David Frost and Celebrities: From John Lennon to Muhammad Ali

By Daniel S Levine,

The great British journalist and interviewer David Frost died this past weekend. In the United States, he is best remembered for his incredible interview with Richard Nixon after he resigned from the presidency. That interview has entered popular culture thanks to the play and Ron Howard’s very good film adaptation. But Frost, like many of the other great television journalists of his era, had to interview countless great subjects, including those in popular culture. He spoke with members of the Beatles several times and he chatted with Hollywood legends like David Niven and Elizabeth Taylor.

Frost spoke with every newsmaker he could and I’ve put together a collection of some key interviews you can dig up on YouTube.

Frost and The Beatles:

In 1964, The Beatles were a four-headed monster - you rarely saw one without the other three. But Frost got to go one-on-one with just Paul McCartney. Here, less than a full year after “Love Me Do,” Frost asks McCartney if they ever thought they’d be this big.

Frost spoke with George Harrison and John Lennon in 1967 to discuss transcendental meditation, which would change the group’s direction. They took their famous trip to India a short time after and George and John were the two most impressed by the Maharishi.

In 1970, Ringo Starr was promoting his first solo album, a collection of standards called Sentimental Journey.

He spoke with John and Yoko Ono several times throughout the late 1960s and 1970s. John and Yoko would talk with anyone who would listen and Frost loved to speak with unique subjects. John and Yoko certainly fit that bill. Here’s his chat in 1972.

In 1974, Frost spoke with the greatest boxer in the world, Muhammad Ali. He caught up with Ali after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and the two reminisced about their meeting in Then and Now.

Frost got David Niven to talk about his experience in the military. Niven starred in plenty of great war films, but his actual experience wasn’t as good.

Here is a fascinating, extended interview with Elton John:

This is only a short clip, but it shows how Frost got Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to show off the most expensive piece of jewelry in the world:

For those who have not seen the actual Frost/Nixon interviews, it really is stunning to see how a British journalist managed to get Nixon to open up the way he did. The interview remains one of the most important moments in TV history.

image: Wikimedia Commons

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