independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Veteran broadcaster and writer David Frost dies

File photo dated 3/2/1989 of the Princess of Wales talking to David Frost.
File photo dated 3/2/1989 of the Princess of Wales talking to David Frost.

Veteran BBC broadcaster David Frost has died from a heart attack aged 74, his family said.

David died last night on the Queen Elizabeth cruise ship, where he was due to give a speech.

Known for incisive interviews with the leading figures of his time, and perhaps most famously disgraced US president Richard Nixon, Sir David spent more than 50 years as a television star.

David Cameron was quick to send his condolences and tweeted: "My heart goes out to David Frost's family. He could be - and certainly was with me - both a friend and a fearsome interviewer.

In a statement to BBC News, David's family said: "His family are devastated and ask for privacy at this difficult time. A family funeral will be held in the near future and details of a memorial service will be announced in due course."

TV personality Esther Rantzen said: "I think fellow interviewers have always been awestruck by David Frost's capacity to illicit memorable, sometimes historically significant quotes from all the movers and shakers or our time - presidents, prime ministers, A*list celebrities - but for all of us who had the pleasure of knowing him socially, it is his kindness, generosity, loyalty and humour that we will miss so much.

"His summer party was always the best party of the year. His fund of anecdotes and his constant wit was a joy. In fact, it was always his greeting: 'a joy to meet you' and it was always a joy to meet him."

Mr Cameron added: "My heart goes out to Carina and the family.

"Sir David was an extraordinary man - with charm, wit, talent, intelligence and warmth in equal measure. He made a huge impact on television and politics.

"The Nixon interviews were among the great broadcast moments - but there were many other brilliant interviews.

"He could be - and certainly was with me - both a friend and a fearsome interviewer."

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls tweeted: "Very sorry to hear of the sudden death of Sir David Frost - he was such a friendly man, but also a brilliantly beguiling interviewer".

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls tweeted: "Very sorry to hear of the sudden death of Sir David Frost - he was such a friendly man, but also a brilliantly beguiling interviewer".

Actor and comedian Stephen Fry tweeted: "Oh heavens, David Frost dead? No!! I only spoke to him on Friday and he sounded so well. Excited about a house move, full of plans ... how sad."

BBC journalist Andrew Neil said he was "shocked and saddened" by the news, while comedian Rory Bremner described Sir David as "a unique broadcaster, showman, generous and great friend. We'll not see his like again."

Sir David's award-winning interview style was considered non-aggressive, affable and effusive, but he had a talent for extracting intriguing information and revealing reactions from his subjects.

Born on April 7, 1939, the son of a Methodist preacher, at Tenterden, Kent, he was educated at Gillingham Grammar School, Wellingborough Grammar School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

At Cambridge he joined the renowned revue society Footlights and got his first experience doing television for the regional station in Norwich with a programme called Town and Gown.

His big break came when he co-created and hosted satirical show That Was The Week Was in the early 1960s.

Another of his early programmes, The Frost Report, effectively launched John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett on their subsequent glittering careers.

In more recent times, he had hosted Breakfast with Frost on Sunday mornings (1993-2005) and panel game show Through The Keyhole (1987-2008).

He was currently working for Al Jazeera English and had recently interviewed Chilean novelist Isabel Allende and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton.

Sir David's list of interviewees included virtually every US president and British prime minister during his working life.

During his series of five interviews with Nixon, the notoriously slippery former president known as "Tricky Dicky" dramatically admitted that he had "let down the country".

His appeal to American audiences saw him become one of the Concorde's most assiduous users, and he claimed to have been on the supersonic plane "somewhere between 300 and 500 times".

Other historic moments in his career included a tense interview with Margaret Thatcher over the sinking of the Argentine warship the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict in which he suddenly introduced the word "bonkers".

He was also the last person to interview Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

Outside world affairs, his roster ranged from Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, Peter Ustinov, Woody Allen, Muhammad Ali, the Beatles, Clint Eastwood, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Sir John Gielgud, Norman Mailer, Warren Beatty and many more

Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "To be interviewed by David Frost was never a chore, even when trying to defend the indefensible.

"But his scrupulous and disarming politeness hid a mind like a vice. David Frost could do you over without you realising it until it was too late. He was a peerless broadcaster."

BBC producer Barney Jones, who edited Breakfast with Frost for more than 10 years, told BBC News: "He brought an enthusiasm to everything he did which was quite extraordinary.

"David loved broadcasting, did it brilliantly for more than 50 years and was eagerly looking forward to a host of projects - including interviewing the Prime Minister next week - before his sudden and tragic death.

"We will all miss him enormously."

TV presenter Loyd Grossman described Sir David as a "great family man" as he paid tribute to the "irreplaceable" journalist.

"He dominated British broadcasting for fifty years," the presenter told Sky News.

"I remember as a young teenager watching That Was The Week That Was, and just being mesmerised by his talent."

He also praised the broadcaster's "very serious journalism", adding: "He was almost the most variously talented journalist in British broadcasting history. We have all grown up with him and lived with him. His loss will be immense to all of us.

"I have to say he was also an incredibly generous broadcaster to work with. I started working with him thirty years ago, in 1983, when I was completely inexperienced. He was always so helpful and kind and encouraging to me and to many others."

He added: "He was always hugely energetic, tremendously enthusiastic, knew exactly what was going on all over the world. He was a master of current events, incredibly incisive analyst and someone who is really irreplaceable. I can't think of any other broadcaster that can step into those very, very big shoes."

 

Press Association

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