Writer and broadcaster;
Born: April 7, 1939; Died: August 31, 2013.
SIR DAVID Frost, who has died aged 74 after suffering a heart attack, was a writer and broadcasting legend.
"Hello, good evening - and welcome" was his catchphrase address to the world during his 50 years at the very top of his profession, and the casual warmth of his manner was to serve him well, allowing him to develop close relationships with those in the highest seats of power that offered him unprecedented access. Frost was a man clever enough to know that if you wanted someone to open up and reveal their innermost thoughts, taking on the role of tough-talking adversary was not the way to do it.
Yet he was never content to simply be the best political interviewer in the land. His love for comedy and satire compelled him to straddle the fields of current affairs and light entertainment.
David Paradine Frost was born in Kent a few months before the Second World War and never conformed to expectation. The son of a Methodist minister of Huguenot descent, as a teenager he trained and worked as a Methodist preacher. He was also a talented footballer, and was offered a contract with Nottingham Forest.
But the grammar school-educated youngster had ambitions beyond God and the Saturday afternoon church of football worship, going on to win a place at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a degree in English.
His interest in the media soon emerged - he was editor of both the student newspaperVarsity and the literary magazine Granta - but the entertainer in him also flourished and he began to wear stage make-up as part of the Footlights Drama Society, which included actors such as Peter Cook and John Bird.
On leaving university, Frost became a trainee at Associated-Rediffusion and worked for Anglia Television, but his big break came when he was chosen to front the satirical programme That Was The Week That Was (aka TW3). After a slow start, TW3 grew to become a cult programme and Frost, ever-so-slick in his delivery and precise with his questions, became a TV star, not only in the UK but in the United States, utilising the same format.
His 1966 series The Frost Report was also a major success and launched the television careers of John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.
However, Frost, with almost every word absurdly stressed and accompanied by a nod of the head, wasn't content to nail himself to a light entertainment broadcasting mast. The follow-up series The Frost Programme revealed his desire for weightier interview, with guests including Oswald Mosley and Rhodesian premier Ian Smith. Nor was the polymathic Frost content to be simply a hired gun. In 1967 he was a member of a successful consortium which bid for the London Weekend Television (LWT) franchise.
In the late 1960s, Frost and his trademark red socks and braces led to him becoming a transatlantic presenter, fronting shows ranging in content from Jack Benny to Tennessee Williams, while also building friendships with key figures such as Henry Kissinger. And it paid off. His gladiatorial contest of 1977 with disgraced former president Richard Nixon (29 hours of conversation edited down to six) would come to be widely regarded as the greatest television interview ever.
Frost had grown up believing he could do anything, and he did. His career continued to shift emphasis, to defy single description, ranging from businessman to political interrogator, from writer to light entertainment broadcaster.
After the Iranian Revolution in 1979 he was the final person to interview the last Shah of Iran. He was also one of the "Famous Five" who launched TV-am in February 1983.
Yet, while Frost died leaving behind assets worth more than £200m, not everything he touched turned to gold. Like LWT, TV-am began with an unsustainable high-brow approach and restructuring was vital. And he was once part of an unsuccessful consortium, CPV-TV, with Richard Branson. At one point he was hired as the anchor of a new US tabloid news programme, Inside Edition, but was dismissed after only three weeks.
Not everyone loved Frost unconditionally. While Sammy Davis Jr once took off his diamond watch and gave it to him after an interview, fellow satirist Peter Cook accused him of stealing from him, and labelled him "the bubonic plagiarist".
Many critics also found Frost's stint as presenter on Through The Keyhole, which ran on various channels from 1987 until 2008, to be a waste of a quite brilliant mind, with the great interrogator resorting to pointing out a celebrity's colourful chamber pot in order to engage the interest of viewers.
Frost, though, had spent his career confounding expectation, and when it emerged he had signed to front Al Jazeera's live weekly hour-long current affairs programme, Frost Over The World, few eyebrows were raised. Equally, it wasn't surprising to discover he achieved major success in attaining access to the powerful, leading to interviews with the likes of Tony Blair, Benazir Bhutto and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. His contacts book was the best in the business.
And nor was it a shock when he returned to light entertainment in 2010 with Frost On Satire, a deconstruction of the genre featuring the likes of Rory Bremner, Ian Hislop, Will Ferrell and Tina Fey.
There's little doubt Frost was a trailblazer, an innovator, an inventor and an incredible communicator. Anyone unconvinced of the man's talents, his way of working people and his determination, should watch Frost/Nixon, Ron Howard's film of the iconic confrontation starring Michael Sheen.
It is fair to say his personal life was as colourful as his career. Frost enjoyed a series of high-profile relationships with the likes of British actress Janette Scott and American actress Diahann Carroll. He married and divorced English actress Lynne Frederick in the space of a year, before marrying the Duke of Norfolk's daughter, Lady Carina Fitzalan-Howard, in 1983. The couple had three sons and lived in Chelsea, with their weekend home at Michelmersh Court in Hampshire.
But it is for Frost's remarkable career that most will remember him. When asked in an interview how he had managed to achieve so much, he offered two great lines. "I'm not driven, I'm flown," he said of his ambition, before adding: "Being upbeat is the key to life."
Sir David, who received a knighthood in 1993, died on board the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth where he had been booked as a speaker.
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