The Frost freakout 

5 October 2020

David Frost
Frost – protest target.

Yippie king puts David on the spot

Jerry Rubin
Rubin – quizzed on TV.

TELEVISION chiefs will begin an inquiry today into the yippie invasion of the David Frost Show.

Daily Mirror masthead

From the Daily Mirror for 9 November 1970

The probe was ordered by Mr. Brian Young, director-general of the Independent Television Authority. It follows the invasion of the Saturday-night programme by about twenty yippies – members of an American-based revolutionary cult. They swarmed on to the stage while Frost was quizzing yippie leader Jerry Rubin and forced Frost to change to another studio. Some shouted four-letter words and threatened to take over the programme.

An ITA official said that the authority would have talks with London Weekend Television, who produce the Frost programme, to find out how the freak-out happened  

Yippes catcall David Frost on the set of his show

On stage at the David Frost “freakout”… Frost faces Rubin (standing far left) and the yippies.



An English yippie who took part in the studio invasion said last night that Frost set up the scene that turned his show into a shambles. He claimed that Frost knew the invasion was going to happen

But a spokesman for London Weekend Television denied the claim.

He said: “Frost does not go in for gimmickry, and neither do his colleagues.” The English yippie claimed that when he and other members of his group were asked to go on the programme, they understood that Frost wanted them to stage the invasion. He added: “When we did, Frost seemed to go mad. Perhaps we went too far.”

Last night the programme — shown live by London Weekend — went out uncut on other TV networks. But the ITA asked the programme companies to start the show with a warning that viewers should expect “unforeseen developments.”


A pre-programme announcement by Granada TV said that the language and behaviour of “a group of hippies” had given rise to a number of protests from London viewers. “Some people may be offended by the language used,” the announcement said. A Granada spokesman said: “It is impossible to edit the programme. It is not practical for us to ‘bleep out’ the offending words.”

Earlier yesterday Clean-up TV campaigner Mrs. Mary Whitehouse stepped into the row over the show. Mrs. Whitehouse, general secretary of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, said the hippie invasion had been planned. “American revolutionaries have declared that TV is their platform,” she said.

London Weekend are to hold their own inquiry to find out whether the yippies had tickets for the show or were gatecrashers. The incident may lead to a tightening of security at studios for “live” programmes.

by James Wilson and Jack Bell


Courtesy of mannorak


The night they ‘liberated’ a TV show


THE David Frost Show on Saturday night was turned into a chaotic free-for-all by a band of revolution-preaching yippies. From the start the insults flew thick and fast Frost was told he was a “plastic” person and ought to be stuffed and put in the people’s museum.” The man Frost was trying to interview was American student Jerry Rubin, who was convicted earlier this year at the Chicago conspiracy trial.

But soon a crowd of yippies, who had been shouting from the audience, invaded the TV studio set and surrounded Frost.

Rubin tried to grab Frost’s notes, saying: “You don’t need notes. Rip them up. What are you scared of?” Four-letter words flew and one yippie yelled “This is liberated TV.” Another yippie squirted Frost in the face with a water pistol and shouted “Shut up, Frost. You’ve been dead for years.”

Within moments Frost had retreated to the front row of the audience and tried to shout questions from there. Sitting next to him was his next guest, author Robert Ardrey, who said, “This is the most infantile exhibition I have ever seen in my life”

LWT had recently relaunched its on-air look and schedules for the second time amid continuing financial woes.


One of the yippies offered a lighted cigarette to Mr Ardrey and said: “Smoke the pipe of peace.” Mr. Ardrey replied: “Take it away, I don’t need it” Earlier, Rubin said he wanted to free all prisoners and jail all judges.

He said he would spend the fee for appearing on the show — £100 [£1,700 in 2020, allowing for inflation] — on “bombs and dope.”

Amid total chaos the programme reached its first commercial break. Frost hurried to studio officials and asked: “Can we move to another studio without letting these people know?”

Meanwhile, viewers had been swamping London Weekend Television, Scotland Yard and local police stations with telephone protests. But by the time ten police officers from Wembley reached the studio, about twenty yippies whom London Weekend had “invited to leave” were outside.

The police lined them up on the pavement and searched them — going through their pockets and all their possessions. No drugs were found Jerry Rubin and his close friends were not in the group, and police searched the area for them.

by Sally Moore


Dramatis personae

David Frost (1939-2013): Began a career in entertainment at the Cambridge University ‘Footlights’, later becoming a trainee at Associated-Rediffusion whilst doing cabaret at night. He became host of the satirical BBC show That Was The Week That Was and its successor Not So Much A Programme, More A Way Of Life and finally The Frost Report. From there he moved to Rediffusion, where his show The Frost Programme became very successful, especially after his ambush interview with crooked insurer Emil Savundra. He was a major player behind the London Television Consortium in 1967, which aimed to take the ITV franchise from ATV London, although he was not on the board of directors as this would have prevented him from appearing on screen under ITA rules. His various talk shows for London Weekend (as it became after it won the franchise) led him to become successful in the same role in the US. In 1980, he was one of the founders of TV-am, and the only survivor of the ‘Famous Five’ presenters when the station almost collapsed a few months after it launched. He took his TV-am show to the BBC as Breakfast with Frost after TV-am closed.

