Anthony's invitation to the David Frost show
The untimely death of Sir David Frost has brought to mind an incident in which I briefly rubbed shoulders with not only the legendary broadcaster and satirist, but also with Beatle John Lennon – a TV happening which fortunately was captured forever on film.
I don’t think the entire episode lasted more than a minute, but I’ve dined out on it for years. It’s now got to the stage when the mere mention of it has my wife looking heavenwards with eyebrows raised and an “Oh no, not that story again” look on her face.
But I think the passing of Frost recently is as good a time as any to tell the story. So here goes . . .
It was August 1968. I was a mere 19-years-old and going for a week’s holiday to London with a friend (whom I have never seen since, by the way – the following story is probably why!).
Unlike today’s smartphone-clutching teenagers, we didn’t have a great deal of money to splash about. The days in the capital would be taken up sightseeing, but the evenings posed a bit of a problem. I had the bright idea of getting our evening entertainment gratis by applying to TV stations for free seats for show recordings.
Amongst the tickets we received were a couple for one of David Frost’s live weekend shows (he did three: on a Friday, Saturday and a Sunday) which were broadcast live in the early evening.
We turned up at the Wembley studios not knowing who was going to be appearing. As it turned out, the two main guests were John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Frost interviewed them about their ‘mind-blowing’ art exhibition involving public participation which had just opened in London.
Ever the showman, Frost moved to a blackboard containing a piece of wood, a hammer and nails, and asked for members of the audience to come down to have a go.
Don’t ask what possessed me, but I shot up out of my seat and made my way down the studio steps.
Another young man got to the hot spot before me and I waited whilst he had his 15 seconds of fame.
Then it was my turn. Frost gave me the hammer and a nail which I then, with a little flourish, tapped into the piece of wood.
This is probably the only time I’ve ever attempted what could be termed as do-it-yourself, so it’s good it was captured by the cameras!
Frost then asked me what the experience was like. “It was unbelievable,” I answered rather nervously and also tongue-in-cheek.
The audience erupted in laughter. John Lennon who was standing at the other side of me handed me a badge which said: ‘You Are Here’ on it. Seconds later, I was ushered out of shot whilst Frost and Lennon then joshed with each other.
Because the show went out live (something that would rarely happen today) I obviously didn’t see it. Nor was it repeated.
The only people I knew who did see it were my parents, who would have been satisfied just to see me in the audience, and a couple of friends who were watching by chance.
It wasn’t until the early 90s when an old school friend of mine was watching – and recording for his wife – a late-night documentary about Yoko Ono, when the ‘nail clipping’ was briefly repeated. He couldn’t believe it when he saw me on the screen. His wife was asleep in bed, and he rushed upstairs, shook her awake and told her. She must have been delighted!
He got in touch with me, and I pleaded with him not to record over the tape, but to send it to me when he’d finished with it.
So it wasn’t until 25 years later that I got to see the show in which I’d played such a considerable part!
A couple of years after that, Frost wrote one volume of his autobiography (a second never followed). I was amazed to read on something like page 382, the great inquisitor re-counting the nail story in some detail (adding that in the show the following night, he interviewed Moshe Dayan about his role in the Six-Day War).
This indicated to me that the show hadn’t been destroyed or taped-over, and still existed in a TV studio vault somewhere.
To promote his story, Frost did a bookstore tour, which included my home city. Naturally, I went along.
At the signing session, I told him that I was the ‘audience participation’ to which he’d referred. After all those years, I think he was a little bemused and taken aback, but we talked a little, and he signed the book, generously adding “. . . thanks for all your help on page . . .”
He told me to call his secretary to try to get a tape, but it proved useless.
However, a little time after that I did manage to get a ‘bootleg’ copy from a TV insider.
Years later, it was included in a commercially-released DVD which had about half-a-dozen other memorable Frost shows.
If you’re curious and want to see the clipping for yourself, simply key into YouTube the words ‘David Frost John Lennon’. The menu will include a blurry black and white still from the show. Click on that and you can watch the program either in its entirety, or simply whizz on about 12 minutes and you’ll see me in white shirt and with an amazingly thin tie, hobnobbing with two of the biggest stars in the firmament.
It was unbelievable then, and it’s unbelievable now, 45 years later.