Friday, September 6, 2013

Godspeed Sir David Frost

Satirist, journalist, writer, and television personality Sir David Frost died 31 August 2013 at the age of 74. The cause was a heart attack.

Sir David Frost was born on 7 April 1939 in  Tenterden, Kent. As a child his family moved rather often, first from Tenterden to Kempston, Bedford, then to  Gillingham, Kent, and finally to Raunds, Northamptonshire. While young Mr. Frost excelled at both football (or "soccer" as Americans would call it) and cricket in school, he displayed a considerable talent for satire even then. He attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. There he met other would play a large role in the genre of satire in the United Kingdom of the Sixties: future comedian John Bird; future comic actress Eleanor Bron; future comedian Peter Cook (he would find fame as part of the comedy team Cook and Moore with Dudley Moore); and future theatrical director and author Jonathan Miller. While at Cambridge he edited the magazine Granata and was a member of the Cambridge University Footlights Dramatic Club (most often simply called "the Footlights"). It was while he was a student at Cambridge that Sir David Frost made his first appearance on television. He appeared in a segment of f Anglia Television's show Town And Gown.

After leaving Cambridge Mr. Frost took a position with t Associated-Rediffusion. He supplemented his income by working in nightclubs. It was while he was doing an impersonation of then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at the Blue Angel in London that he was discovered by  Ned Sherrin. Mr. Sherrin hired young Mr. Frost as the linkman for his new BBC satire series That Was the Week That Was. That Was the Week That Was debuted on 24 November 1962. That Was the Week That Was proved extremely successful and turned "David Frost" into a household name. When it was cancelled after two years it was not due to declining ratings, but instead to bypass any possible controversy in the months leading up to the 1964 General Election. An American version of That Was the Week That Was aired on NBC from January 1964 to May 1965. While Sir David Frost was not a regular on the American programme, he did write for some editions of the show.

Following That Was the Week That Was Sir David Frost appeared on another Ned Sherrin show, Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life. While the show lasted only a few episodes (cancelled due to sketches deemed to be offensive), Mr. Frost appeared in several more shows throughout the Sixties:  the comedy programme The Frost Report, the talk show The Frost Programme, the talk show Frost on Friday, and the comedy and talk show Frost on Sunday. In 1968 Sir David Frost signed a contract to appear in an American talk show, and The David Frost Show debuted in 1969. He continued to appear on British television for a time on Frost on Saturday.

In the Seventies Sir David Frost appeared in a new version of The Frost Programme. He also interviewed former United States President Richard M. Nixon in a series of specials called David Frost Interviews Richard Nixon. He also hosted the specials David Frost Presents the Guiness Book of World Records and David Frost Salutes the Beatles. In 1978 he was the host of another American television series, Headliners with David Frost.  In the Eighties Sir David Frost hosted the specials This Is Your Life: 30th Anniversary Special, David Frost Presents: The Fourth International Guinness Book of World Records, and That Was the Year That Was (an update of That Was the Week That Was). For only a few weeks he was an anchor on the American tabloid show Inside Edition. He was also the host of the political programme Frost on Sunday. Later retitled Breakfast with Frost, it ran until 2005.

From the Nineties into the Naughts Sir David Frost was the host of another incarnation of The Frost Programme, Talking with David Frost, and Through the Keyhole.

In the entirety of the English speaking world Sir David Frost may well have been unique. As anyone who has seen clips of That Was the Week That Was knows, he was a brilliant satirist. There was very little that was too sacrosanct for his razor sharp wit, so much so that the BBC was sometimes very uncomfortable with his programmes (indeed, it is why Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life was cancelled). Quite simply, Sir David Frost could be very funny while at the same making a point.

While Sir David Frost was a gifted satirist, he was also one of the best interviewers of all time. Indeed, Mr. Frost went head to head with such heavyweights as Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher. He even did what many might have thought impossible, eliciting a grudging apology from Richard M. Nixon for the Watergate scandal. As an interviewer Sir David Frost could be friendly and personable, but, just as he was as a satirist, he could be fearless as well. Few trained journalists were as ever as good at interviewing individuals as Sir David Frost was. As a gifted satirist and talented interview, Sir David Frost was an entirely singular individual.

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