Sunday, September 01, 2013

David Frost

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home - David Frost 

Sir David Frost was aboard the MS Queen Elizabeth, when he died of a suspected heart attack.
David Paradine Frost was born on the 7th of April 1939 in Tenterden, Kent, England. At Cambridge, Frost was editor of both the student newspaper, Varsity, and the literary magazine Granta. He was also secretary of the Footlights Drama Society, which included actors such as Peter Cook and John Bird.
After leaving university, Frost became a trainee at Associated-Rediffusion and worked for Anglia Television.

Frost was chosen by writer and producer Ned Sherrin to host the satirical program That Was The Week That Was, alias TW3. This caught the wave of the satire boom in early 1960s Britain and became a popular programme. TW3 was the last piece of scheduled programming broadcast by the BBC on a Saturday, and regularly overran its time slot. On 23 November 1963, a tribute to the assassinated President John F. Kennedy, an event which had occurred the previous day, formed an edition of That Was the Week That Was.

An American version of TW3 ran after the original British series had ended. Following a pilot episode on 10 November 1963, the 30-minute US series, also featuring Frost, ran on NBC from 10 January 1964 to May 1965. In 1985, Frost produced and hosted a television special in the same format, That Was the Year That Was, on NBC.
Frost fronted various programmes following the success of TW3, including its immediate successor, Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life, which he co-chaired with Willie Rushton and poet P. J. Kavanagh. More successful was The Frost Report, broadcast between 1966 and 1967. The show launched the television careers of John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, who notably appeared together in the Class sketch. He signed for Rediffusion, the ITV weekday contractor in London, to produce a "heavier" interview-based show called The Frost Programme.

Guests included Sir Oswald Mosley and Rhodesian premier Ian Smith. His memorable dressing-down of insurance fraudster Emil Savundra was generally regarded as the first example of "trial by television" in the UK.
Frost was a member of a successful consortium, including former executives from the BBC, which bid for an ITV franchise in 1967. This became London Weekend Television, which began broadcasting in July 1968. The station began with a programming policy which was considered 'highbrow' and suffered launch problems with low audience ratings and financial problems. A September 1968 meeting of the Network Programme Committee, which made decisions about the channel's scheduling, was particularly fraught with Lew Grade expressing hatred of Frost in his presence.
He was involved in the station's early years as a presenter. On 20 and 21 July 1969, during the British television Apollo 11 coverage, he presented David Frost's Moon Party for LWT, a ten-hour discussion and entertainment marathon from LWT's Wembley Studios, on the night Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. Two of his guests on this programme were British historian A.J.P. Taylor and entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr.

From 1969 to 1972, Frost kept his London shows and fronted The David Frost Show on the Group W (U.S. Westinghouse Corporation) television stations in the United States. His 1970 TV special, Frost on America, featured guests such as Jack Benny and Tennessee Williams.

In the same period he began an intermittent involvement in the film industry. He part-financed The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970), in which the lead character was based partly on Frost, and gained an executive producer credit.
In a declassified transcript of a 1972 telephone call between Frost and Henry Kissinger, President Nixon's National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, Frost urged Kissinger to call chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer and urge him to compete in that year's World Chess Championship. During this call, Frost revealed that he was working on a novel.

In 1977, The Nixon Interviews, a series of five 90-minute interviews with former US President Richard Nixon were broadcast. Nixon was paid $600,000 plus a share of the profits for the interviews, which had to be funded by Frost himself after the US television networks described them as "chequebook journalism". Frost taped around 29 hours of interviews with Nixon over a period of four weeks. The interviews were syndicated on American television, and screened internationally. The interviews were noted for Nixon's first apology to the American people for his role in the Watergate scandal.

After the 1979 Iranian Revolution Frost was the last person to interview Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.
Frost was an organiser of the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. Ten years later, Frost was hired as the anchor of the new American tabloid news program Inside Edition. He was dismissed after only three weeks, and then-ABC News reporter Bill O'Reilly was recruited as his replacement.

Frost was one of the "Famous Five" who launched TV-am in February 1983 but, like LWT in the late 1960s, the station began with an unsustainable "highbrow" approach. Frost remained a presenter after restructuring. Frost on Sunday began in September 1983 and continued until the station lost its franchise at the end of 1992. Frost had been part of an unsuccessful consortium, CPV-TV, with Richard Branson and other interests, which had attempted to acquire three ITV contractor franchises prior to the changes made by the Independent Television Commission in 1991. After transferring from ITV, his Sunday morning interview programme Breakfast with Frost ran on the BBC from January 1993 until 29 May 2005. For a time it ran on BSB before its later Sunday morning rebroadcast on BBC 1.

Frost hosted Through the Keyhole, which ran on several channels from 1987 until 2008 and also featured Loyd Grossman. Produced by David Paradine Productions, his own production company, the programme was first shown on prime time and daytime television in its later years.

Following the end of the BBC series Frost worked for Al Jazeera English, presenting a live weekly hour-long current affairs programme, Frost Over The World, which started when the network launched in November 2006. The programme regularly made headlines with interviewees such as Tony Blair, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Benazir Bhutto and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua. The programme was produced by the former Question Time editor and Independent on Sunday journalist Charlie Courtauld. Frost was one of the first to interview the man who authored the Fatwa on Terrorism, Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri.
During his career as a broadcaster Frost became one of Concorde's most frequent fliers, having flown between London and New York an average of 20 times per year for 20 years.
In 2007, Frost hosted a discussion with Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi as part of the Monitor Group's involvement in the country.

In June 2010, Frost presented Frost on Satire, an hour-long BBC Four documentary looking at the history of television satire. Prominent satirists who were interviewed for the programme include Rory Bremner, Ian Hislop, John Lloyd, Chevy Chase, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Will Ferrell and Tina Fey.

Frost was the only person to have interviewed all eight British prime ministers serving between 1964 and 2010 (Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron) and all seven US presidents in office between 1969 and 2008 (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush).
He was a patron and former vice-president of the Motor Neurone Disease Association charity, as well as being a patron of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, the Hearing Trust, East Anglia's Children's Hospices, the Home Farm Trust and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
After having been in television for 40 years, Frost was estimated to be worth £200 million by the Sunday Times Rich List in 2006. The valuation included the assets of his main British company and subsidiaries, plus homes in London and the country.

Over the last half century the television interview has given us some of TV's most heart-stopping and memorable moments. On the surface it is a simple format - two people sitting across from one another having a conversation. But underneath it is often a power struggle - a battle for the psychological advantage - David Frost

Good Night David

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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