Tom Snyder's smoky voice, thanks to his omnipresent cigarette, was as legendary as his robust, infectious laugh.
The casual way he sat on the set of his late-night interview show on NBC beginning in 1972 and later on CBS was so distinctive that Dan Ackroyd lampooned him in the early days of Saturday Night Live.
Snyder, 71, died Sunday in San Francisco from complications associated with leukemia.
He'll be remembered "as one of the guys who stood out before the era of homogeneous TV anchors who looked the same, acted the same and had the same funny hair," said Tom Rosenstiel of the Project For Excellence in Journalism.
Snyder excelled at one-on-one interviews, Rosenstiel said, easily traversing the line between serious interviews and the so-called "infotainment" chats that are popular today. "He excelled at them both and elicited interesting things from people because he was genuine."
Snyder announced on his website in 2005 that he had chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
"When I was a kid leukemia was a death sentence," he wrote then. "Now, my doctors say it's treatable!"
Snyder's career began in Milwaukee in the 1960s as a radio reporter. He then moved into local television news and anchored newscasts in Philadelphia and Los Angeles before moving to late night in 1972.
Among his guests on NBC's The Tomorrow Show, which followed The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, were John Lennon, Charles Manson and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.
After a stint on CNBC, Snyder returned to late night TV in 1994, hosting The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder on CBS, which followed David Letterman's Late Show.
At the time, he told USA TODAY, he was thrilled to get back into late night TV. "Sometimes I think the alarm clock will go off and this will have been a very, very pleasant dream."
That gig ended in 1998, when Snyder was replaced by Craig Kilborn.
I always liked Tom Snyder. I always remember his laugh and the funny faces that he made while laughing.