I saw a simply superb play last night. Entitled, ‘Frost Nixon,’ the play depicted the epic, four-part series of televised interviews between talk show host David Frost and President Richard M. Nixon (or, ‘Richard E. Nixon,’ as Archie Bunker always referred to him). Michael Sheehan and Frank Langella were tour de force as Messrs. Frost and Nixon.
The plot revolves around the attempts by both men to rehabilitate images and resuscitate careers that were in sorry states of disrepair. Frost had lost his way as a Brit alternative to Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and Merv Griffin. Nixon was desperately seeking ways in which to return to the limelight in the three years that had passed since his resignation.
Frost ultimately prevailed thanks to some dogged research assistants who uncovered transcripts from the notorious Watergate tapes that proved Nixon had lied about his knowledge of, and involvement in, the bungled burglary that led to his downfall.
Frost again became the toast of the town while Nixon remained, well, toast. For anyone interested in image and reputation, the play provides multiple examples of what to, and what not to, do.
My father brought me up to hate Nixon, and I found “Frost/Nixon” extraordinary on a lot of levels. Langella’s monologue on being hated/never accepted or one of the beautiful people (whether it really happened or not) made me sympathetic to Nixon being trapped in his self-hatred. No matter what good he did pre-Watergate, Nixon never could convey any comfort of being in his own skin or allow his brilliance to shine through. That’s why Watergate did him in, and Clinton survived impeachment.
David Frost went on to host ‘Breakfast with Frost’ the most important political TV shows in the UK. On the other end of the scale he also presented ‘Through the Keyhole’, which is like our version of ‘Cribs’… It seems once you’ve toasted a former US president your reputation can withstand pretty much anything – even downmarket daytime TV.
would love to hear your thoughts on stray-rod and the image of the sorry yankees these days…