David FROST OBE (1939-2013)

David Frost This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 317
  • Subject No: 318
  • Broadcast date: Wed 12 Jan 1972
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Fri 7 Jan 1972
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 12
  • Edition: 9
  • Code name: Winter

on the guest list...

  • Mona - mother
  • Ronnie Corbett
  • Jean - sister
  • Margaret - sister
  • May Goodwin
  • Kenneth Holmes
  • Richard Armitage
  • Ned Sherrin
  • Patrick Campbell
  • Joan Pugh
  • Bob Lambert
  • Luisa Carmo
  • Lance Percival
  • Kenneth Cope
  • Roy Kinnear
  • David Kernan
  • Al Mancini
  • Annie Ross
  • Fenella Fielding
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Bob Hope
  • Sammy Davis Jr

production team...

  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

Presenting Life

celebrating the hosts

Birth of Life

the genesis of the programme

Ralph Edwards

the man who created it all

ITV This is Your Life

A special edition celebrating ITV's 21st anniversary

Life Is Full Of Surprises

Producer Robert Tyrrell reveals some 'cloak and dagger' tactics

Life Is What They Make It...

New producer Malcolm Morris reveals more behind-the-scenes secrets

How To Deceive Your Husband

TV Times takes a light-hearted look at keeping a secret

The secret life of Eamonn Andrews

Weekend Magazine feature on the show's popularity

This is his life …

Irish magazine RTE Guide reveals some behind-the-scenes secrets

Andrews's death casts doubt on his show

The Guardian reports the death of Eamonn Andrews

Patrick Campbell

Ronnie Corbett

Bob Hope

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Screenshots of David Frost This Is Your Life

Surprise Of Your Life book

Presenter Eamonn Andrews and producer Jack Crawshaw recall this edition of This Is Your Life in their book, Surprise Of Your Life...

One of the star contributors to the Bob Hope show was, of course, David Frost. In typical Frost style, his message came via a telephone from a BOAC jet 40,000 feet in the air en route to New York.

David told me how his interview with Bob was the start of his highly successful American talk show series. And it was that success on the other side of the Atlantic that had been causing us problems ever since we decided to go for David Frost as a This Is Your Life story.

As the world knew, David Frost had always been a young man in a hurry. He had been the first Englishman to have a five-night coast-to-coast chat show in America and was forever jetting around the world. How on earth, then, could we catch him?

First, we talked to David's devoted secretary, Joan Pugh, who, in order to keep up with him herself, had in the past flown from London to New York taking dictation, only to fly straight back home again to type it up.

Next, we talked to Richard Armitage, who, as head of a London theatrical agency, discovered David when he was an undergraduate appearing at Cambridge University's Footlight's Theatre. Only the previous year, Richard had covered more than 150,000 miles in planes just keeping an eye on David's affairs – business affairs, that is. Richard told us that their business relationship had begun five years previously with regular Friday morning breakfast meetings.

And we knew that David's famous breakfasts had often hit the headlines. Even the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson accepted his invitation to breakfast at the Connaught Hotel in 1966.

A restaurant would be a good place to pin him down. But which one? And for one so gregarious, who with? Both questions were answered by the one person we knew he would move heaven and earth for. His mother, Mrs Mona Frost.

When David was a boy, the two of them used to go together to watch his local football team, Gillingham, David sporting a huge blue and white rosette, his mum cheering the team on.

After his father died, David was particularly conscientious about keeping in close contact with his mother. When he received a golden Emmy statuette at Carnegie Hall in New York in June 1970 he telephoned her at three o'clock in the morning to tell her the good news.

He once phoned her from a ship in the Atlantic and another time, when she was ill he flew to see her in a helicopter which he parked in the road outside her bungalow in the Suffolk village of Beccles. Later that year, when he was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive the OBE, he took his mum along. And he did the same again when, a month later, he was invited to entertain the President of the United States at the White House Christmas party.

So which restaurant should Mrs Frost ask him to take her to? Again there was only one answer: Quaglino's, where David used to work in cabaret. It was there that he had taken his mother and a few close friends to celebrate the day he received the OBE.

But when? Because of David's American commitments he was never in England on a Wednesday show day. The only time we could catch him would be on a Friday night. Sadly, this would mean the programme could not be transmitted live but would have to be recorded and transmitted the following Wednesday. So Friday it had to be.

The next person to take into our confidence was Freddie Imhasly, the Maitre d' at Quaglino's, and an old friend of mine, the manager, Ron Masara. And, boy, did we need both of them.

Like most good restaurants, Quaglino's was designed for eating, not televising. And therein lay our first problem. There was only one alcove in which to hide our camera. But from that position we couldn't get a shot of what the Maitre d' assured us was David's favourite table.

We decided to take a gamble and have the Maitre d' tell him that his normal table had been given away in error to a party of people, already seated, and that he had specially chosen another one which he felt sure Mrs Frost would like. A bunch of flowers for Mrs Frost on the new table should do the trick.

But would it really, I thought, as I waited, hidden from view and peeping through a chink in the narrow partition at the diners as they entered the room and took their seats.

David Frost This Is Your Life

After 15 minutes of waiting there was still no sign of David and his mother. Little did I know then just what a tower of strength Mrs Frost was proving to be. Back at his home she was fussing him to get a move on. But David, well used by now to the trappings of success, was telling her that there was no need to hurry. The table had been booked and that was that.

Fortunately for us, Mum won and as I saw him lead her into the restaurant I was able to breathe my first sigh of relief. But it certainly wasn't my last, because the moment his new table was pointed out to him I saw his eyebrows raise and a typical Frost challenging look cover his face.

I glanced quickly across the restaurant searching for two familiar faces. And was I ever relieved to see the neatly-groomed hair of our production assistant, Maggi Minchin! She was sitting, as we had planned, at a nearby table with a handsome escort. The escort just happened to be one Ray Siemann, our own cameraman who, unknown to any of the other diners, had a film camera hidden under his table. His instructions were simple: if David refused to take the table we had chosen, he had to grab his camera and start filming for his life, in more ways than one.

Fortunately David succumbed to the charms of the invincible combination of mother and Maitre d'. And while Maggi, Ray and the Frosts tucked into sumptuous dinners I waited, mouth watering, until a decent interval had passed before interrupting, as the coffee was about to be served, with my own addition to the menu.

David Frost This Is Your Life

David Frost This Is Your Life
Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

The only son of a Methodist minister was having dinner with his mother at a London restaurant on 12 January 1972 when the waiter turned out to be Eamonn Andrews.

For one of the rare moments in his globetrotting life, David Frost was speechless; his mother, Mona, just relieved she had managed to keep the secret.

His colleagues from That Was The Week That Was were waiting back at the studio: Al Mancini, Patrick Campbell, David Kernan, Kenneth Cope, Lance Percival, Roy Kinnear and another old pal from Frost Over Britain, Ronnie Corbett.

David had been the first English chat-show host to have a five-nights-a-week spot on network television in America. Pinning him down was a major problem, but we knew he would do anything for Mum. Once, when she was ill, he had flown by helicopter to the Suffolk village where she lived and parked it in the road opposite her bungalow. She was with him when he received his OBE.

But what even the supreme TV professional didn't know was that that night at Quaglino's the 'diners' at the next table were our production assistant and cameraman; the camera was under the table.

David Frost This Is Your Life
Gus Smith biography of Eamonn Andrews

Gus Smith recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Eamonn Andrews His Life...

It was a fact that Eamonn did not easily accept failure. From boyhood, determination was a strong characteristic, a powerful motivating force, even if it was often masked by a beaming smile. Malcolm Morris would say that Eamonn was prepared to go to the moon to achieve a successful Life pick-up. When the This Is Your Life team pointed out hurdles or obstacles in getting someone's story, he immediately wanted to know how quickly they could be surmounted.

When David Frost's name came up for discussion at the weekly Thames production conference, it was stated that it would be very difficult to surprise him because he was rarely in the country. Frost was by now a jet-setter and an international TV personality. Eamonn admired the way he had made it in America, as well as his talent and industry. He described him then as 'a young man in a hurry'.

But how was he going to surprise him? He pondered the question for days. The only hope was at Frost's favourite restaurant - in this case, Quaglino's, where he had once worked in cabaret. Mona Frost, his mother, agreed to assist the Life team but because she was close to her son found the secret 'terribly hard to keep'.

That evening, Eamonn waited nervously for the Frosts to arrive at the restaurant, wondering if David would after all refuse to take the table chosen for him rather than his own. Eamonn would say later, 'Fortunately David succumbed to the charms of the invincible combination of mother and Maitre d'. And while they tucked into sumptuous dinners I waited, mouth watering, until a decent interval had passed before interrupting, as the coffee was about to be served, with my own addition to the menu.'

David Frost's biography

Neil Hegarty recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, That Was The Life That Was...

Extraordinarily, he was continuing to record the final season of The David Frost Show in New York throughout the month – and January also saw him taken by surprise in London during a visit to Quaglino's.

The surprise was delivered by Eamonn Andrews, the urbane host of This Is Your Life: this episode of the programme, complete with its big red book, brought together Mona, Jean and Margaret Frost, along with a lengthy roster of Frost associates, including Richard Armitage, John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett, Fenella Fielding, Luisa Carmo, Bob Lambert and Joan Pugh. [Bigredbook.info editor: John Cleese does not appear]

Sammy Davis Jr – who had submitted to no fewer than three ninety-minute interviews for The David Frost Show – recorded a tribute from the United States: he remarked that "I've never met a kinder, more generous man in my life. Right on, David: you're doing your thing."

Series 12 subjects

George Best | Alfred Marks | Rolf Harris | Don Whillans | Sacha Distel | Les Dawson | Doris Hare | Keith Michell | David Frost
Barry John | Michael Flanders | Charlie Williams | Ginette Spanier | Hughie Green | Tom Courtenay | Hylda Baker
Gordon Banks | Alan Rudkin | Michael Wood | Graham Kerr | Pauline Collins | Ray Illingworth
Patricia Hayes | Nosher Powell | Richard Briers | Lulu