Caroline Cushing Graham, Girlfriend Portrayed in 'Frost/Nixon', Remembers David Frost
The former "Vanity Fair" and "New Yorker" editor reflects on her five years with the famed English journalist, who died Aug. 31: "you are our Prince."
Caroline Cushing Graham was the west coast editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker from 1983 – 1997. She is the founder of C4 Global Communications, with her son Charlie Windisch-Graetz, a public relations firm based in Santa Monica. C4 clients include: Herb Alpert, Montblanc and Great Plains Conservation.
I met David Paradine Frost at Viscount Vere and Lady Pat Rothermere's villa in the South of France in 1974, I was the Director of the Monaco Government Tourist Office in New York and David was my dinner partner that night. For five years after that starlit night we traveled the world together as he interviewed heads of state, world leaders and celebrities. Our first real date was an invitation to fly to Kinshasa, Zaire on my birthday, October 30, to the Muhammad Ali, George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" fight. For the eight extraordinary rounds of the most famous boxing match in history I took photographs at ringside and David was the TV host of the evening. It was a glamorous start to our five year whirlwind affair. On another date we went to Australia for a week, as David was a producer of the Neil Diamond concert tour. Neil sang "Sweet Caroline" to me in Melbourne.
David was a Cambridge University scholar, and a stand up comedian. A graduate, with Peter Cook and John Cleese, of the Cambridge Footlights Dramatic Club, he famously caught people off guard in their interviews. Prime Minister Harold Wilson often invited us to dinner at Downing Street, where David brought the sombre group to life. David interviewed eight serving British Prime Ministers and seven U.S. presidents.
In 1975 David and I traveled to Florida for a series of The Guinness Book of World Record shows he hosted. One was about the fattest man, the sword swallower, and another about a post office built for small people. The human bomb blew himself up for the camera, he had added an extra stick of dynamite to impress David. We were impressed and horrified by the effort – that was a typical Frost program.
In February 1977 David asked me to come to Beverly Hills, where he was preparing for the historic interviews with Richard Nixon. At the time there was anxiety and money needed, and ads to be sold to pay for the cable TV channel airing the interviews. In the Beverly Hilton, a group of famous journalists were researching questions with David, along with our good friend and advisor Clay Felker, founder of New York and New West magazines.
David worked himself to the bone in Beverly Hills, with a painful root canal emergency done a few days before the Laguna Beach interviews. I accompanied David with the team down south to Laguna, he did not drive, contrary to the Frost/Nixon movie. As David prepared to interview Richard Nixon, I made the sandwiches for their lunch. When the last days' interview was over, there were 28 hours of interviews, Nixon invited us for drinks at the Western White House. Diane Sawyer accompanied us to a private room for cocktails. Nixon asked me if I liked good wine, as he was proud of his cellar. Driving away that evening I felt sorry for Nixon, he was so lonely and we were going to a party at Ma Maison, where Sammy Kahn was performing.
Nixon had said to David, as we posed for a photograph with him: "Marry that girl, she lives in Monte Carlo." David laughed at Nixon's remark and it became a standing joke between us – he used it in his book I Gave Them a Sword. As we returned to Beverly Hills David was anxious to meet with his team and get their reaction to the interviews before we went out to dinner.
David was ace at telling silly jokes. There is a record album of his one liners. "Flying I don’t like, but it's crashing I am afraid of" was one of his favorites. Accent on the words Flying and Crashing. Those were the last words we shared, laughing, when I saw him in July five weeks ago. David had perfect timing -- his television greeting of "Hello, Good evening and Welcome” became his famous line on That Was The Week That Was. My sons, Constantin and Charlie Windisch-Graetz, and I fondly remember him saying "Good Night Sweet Prince." Good Night David, you are our Prince.