Obituary: David Frost was most illustrious TV inquisitor of his generation
Broadcaster probably interviewed more world figures than any other
David Frost photographed in 2010. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Sir David Frost — who probably interviewed more world figures from royalty, politics, the Church, show-business and virtually everywhere else, than any other living broadcaster — was the most illustrious TV inquisitor of his generation.
He not only won virtually all the major television awards available, but his professional activities were so diverse that he was once described as “a one-man conglomerate”.
Sir David was regularly scoffed at by fellow broadcasters for his allegedly non-aggressive style of questioning.
But he invariably had the last laugh because he almost always extracted more intriguing information and revealing reactions from his subjects than other far more acerbic broadcasters who boasted about their hard-hitting treatment of their “victims”.
He was as affable and effusive off-screen as he was on it. And his cheery trademark introduction, “Hello, good morning and welcome” to his long running BBC1 Sunday programme Breakfast With Frost set the amiable tone for what was to follow.
His interview with the doomed American President “Tricky Dicky” Richard Nixon was a TV classic. During it, Nixon dramatically admitted that he had “let down the country”.
But there were many other historic moments, including one when he suddenly introduced the word “bonkers” during a tense interview with the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher over the sinking of the Argentine warship the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict. She was furious.
Sir David first came to notice nationally with the Saturday night TV satirical programme That Was The Week That Was, which he hosted and co-created in the early 1960s. By today’s standards of merciless lampooning, it would appear tame.
But in those days, it cocked a snook at the Establishment and pomposity in a way that had never been tried on the broadcasting media before. It shocked authority, and was a programme not to be missed by those who were its victims as much as by those who enjoyed seeing the great and the good so savagely ridiculed.
But it “made” Sir David who was then seen as a coruscating rebel, although quite a likeable one, and who was to develop, ironically, as an Establishment figure in his own right.
David Paradine Frost was 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 Footlights, the renowned revue and cabaret society. He then started to do some TV for the regional station in Norwich, particularly a programme called Town and Gown which was about Cambridge.