Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Snow on the thatch..."

An interesting hair-related exchange from Bill Shatner's 1993 interview with Tom Snyder on his eponymous 1992-1995 CNBC show. The interview is part of a publicity blitz promoting the actor's then newly-released book Star Trek Memories.

Bill Shatner begins talking about how the Star Trek cast are getting old and how the "clock is ticking."

Snyder interjects: "Wait a minute, Bill. Don't say that!"

"Well, Tom, the gray hair a sign...there's snow on the, on the thatch - what do they say? There's snow on the roof?"

Snyder gets the quote more or less right: "Just because there's snow on the roof, doesn't mean there isn't fire in the heart."

"Well, the fire that you're feeling is pneumonia" [Bill Shatner is poking fun at Snyder, who is conducting the interview while battling a cold].

Snyder doesn't take the bait/diversion: "If you want to start comments on hair..." The interviewer laughs and gives a knowing glance. He then points at Bill Shatner "If you want to start hair comments."

"No, no! No comment! You're tough!"

Here's the full clip:

The exchange is unusual, primarily because it is an example of a tough, well-researched, and even combative interview - but one also conducted in a truly professional, courteous and non-aggressive manner. A lesser interviewer may have been intimidated to "go there"- not Snyder. Here Bill Shatner's passive-aggressive toupological deflector is rendered entirely useless - a very rare thing to see - he is putty in the interviewer's hand!

But what is Snyder alluding to? Maybe he doesn't know about the toupee and it's just an innocent "Don't talk to me about hair as I'm thinning and combing over, while you've still got plenty" kind of a dig. Or maybe it's more. Maybe it's "I'm a talented interviewer and know full well about your toup, and as an interviewer it's a very juicy subject for me to try and explore, so be warned with your 'snow' comments, if you want to start a hair discussion, I'm ready!"

How far could this all have gone? It all brings to mind a famous 1997 exchange between British Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman and the then recently resigned former Home Secretary Michael Howard:

We often wish "tough interviews" upon those we disagree with or even dislike, but the above exchanges perhaps serve as a reminder that the art of the tough interview is more like fencing than a blood sport. Noble, respectful, yet probing and relentless. The interviewer can poke holes in his subject's arguments, while the interviewee must strive to prove his or her logic can withstand even the toughest scrutiny. And watching those we like face tough questions is certainly part of the game too.

The whole three-part exchange between Tom Snyder and Bill Shatner is up at YouTube, with the actor truly facing a well-prepared Snyder, who asks quite a few interesting and probing questions - just as he should.

Tom Snyder (1936-2007)


  1. Snyder wore a toupee himself, so he was well-versed in the toupological arts and could go toe-to-toe with Shatner in a battle of the hairpiece stars.

  2. Snyder did NOT wear a toupee. It was obviously a combover. One thing that does come to mind that I will never forget is Snyder's interview with Leonard Nimoy at around the same time. During the interview, Nimoy mentions some of his earlier work, at which point Snyder says something like 'Oh yeah, like Zombies of the Stratosphere, a real Academy Award winner!', followed by that big hearty laugh Snyder was known for. Nimoy quicky shot back 'You know, Tom, it really upsets me when you make fun that'. The interview suddenly took an serious turn as Tom then jumped on the defensive, saying 'Oh, I didn't mean ...' Nimoy interruped with 'You know, Tom, I just don't appreciate that. I was young at the time, trying to raise a family ...' Snyder then replied 'Well I'm sorry. I didn't mean to ...' and then Nimoy comes back with 'Well, I just don't appreciate it when you do that'. The uncomfortable exchange gave me a newfound appreciation and respect for Nimoy.
    Now, why the hell am I the only one who remembers this?

  3. Ratty Lost Years PieceApril 6, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    Tom Snyder was the man.

    Not only did know how to interview a guest, but he also inspired excellent parodies.
    This video makes fun of the level of preparation he would conduct for guests, which could sometimes border on creepy:

  4. To Shatinator, yes I'll admit Snyder's hair was a combover instead of a toupee. As to why no one remembers the Nimoy interview, it's because you didn't seem to understand that bit was mock serious and not really as you recounted it.

  5. Many people wear toupee among very famous personalities so what Tom Snyder . Thanks for sharing such a nice videos .
    Toupee @-

  6. Ratty Lost Years PieceApril 7, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    Needs a "High Hairline" tag.

  7. And how about Bill's hair? Is it a TJ Curly hybrid?

  8. To adidas:

    Then why would you very matter-of-factly state otherwise in the first place?
    You're wrong about the interview. It was a serious moment and the mood in the studio got really quiet. I invite you to prove otherwise.

  9. Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout
    Toupees, TJ's, Lace-ism, Katz-ism, Rug-ism, Patch-ism
    This-ism, that-ism, ism ism ism
    All Bill is saying is give (his) piece a chance
    All Bill is saying is give (his) piece a chance


  10. Here's the Snyder-Nimoy bit: