Damien on… David Frost vs Emil Savundra: “Trial By Television”
…which was what the press quickly dubbed the encounter between Frostie and “Doctor” Emil Savundra.
The background was that Savundra, a Ceylonese (now Sri Lankan) businessman, black-marketeer, fraudster and general con-artist, had sold his ailing motor insurance company (it had launched with VERY low premiums – with predictable results) to its directors, just days before it collapsed, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without cover – and a large number with unpaid claims, many of whom suffered severe hardship as a result.
Things like this happen all the time, but the difference was that in 1967, Savundra was invited on Frost’s TV show to explain himself – and ACCEPTED. A supreme egotist, he figured he could best Frostie. And part of the reason he made this fatal error was he was STONED.
The thing was, he had a number of genuine ills (the only genuine things ABOUT him) and had been on pethidine – a potent morphine substitute – for years. This writer once had kidney stones and knows only too well how SERENE it makes you.
The battle of wits between Frost and Savundra was tame stuff compared to today – where such an event would be just another day at the office, for the likes of Paxman. Indeed, David was a minister’s son and had gone through the “right” schools – thus for him, politeness was the norm.
So the towering FURY he felt at Savundra’s posturing came across like mild irritation. However, in 1967, such a display on live TV was outrageous. And so the encounter became known as Trial By Television – and was widely referenced, for years afterwards.
Meanwhile, justice eventually caught up with Savundra. Shortly after the programme, he was arrested, tried, convicted and sent down for seven years. His lack of contrition lead to his incarceration in a full-on JAIL, instead of Ford Open Prison – where most white-collar criminals ended up.
The conditions there – coupled with his now chronic drug-addiction – meant he died only a few years after his release, aged just 53. His wife, who had stood by him during thirty years of double-dealing and court cases – died a few years later, aged just 57.
If you want to SEE the Frost-Savundra encounter, click – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFNQSLIpYss