Sunday, January 30, 2011

David Frye, 1934-2011, R.I.P.

Okay, so I was wrong...

After yesterday's post about Charlie Callas, I figured it would be at least a few days before someone I'd admired -- especially someone whom I was a fan of at about the same freakin' time in my adolescent life -- would die, but as my old friend Wayne used to say, "The best-laid plans of mice and men are often cheesy!"

Less than twenty-four hours of learning about Charlie's passing, I learned that impressionist David Frye had died a few days ago.

Like Charlie Callas, David Frye was familiar to me from countless variety shows during the late 1960s before his LPs started coming out. (I bought the first three, I Am the President, Radio Free Nixon, and Richard Nixon Superstar. It gives me a perverse pleasure knowing that his record label for the first two was Elektra, the same label that put out The Doors... but that's just me.) Frye did a lot of the contemporary standard celebrity impressions (Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Kirk Douglas, George C. Scott, etc.), and his William F. Buckley, Jr. was hilarious... but his real forte was imitating politicians

The earliest political impression I clearly recall Frye doing was Robert F. Kennedy. (As I recently discovered, that was the one that got him started doing political take-offs!) Frye's RFK was predictably silly and delivered in a rapid-fire barrage of clichéd "Kennedyspeak": "Ahhhh... A lot of people say that I talk like Bugs Bunny and this is not true! Bugs Bunny talks like me! 'What's up, doc?' is my line!"

Frye, after having miraculously
"become" Tricky Dick Nixon!

Frye's LBJ and George Wallace -- to list only two notable examples -- were spot-on, but his crowning achievement, and the impression that was widely considered to be the best version by any impressionist, was that of Richard M. Nixon. In fact, when Nixon left office in disgrace in 1974, it apparently put a damper on Frye's meteoric career! Kinda sad, as the man could do so many other celebrities so well.

Along with such varied influences as -- believe it or not -- Pat Paulsen, Shirley MacLaine (long story there), and a 1971 Playboy interview with George M. McGovern, Frye opened my mind to whatever interest I developed in politics as a teen.

If you aren't familiar with the man and his work, you won't understand why his death saddens me so. If you are... I've probably written too much already. Anyway, here's a video Frye himself put together not long ago, apparently (judging from the impressions he does). Unfortunately, it ends rather abruptly.

Thanks for your time.


  1. Darn! I was waiting to hear his Jack Nicholson. Not that Jack is all that hard to do. But I remember fondly his Nixon impressions.

    Frye's another one who I assumed had already passed on, not having heard anything about him in years. It's interesting that the obscure ones seem to be popping off alluva sudden.

    (Shirley MacLaine? Really?)

  2. He did do a great Nixon! I didn't realize the resignation hurt his career!

    And I think he looks a little like George C Scott!

  3. Maybe you need to post on a few people who are still living so Roy doesn't think they are dead! lol.

    sorry Roy...*ducks*


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