In honor of this weekend’s doubly momentous anniversary date of July 29, which is both the article author’s birthday and the date his beloved former boss Tom Snyder passed away in 2007, Michael Horowicz has penned a wonderful remembrance at tvweek.com. As the reader comments bear witness, Snyder left an indelible mark.
From 1993 to 1998, Horowicz worked with Snyder in Los Angeles for CNBC and CBS. There’s a funny story in the article about how he would accompany the talk show host to the Bel Air Country Club every Thursday night for dinner, but only so Snyder could meet his monthly required minimum member spending limit. We thought it would be fun to hear a few more anecdotes about the legendary media figure’s wide-ranging L.A. career.
“In 1960, Snyder was fired from his reporter’s job at KTLA,” Horowicz, who recently left WNBC in New York to pursue his own projects with business partner Susan Winston, tells FishbowlLA. “He was crushed and out for revenge. There was only one thing he could do, which was place a curse on the Los Angeles Angels, set to premiere a few months later in the American League. Both the Angels and KTLA were owned by Gene Autry.”
Horowicz says he learned about the curse many years later, in 1995, while watching an Angels game in the CBS conference room with colleagues. Snyder noticed and mentioned the curse that night during his monologue.
“It was all one big funny joke, except to Autry’s widow Jackie, who believed in curses and was horrified,” Horowicz remembers. “It was arranged for Jackie to phone into the show live the next night, whereupon Tom lifted the curse, once and for all. Seven years later, of course, the Angels won their one and only World Series. I always thought Tom deserved a ring for that.”
Another phase of Snyder’s L.A. career took root at KNBC during the early 1970s. He helped turn around the station’s ratings and soon added the Tomorrow show. During the energy crisis, NBC made arrangements with the owners of a gas station across the street in Burbank to provice news vans with 24-hour access. Snyder also managed to wrangle a key to the pumps.
“One night after the 11 p.m.news, Snyder and Kelly Lange drove over to the station and started filling up,” Horowicz (pictured) says. “Within seconds, a line of dozens of cars appeared out of nowhere, drivers honking in disbelief at their good fortune. Tom tried desperately to explain that the station was closed. The people started getting very angry. He yelled to Kelly to drive away fast before a riot could begin. The next day, Snyder returned the key to the bosses.”
Even after Snyder’s career led him to the east coast, he and Horowicz would occasionally come back to meet up in LA with fellow newsman Jerry Dunphy (who passed away in 2002). “Those meals invariably ended up with Tom and me inside Jerry’s Rolls Royce, where Dunphy would play for us his latest county music songs on the dashboard cassette player,” he recalls.
Another L.A. reporter Snyder had great fondness for was Stan Chambers. He had him on the CNBC show in 1994 to help promote an autobiography and a few weeks later, spoke at a big KTLA anniversary event for Chambers.
“Everyone in Los Angeles television was at the old Columbia Bar and Grill at Sunset and Gower for the celebration,” says Horowicz. “Tom made a mental note of who was absent and when his turn came to speak at the podium he said, ‘If a bomb were to hit this place right now, Steve Edwards would become the biggest star in Los Angeles TV!’
Horowicz says he can only recall Snyder calling in sick once, in November 1994, a rare instance that required scrambling Sam Rubin and Dorothy Lucey as last-minute CNBC fill-ins. Years later, post-retirement, Snyder would often call KNBC news director Bob Long (who himself retired in 2009) to complain about something that had aired. “There is a special place in heaven for Bob for taking the time to listen to Tom. I think Bob knew Tom was near the end of his life.”
To read more of Horowicz’s great stories about Snyder, click here.
[Photos of Snyder, Horowicz courtesy Michael Horowicz]