Tom Snyder on Robert Blake, 2003

I’ve made it no secret that I was a big fan of the late Tom Snyder, long-time talk show host. I enjoyed his radio and TV shows, as well as his early attempts at blogging at his website, Colortini. (The name was a homage to his recommendation, before the first commercial break on The Late, Late Show, to “fire up a colortini and watch the pictures as they fly through the air.”)

I wasn’t any particular fan of Robert Blake, who died this past Thursday. Blake was the star of In Cold Blood and the TV show Baretta, and he was a favorite talk-show guest for many hosts (including Snyder) in the 1970s.

After Blake’s TV career ended, he began a long, sad decline that more or less hit rock bottom in 2001 after his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, was found dead in a parked car shortly after the two had dinner in a nearby restaurant. Blake was charged with the murder and his bodyguard was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

Although Blake was found not guilty, a civil jury eventually held him liable for Bakley’s death and ordered him to pay $30 million. (The judgment was reduced to “only” $15 million on appeal.) Blake filed for bankruptcy and slipped into obscurity, emerging for an interview in 2012 with Piers Moron … er, Morgan … and another on ABC’s 20/20 in 2019.

Anyway. That’s the background. While spelunking in the Internet Archive today, I ran across this blog post by Tom Snyder, written in 2003—after Blake was charged with Bakley’s murder, but before the trial.

If Snyder hadn’t been a great broadcaster, he would have been a great writer:

News from Tom, February 28, 2003:

I saw Robert Blake last night and could not believe my eyes!

I watched the Barbara Walters interview with Robert Blake last night. The last time I saw Robert in person was about six years ago. He was lean. Mean. In shape and a fighting machine. He told great stories about escapades with Steve McQueen and Nick Adams in a Hollywood that disappeared years ago. He was combative. He did lose his way in telling some stories. But he was great television, even though a bit scary.

I think I have mentioned here before that whenever Blake was booked on the show, we would comment afterwards that we wouldn’t be surprised if we read that he was arrested for killing someone. So it was no big surprise when the story broke last year that Robert had been arrested for the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee.

As I watched last night, I was struck by Robert’s pleas to his daughter Rosie. Looking directly into the camera and asking for her understanding. Robert used the same technique on my show. When he addressed the camera, his eyes filled with tears, begging a former loved one to reach out and touch him.

I think Blake is a con man. The tears. The stagecraft. All make me suspect. But I still believe he should be released on bond. His body guard and co-conspirator is free on cash Blake himself put up. I don’t think Robert is a threat to anyone but women named Bonnie Lee. And I presume his innocence—despite a stunt man friend claiming Blake offered him cash to kill Bonnie Lee.

Some of you have suggested that Barbara Walters wasn’t the right person to interview Blake. I disagree. Barbara, for whatever her faults and “The View” is chief among them, is still one journalist who gets it. I don’t plan to watch any more of Robert Blake on Friday. But not because of Walters. I just don’t wanna see Robert Blake as old beyond his time. And pale beyond his years.

—from (now defunct)

P.S.: Snyder mentions that it had been “about six years” since he’d last talked to Blake. I think he means this interview, which aired on CBS in 1999:

Spring forward, fall back: On today’s show, I screwed up Daylight Saving Time, not once, but twice. Both times, I said “remember to set your clocks back one hour before you go to bed.”

Oops. As any fule kno, it’s “spring forward,” and two callers corrected me before I went any further:

Captain Jack: “I didn’t go to CMU, but I did go to second grade, and in second grade our teacher said, ‘remember spring forward, fall back.'”

When I got home, I realized it wasn’t the first time I screwed up Daylight Saving Time. It was actually more serious the first time.

In college, I got hired to design a calendar book that was distributed to all incoming freshmen. It was a little spiral-bound thing. On the right-hand pages, there was a “week at a glance” calendar with important dates, and on the left-hand pages, there was “useful information” for new students.

Somehow, while laying out the calendar, I put the start of Daylight Saving Time on the wrong Sunday. I think I had it a week early.

I missed it in the proofreading process. So did everyone else. And the calendars were printed that way. In fact, no one noticed until a week or two before Daylight Saving Time.

On the Sunday morning before Daylight Saving Time was supposed to begin — the week I’d incorrectly put “Daylight Saving Time begins” in the calendar book — I was working at the front desk of the college library when a young student walked in, carrying a backpack.

Keep in mind this is the era before cell phones were common.

“Do you know what time it is?” he said.

I looked at the clock behind me. “It’s 12:05,” I said.

The student looked at me with disgust. “So it’s not Daylight Saving Time?” he said.

“No,” I said. “That starts next week.”

He pulled the calendar book out of his backpack. “This stupid book says Daylight Saving Time starts today,” he said. “I’ve been an hour early for everything all day.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said, walking away. “I wonder who the asshole was that put this book together?”

Now you know. Me. I was the asshole.

It wasn’t the first time and it obviously wasn’t the last.

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