Jerry Rubin (1938-1994): The son of working class parents from Cincinnati, Rubin went to college at UC Berkley. He dropped out to focus on ‘left-wing’ causes, including civil rights, legalisation of marijuana and against the Vietnam War. He was one of the founders of the Youth International Party, whose informal members were called ‘yippies’, which specialised in publicity stunts including flashmobbing politicians. His leadership of protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to police rioting and his arrest, charging and imprisonment on various charges, most of which were later overturned. Upon Nixon’s re-election by a landslide in 1972, he began to stop his activist work and invested what money he had in a California start-up called Apple Computer Inc., which made him a multimillionaire by the end of the decade.

Youth International Party (founded 1967, petered out in the 1970s): An informal grouping with no membership list or party organisation, which ran candidates for president of the US and whose activists performed various acts of disruption including stage invasions, throwing pies at conservative figures, tossing money at New York Stock Exchange traders to see if they would pick it up (they would) and organising protest marches. The also ran food co-ops, ran underground newspapers and organised music festivals.  


❛❛Russ J Graham writes: This type of chaos always makes for great television. Not good television, not even enjoyable television, but certainly great television. It is something entirely of the medium, impossible to recreate in any other venue. Probably better known today is a similar event in 1976, although it was not networked and resulted in the firing of the presenter: the Thames local show Today and its run-in with the Sex Pistols.


Courtesy of ThamesTv


But there are some more very notable differences. Whilst Bill Grundy and Thames should have expected the Pistols to have gone rogue but somehow didn’t, here, up front, is an accusation that this event was staged. There’s a very big clue that it was at least expected, if not actually staged: Frost and his crew move into another studio for the second part of the programme. Uh huh. There just happened to be a fully set-up working second studio for them to waltz into and start the programme afresh with no notice? With no union concerns about the manning levels? With no account taken of the expense of running two live studios at a time when LWT was still haemorrhaging money? In Wembley? Okay then, if you insist.

A couple of journalistic tropes exist in the rest of this article. Viewers ‘swarmed’ LWT and the police, did they? Late on a Saturday night? Also, because this is the 1970s, of course Mrs Mary Whitehouse is wheeled out to say nothing of consequence, because of course she was.

Additionally, Granada is straight-up lying that it wasn’t possible to edit or bleep the show. Of course it was. They could also have not showed it at all, or just showed the calmer second half. But they didn’t: seeing very little reaction from the ITA – quite surprisingly restrained, really – there was no reason to interfere with something that had made headlines that morning and was pretty well guaranteed big viewing figures on a dull Sunday night or at least some useful publicity in the papers on Monday morning.

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6 responses to this article

Steve Gray 5 October 2020 at 5:14 pm

Long before the Pistols and before Frost’s encounter with the Yippies, there was Simon Dee’s 1970 show, also on LWT – you guessed it, the George Lazenby interview but also John Lennon’s appearance.

That kicked up a fuss and some would argue it cost Dee his t.v. career, it being supposed, in some quarters, that the show was transmitted even though Dee and others expressed concerns about the content.

I’m not convinced that a search for ‘dark forces’ or a t.v. conspiracy will prove very fruitful.. But there seems to be something in the idea that a little controversy can stoke public interest.

Paul Mason 10 October 2020 at 6:26 am

So David Frost was plastic person who should have been stuffed and put in a people’s museum.
Wish I’d seen that! I like It!
But by 1970 he would have been in Madame Tussauds!

Paul Mason 26 October 2020 at 4:43 am

Simon Dee complained that David Frost took his show from him (DF) part owned LWT. Peter Cook said Frost pinched his act. They say David Frost rose without trace. True?

Russ J Graham 26 October 2020 at 10:47 am

There are a lot of fans of David Frost who read TBS, so very carefully I reply… yes.

Steve Gray 3 November 2020 at 12:19 am

Good Evening Russ and Paul,

I would suggest that Simon Dee’s strength was as a more-or-less disruptive influence, within a conservative organisation – to entertaining effect.

By contrast, by 1970, David Frost had more control over his career, and -arguably – had more experience than Dee, in weathering media criticism.

Perhaps an eventful David Frost interview with a properly controversial figure in show-business or even politics, would have been seen as ‘What This Man Usually Does’. Perhaps less so, with Dee.

I would, therefore, suggest that these factors, combined, meant that when trouble came looking for Simon Dee, it was just that bit easier to ask ‘Why Is He Here ?’

rogan gosling 19 February 2021 at 6:50 pm

We had no trouble getting in, there was an open door at the back of the studio, the majority of the stage invaders were not from the audience and we had all met up beforehand to plan it with Rubin.

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