight Show Chatter Has LA TV Producer Remembering Carson’s Killer Extra 15 Minutes
2006 photo of Somers: s_bukley/Shutterstock.com