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King of the Q & A

What Do Clint Eastwood, Jack Kemp, Richard Nixon and the Beatles have in common? they were all interviewed by David Frost.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

(continued from page 5)

"It was mind-boggling to get the soccer offer," he says. "But there were two reasons I said no. One was that I wanted to go to Cambridge. The other was--and it seems unbelievable these days when athletes are so highly paid--but back then soccer in England had a maximum wage of only 15 pounds a week."

He had already written reviews for Methodist youth-club publications, and he knew he "wanted to be involved in writing and performing and producing and all that." At Cambridge, he joined Footlights, the renowned revue and cabaret society. "Then I started doing some television for the regional station, which was in Norwich. There was a program called 'Town and Gown' that the station did about Cambridge. And for the Christmas edition in December 1959 they decided they wanted a spoof of television, and they came to Footlights and asked me and Peter Cook"--who would later co-found the Beyond the Fringe comedy troupe--"to write it. We went to the station to do it, and I walked into this rather odd environment of a television studio and I thought, 'This is home. This is for me.' It was an instant feeling, and from that moment on, for me the decision was made. It was a very memorable day."

After graduating, Frost worked at a London commercial network, ITV, spending his evenings doing a comedy act at local clubs. Then, in 1962, came "That Was the Week That Was," and the television career he had sought began to take off.

A few years later, in 1968, Frost smoked his first cigar. "It was when I wanted to go on a diet for a short while," he says. "My first courtship with cigars was as a dessert substitute."

He eventually went back to desserts, but he had fallen in love with cigars. "I just got the taste for cigars," he says, "and I have enjoyed them ever since. It's always been Havanas. Finding substitutes for Havanas is not easy. I smoke at least half a dozen a day. I used to love the torpedoes, but these days I find they're slightly more difficult to get in really good condition. I like the slightly chunky cigars, like Epicure No. 2. Upmann and Partagas have both got chunky cigars. And the Romeo y Julietas are perfect for travel."

Generally, he says, he prefers a social smoke. "It's quite a brotherhood, isn't it, the brotherhood of cigar smokers? It's so civilized. I tend to smoke at business meetings. But then again, I enjoy a solitary smoke, too. I'm often in the country on Saturdays, and I prepare for a show I do in London every Sunday morning called 'Breakfast With Frost,' and I like to smoke while I'm working. I just like the feeling of smoking. It's relaxing. And it helps me concentrate and clear my mind."

He also appreciates a good bottle of wine. "Oh, almost anything in the way of reds from 1961, obviously," he says. "And Penfolds Grange from Australia. I'm also very much into Château Gruaud-Larose '85, which is a fantastic year. And I love American Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. I think I've tried almost every Chardonnay. I enjoy the Jordan Cabernet and the Grgich Hills Chardonnay. And for a real treat, for dinner for two, when there's something to celebrate, my wife and I usually turn to a Corton-Charlemagne. That's luxury."

Over the years, Frost has written more than 17 books, produced many movies, won two Emmys and started two television networks--London Weekend Television and TV-am. In 1983, he married Lady Carina Fitzalan Howard, the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk. They have three sons--Miles, 12, Wilfred, 11, and George, 9--and Frost spends much of his limited spare time on the soccer and cricket fields with them.

On Dec. 31, 1992, David Frost became Sir David Frost.

It would seem that he has accomplished everything he could have possibly imagined. And yet, he says, there is more. There are still interviews to do, subjects to pursue. "I would like to interview the Pope," he says. "Provided my Latin is up to it, or my Polish. It's one of those situations where they say, 'Not at the moment.' You could argue that 'not at the moment' is a euphemism for 'never.' But for some years, I remember, Rose Kennedy was a 'not at the moment' situation, and then she did the interview. Sooner or later, 'not at the moment' turns into 'yes.' "

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