I’ve just learned from CNN and the Guardian that British journalist and broadcaster David Frost has died at age 74. The Guardian notes that he died of a heart attack while on a cruise ship—the Queen Elizabeth that was sailing from London to Lisbon. As the Guardian reports:
The 74-year-old, whose programmes included That Was The Week That Was and The Frost Report, was to give a speech on board the Queen Elizabeth, which is believed to have set sail from Southampton on Saturday on a cruise to Lisbon.
. . . Frost, who was knighted in 1993, helped establish London Weekend Television and TV-am, and was famed for his political interviews, most notably with Richard Nixon in 1977, in which the US president for the first time conceded some fault over Watergate.
In the U.S. we know him mainly for his four television interviews with Richard Nixon in 1977, during which Frost finally got the old rogue to confess that he’d behaved unethically during l’affaire Watergate. As Wikipedia notes, “The premiere episode drew 45 million viewers, the largest television audience for a political interview in history — a record which still stands today.”
But of course Frost had a long and distinguished career.
After going from a grammar school to Cambridge University, Frost was active in student journalism and the Footlights theatrical revue. From there he became a trainee at independent television before finding fame as the host of That Was The Week That Was, the pioneering TV political satire show. Frost’s distinctive delivery of his catchphrase, “Hello, good evening and welcome,” soon became instantly recognisable and much mocked.
The programme ran on the BBC during 1962 and 1963, before transferring to the US.
From then on Frost was a regular TV figure on both sides of the Atlantic, with shows including The Frost Report and Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life.
In later years, Frost hosted the Frost on Sunday talkshow on ITV, before returning to the BBC for the first time since the early 1960s in 1993 for Breakfast with Frost, which ran until 2005.
For many years he also hosted Through the Keyhole, which by coincidence returned to ITV on Saturday night under a revamped format.
After Breakfast with Frost ended, the broadcaster made a surprise move to al-Jazeera, where he interviewed political figures.
Frost’s interviews with Nixon were made into a terrific movie by director Ron Howard in 2008: “Frost/Nixon,” which you should see if you haven’t already (Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 92% rating from the critics, which is very high).
Here’s a short clip with scenes from the first interview (there are several others on YouTube). I tell you, I’m not a fan of the “trigger warning” trope, but, having lived through the Nixon era and the debacle of Watergate, I think I’d need a trigger warning for something like this—”Warning: Video of Richard Nixon.” His resignation was one of the high spots of my youthful period of antiwar activism.