That Was The Sir That Was

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Sir David Frost died August 31, 2013.

Sir David Paradine FrostOBE (7 April 1939 – 31 August 2013) was an English journalist, comedian, writer, media personality and television host.

After graduating from Cambridge University, Frost rose to prominence in the UK when he was chosen to host the satirical programme That Was the Week That Was in 1962. His success on this show led to work as a host on US television. He became known for his television interviews with senior political figures, among them The Nixon Interviews with former United States President Richard Nixon in 1977, which were adapted into a stage play and film.

Frost was one of the “Famous Five” who were behind the launch of ITV breakfast station TV-am in 1983. For the BBC, he hosted the Sunday morning interview programme Breakfast with Frost from 1993 to 2005. He spent two decades as host of Through the Keyhole. From 2006 to 2012 he hosted the weekly programme Frost Over the World on Al Jazeera English and from 2012, the weekly programme The Frost Interview. [Wikipedia]

Sir David Frost

Sir David Frost, a Provider Guardian, was a social schmoozer and savvy businessman who used his fame as host of That Was The Week That Was (TW3) to become celebrated for interviewing Entertainment/Political Celebrities.

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Providers are without peer as masters of ceremonies, able to speak publicly with ease and confidence. And they are outstanding hosts or hostesses, knowing everyone by name, and seemingly aware of what everyone’s been doing. Providers love to entertain, and are always concerned about the needs of their guests, wanting to make sure that all are involved and provided for. [Please Understand Me II]

“The first time I stepped into a television studio”, David Frost recalled “it felt like home. It didn’t scare me. Talking to the camera seemed the most natural thing in the world.”

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, a figure he considered a significant over-estimate in 2011. The valuation included the assets of his main British company and subsidiaries, plus homes in London and the country. [Wikipedia]

Frost was very ambitious from the beginning, found his calling of host or interviewer quickly, riding the wave of the satire boom of the British comedians, which included the comedic genuses Artisans, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, in the early 60’s who started with the Beyond the Fringe. Fellow journalist, Christopher Booker recalls “… had no one was a more charismatic presence than Peter Cook, and when Frost arrived, as a spotty young freshman, he was soon making lame efforts to copy Cook’s uproariously whimsical style of humour. I recall rather cruelly remarking that the recipe for a bad joke was ‘D Frost and leave to Cook for 10 minutes’. He was so touchingly ambitious, without any obvious talent – but at the same time so impossible to dislike – that he was viewed as a kind of affectionately regarded joke himself.”

The involvement of Frost in TW3 led to an intensification of the rivalry with Peter Cook who accused him of stealing material and dubbed Frost “the bubonic plagiarist”.  Frost unfazed, for the Providers are “the most sociable of all the Guardians” knowing they can’t top the Artisans in comedy, parleyed his role as comedic straight man, and quickly moved on as producer and TV host.  When Frost came to America for TW3, Booker commented “I had never seen David as starstruck, sitting in his hotel room transfixed by the top American talk shows, which in those days were the very furnace of the modern celebrity fame created by television.”

Christopher Booker knowing David for fifty years probably summed up Sir David Frost’s legacy the best.

I added, however, that it was wrong to see him as just an ordinary person blown up large by the media. David did have unusual gifts – superhuman energy, compelling charm, an extraordinary memory for faces, great personal generosity. But the bad fairy at his christening decreed that all these should be used to serve only one end, to become world-famous simply for being world-famous.

What did it all really add up to? During the height of Frost’s fame, I asked the Nobel Prize-winning economist Frederick Hayek what he made of Frost. “Frost?” Hayek replied. “I’ve never heard of this man.”

But now that the lights have gone out and the dream fades, I can remember “Sir David”, as many others have been doing, only with amused but genuine affection – for the warmth of his unfailing geniality, and as one of the most extraordinary people I have met on this earth.

openquoteOver 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.closedquote — Sir David Frost

Other Provider Guardians include: Sam WaltonJoyce BrothersRoger EbertPat SummerallStuds TerkelDenis MukwegeAndy GriffithDick ClarkTim Tebow, and President William Howard Taft.

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