The Nation: David Can Be a Goliath

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Unfair. At 23, just down from Cambridge University, Angry Young Man David Frost presided over a rude, crude, outrageously nervy weekly show that revolutionized British television and became a footnote in the modern-history books. That Was the Week That Was, fondly known as TW3, lampooned and lacerated the Establishment, pooh-poohed every fat-cat institution from advertising to Buckingham Palace—and emptied British pubs on Saturday nights. Imported by NBC-TV in 1963, the American version of TW3 lasted two pallid seasons. Frost seemed to have lost ire and interest—or at least good gagwriters. In fact, he was concentrating on the endeavors that were to make him King Frost. He "went soft," as some old mates put it.

Frost interviewed Candidate Richard Nixon in 1968—so softly that in 1970 President Richard Nixon ferried Frost and Mum to the White House, where the Englishman was appointed to produce a show in celebration of the American Christmas. Mona Frost still keeps a fondly inscribed photograph of the Nixons in an honored place in her Suffolk bungalow.

Or maybe Puritan Frost was merely reverting to form. The only son of a church-mouse-poor Methodist minister, he was at 17 a spellbinding lay evangelist. He preached love and practiced thrift. He still does. Almost uniquely among showfolk, Frost seldom has been known to throw tantrums. He is almost as solicitous toward employees as he is toward celebrities, and treats autograph hunters as tenderly as his audiences or his relatives. He is indiscriminately ingratiating. Not since Ed Sullivan has anyone on television back-patted, hugged and smooched so rapturously. His wide-eyed, basset-unctuous, hand-kneading style on The David Frost Show reminded some viewers of Uriah Heep. "It's been a joy having you here!" he tells the dullest talk-show guest.

Stage-door groupies do not throng after Frost. He is sallow-skinned, pouchy-eyed. His suits are rumpled; the thin brown hair barely conceals a balding pate. He gulps pills to avert the double vision he gets from migraines. He gnaws his fingernails. His voice is flat and distinctly non-U. He wears blue suede shoes.

But in more elegant circles he is found amply attractive. Among the dozens of desirables he has "escorted" have been Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson and Diahann Carroll. He seems unluckier in the bridal suite than in the board room, however. After a celebrated long-term engagement, Diahann turned around and married (briefly) a Las Vegas clothier. And then there was Karen Graham. A Texas-born model and Vogue cover girl, she received the unqualified blessing of David's Mum ("She's just like one of the family") and was about to get Frosted by Billy Graham in Manhattan. Two days before the Big Day, she got hitched instead to a Chicago businessman. Frost's current love is comely Caroline Cushing, ex-wife of Howard Gushing, the millionaire socialite.

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