Frost philosophy: Don’t waste time 

8 April 2024 tbs.pm/80873

 

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From the Aberdeen Press and Journal for 15 July 1982

KITTY Muggeridge once predicted that David Frost would sink without trace. When he was at the height of his fame as the very incarnation of television personality, someone taxed her with the inaccuracy of her prediction and the redoubtable Kitty shrugged and said: “He has risen without trace.”

Frostie — everybody calls him that — invented the eight-day week. At his most frenetic period of appearing on the small screen, he appeared five nights a week in the US and three nights a week in Britain. It was impossible, but he did it, gaining a place in the “Guinness Book of Records” for crossing the Atlantic 1000 times

The aerial commuting had a quite remarkable effect. On this side, he won the reputation of being the most feared, and fearless, of all telly interrogators. There were questions in the House about trial by TV — particularly over such gripping interviews as his grilling of Dr Savundra.

In the US he had another persona entirely. Milton Shulman, that most perceptive of critics, described the transatlantic approach of Frost as: “Cooing, glutinous, chummy, ingratiating … one senses he has lost his instinctive grasp of what is going on in this country.”

The American show was eventually cancelled. Frost more or less vanished from the screen on this side of the Atlantic as well and it looked as if Kitty Muggeridge might have got it right after all.

All that energy was channelled into wheeling and dealing. His name was associated with everything from Japanese restaurants to publishing ventures. There was a much-publicised association with City pacesetter Jim Slater. Frost seemed to get as much of a lift from the glamour of finance as he did in the glare of TV lights.

Every impressionist in the country can do what they fondly imagine is the Frost style. “Hello, good evening and welcome …” They clutch a clipboard. They twitch. They narrow their eyes. They stab the air with an accusing forefinger. They adopt a nasal whine. They smile ingratiatingly.

 

Four people pose for a photograph

Peter Jay, David Frost, Angela Rippon and Michael Parkinson in a photograph by Lord Snowdon

 

The real David Frost comes as a bit of a surprise. He is taller than one expects — bulkier, too. The bags under his eyes are not quite so shadowed as they used to be in his eight-day-week phase. He is pale, but not nearly so pallid as I had been told he would be. He was smoking a Havana cigar, well-chewed in the American style. He was immaculately dressed with the mandatory navy blazer.

He was friendly, jokey and much given to rather endearing outbursts of giggling. “Bless you.” He shook my hand firmly. “Super to be here.” Somebody nearby said he had enjoyed his book. “Bless you.” David said shaking him firmly by the hand. “Super to be here!”

What makes David run? What drives him to seek new challenges? It was obviously a question he had been asked many times before. “Maybe it is my Methodist background. I have always believed that one of the worst things you could do in this world was to waste your time. Being happy is a by-product of doing what you really want to do. You have to believe in what you are doing and then there is no limit to what you can achieve.”

I was to learn that one of the great influences on his life was the “Reader’s Digest”.

There was a delicious sense of irony about the fact that Frost has set his name to a book of the world’s worst decisions called “I Could Have Kicked Myself” just at the time when pundits are queueing up to tell all who will listen what a monumental mistake it is to think that breakfast TV will catch on in Britain.

 

Frost sits on a leather couch

Frost at home in the 1960s

 

Frost is deeply committed to the belief that Anna Ford and Angela Rippon will coo to us over the toast and marmalade while Frostie and the rumpled charms of Parkie will become as much a part of our early morning way of life as bacon and eggs.

“Breakfast television itself is a misnomer. Breakfast is only one of the things that people do before they go to work. The days of the big cooked breakfast are gone. Most people just have toast and coffee or perhaps cereal and fruit juice. So they can watch as well as listen. We intend it to be fun. It’s the wrong time at day to have people lecturing you. In the States, 20% of available television sets are turned on for morning television and the programming is some of the best on the American networks.”

Frost shrugged off the fact that the US has no national newspapers and therefore depends on television to give an overview of the world beyond the parish-pump outlook of their local paper. He expressed wide-eyed astonishment that people had forecast that the inflated egos of his partners would tear apart the stole concept of TV-AM.

“We are not on an ego trip, I promise you. We want to give a service and have a super time.” He broke off for a moment to greet someone who was hovering hopefully around the perimeter of our discussion. “Bless you,” be said, shaking the woman firmly the hand. “Super to be here. I mean that. Super! Bless you…” the lady went away looking slightly glazed.

David Frost

Frost at the height of his fame in the 1960s

Among all the really catastrophic decisions be had gathered in his book, did be have a favourite? “Well, there is a special place in my heart for Sam Phillips, who sold Elvis Presley’s exclusive contract to RCA tor $35,000, which he thought was a pretty smart deal at the time, but which cost him his royalties on more than a billion records. And then there is the sad stay of Dick Rowe of Decca Records, who advised Brian Epstein that groups with guitars were on their way out, thereby driving the Beaties into the arms of a rival company, who laughed their way to the bank.

“But I suppose my all-time favourite has to be Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon who, while on exercises off Tripoli in 1893, ordered that his flagship HMS Victoria should turn to port. The flag captain, realising that this would place Victoria on a collision course with HMS Camperdown, queried the order. ‘Do as I say or I will have you court-martialled,” bellowed the admiral. The officers stood to attention on the bridge as the Victoria and Camperdown duly collided and sank. Sir George went down with his ship…

“That is a connoisseur’s disastrous decision. A man makes a decision, is warned about it, rejects the warning and then gets his just desserts. It is sheer poetry.”

Did he ever lose any sleep worrying that breakfast television could be a similarly catastrophic decision?

“Not a bit,” he said.

“Good luck,” I said.

“Bless you,” he said.

 

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1 response to this article

Ramones1986 23 April 2024 at 2:19 pm

This article would aged like milk.

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