David Frye featured on his album, Richard Nixon: A Fantasy
|Birth name||David Shapiro|
|Born||November 21, 1933
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||January 24, 2011
Las Vegas, Nevada
|Notable works and roles||I Am the President, Richard Nixon: A Fantasy|
David Frye (November 21, 1933 – January 24, 2011) was an American comedian, specializing in comic imitations of famous political figures, most of whom were based on notable Americans, including former U.S. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, Vice Presidents Spiro Agnew and Nelson Rockefeller, Senators Hubert Humphrey and Bobby Kennedy, as well as film celebrities, e.g., George C. Scott, Henry Fonda, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum, Jack Nicholson, Jack Palance and Rod Steiger, and media figures, e.g., William F. Buckley Jr. and Larry King.
However, as eerily accurate and subtle as his impersonations were, the comedic narratives spoken by those depicted by Frye were outrageously à propos as well as politically savvy and au courant. For example, in one narrative, Frye had newly elected Nixon and his wife visit the White House just prior to assuming residency there in 1969. The incumbent Johnson answers the doorbell, oblivious as to the identity of his unannounced visitors, misidentifying them even after introductions have been made:
- [Doorbell rings]
Johnson: "I'll get it, Lady Bird! Who's there?"
Nixon: "It's Dick and Pat."
Johnson (shouting): "It's Pick 'n Pat!"
Nixon: "No, it's Dick and Pat: The President Elect ... and Mrs. Elect."
Johnson: "I understand."
Johnson (shouting back): "Company, Lady Bird! Beautify yourself!"
Another, from a February 1971 appearance on NBC's Kraft Music Hall, had him appearing in two segments. In the first, he portrayed Humphrey as a drug store owner (harkening back to Humphrey's original vocation) being interviewed by show host Eddy Arnold. The latter segment had Frye impersonating Nixon, William F. Buckley, Jr., George Jessel, Truman Capote and Liberace at a Valentine's Day party. Frye's Nixon often keyed off the President's own catchphrases ("Let me make one thing perfectly clear", "Let me say this about that", etc.)
In 1973, Frye's album, Richard Nixon: A Fantasy, which dealt with Nixon's Watergate troubles, developed marketing problems when all three network affiliates in New York City (WNBC-TV, WABC-TV and WCBS-TV) rejected commercials promoting the album, citing questions of taste. In addition, the Woolworth's department store chain decided not to stock the record because, in their words, "some of our customers might be offended."
Though his heyday was in the 1960s and early 1970s, when his Lyndon B. Johnson was definitive and he vied with Rich Little as the premier Nixon impersonator, Frye continued to create masterful new impressions and evolve old ones. His 1998 album Clinton: An Oral History featured riffs on Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Pat Buchanan, and John McLaughlin, plus that of an older Nixon (complete with pauses and phrasing more typical of the ex-President as he sounded in the 1980s and 1990s).
As featured artist:
- Clinton: An Oral History (1998)
- Frye Is Nixon (1996)
- David Frye Presents The Great Debate (1980)
- Richard Nixon: A Fantasy (1973)
- Richard Nixon Superstar (1971)
- Radio Free Nixon (1971) (re-released in compilation 2006)
- I Am The President (1969) (re-released in compilation 2006)
- Bob Booker & George Foster Present The New First Family, 1968: A Futuristic Fairy Tale (1966)
Impersonated public figures
- video: David Frye performing in 1969
- Lapka, Larry. "David Frye Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 26 December 2012.
- "Eddy Arnold Again Hosts Music Hall". Schenectady Gazette. 6 February 1971. p. 19.
- Safire, William. Safire's Political Dictionary. New York: Random House. p. 549. ISBN 0-679420-68-1.
- "Rejection snag for David Frye's Watergate album". The Miami News. 4 September 1973. p. 4C.
- William Grimes (January 29, 2011). "David Frye, Perfectly Clear Nixon Parodist, Dies at 77". The New York Times. p. D8. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
- Mark Evanier (January 29, 2011). "David Frye, R.I.P.". news from me. Archived from the original on May 19, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
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