Daniel I. Snyder, 55, 'Diner' guy, TV producer

November 18, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff

Daniel I. Snyder, one of the "Diner" guys whose coming of age was celebrated in the Barry Levinson film, died of cancer Friday at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. The Bowie resident was 55.

Danny Snyder also was the originator and producer of the annual "Battle of the Corporate Stars," televised on ESPN.

He remained close through his adult life to the buddies of his youth, including Mr. Levinson.

Mr. Snyder organized Camp Low Self-Esteem -- a gathering in which the now middle-aged men would play sports, smoke cigars, drink and revive the legends immortalized in "Diner." Mr. Levinson frequently attended, and in recent years, filmed the camp for a documentary on their lives since the diner days.

"It didn't improve self-esteem, but they all had a great time," said Brad Lenkin, sales director for Mr. Snyder's Corporate Sports Battle. "They were all good buddies who toasted and roasted each other."

Mr. Snyder's 50th birthday celebration at Sabatino's Restaurant became part of the documentary.

The group of friends included Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, who became a millionaire as founder of the now-defunct Merry-Go-Round retail clothing chain, Baltimore television newscaster Richard Sher, and drug-addiction treatment expert Howard "Chip" Silverman, whose book, "Diner Guys," recounts four decades of their lives.

Those friends would call Mr. Snyder the most sarcastic and funniest of the group, the one who most closely resembled the character portrayed in the movie by Paul Reiser.

"Snyder was great at reverse knocking," said Mr. Silverman. "He would say 'nice pants' to someone wearing truly awful clothes."

Kenny Fried, who worked with Mr. Snyder, was not part of the original group but was often invited to its reunions -- scenes of "unbelievable camaraderie," intense basketball, high-stakes poker and late-night stories, he said.

"This was a close-knit group, who grew up together and never left it," Mr. Fried said. "They stayed in touch, never ignored each other and totally delighted in each other's successes. They would berate Barry or Boogie for something, then say, 'Give me one of your millions.' "

When Mr. Levinson learned of his friend's illness, he named the Dustin Hoffman character in his film, "Sleepers," Danny Snyder.

Mr. Silverman did background research for the "Diner" film and followed the lives of Mr. Snyder and about 20 other close friends in his book. He recalled all-night conversations at the Hilltop Diner on Reisterstown Road, which gave the movie its name.

He also relived lacrosse games in which his team opposed Mr. Snyder's City College Knights. Mr. Snyder was an all-state lacrosse player at City and an All-American and co-captain of the University of Maryland lacrosse team. Although seriously ill, Mr. Snyder attended the NCAA lacrosse final four at College Park in May.

But lacrosse took second place to horse racing in his affections. From his early teens, when he accompanied his father to Pimlico Race Course, Mr. Snyder could handicap the races.

Mr. Snyder graduated from the University of Baltimore Law School, but never practiced law. He found himself drawn to the media, particularly television.

Mr. Snyder's most successful endeavor was the "Battle of the Corporate Stars," an amateur competition among employees of such companies as AT&T, MCI and NBC.

"We will miss Danny, but it won't be sad," Mr. Fried said. "He would want us all laughing and talking about how it was."

Services were held yesterday in Pikesville.

Survivors include his life partner, Candace D. Livingston of Bowie; and his mother, Jean Rothman Snyder; a brother, Harvey L. Snyder; and a sister, Harriet Hoffman, all of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 11/18/96

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.