LONDON, England - British TV giant David Frost, 74, who interviewed the world's great and good in a half-century broadcasting career, has died of a heart attack on board the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner, his family said Sunday.
Frost, celebrated for his 1977 talks with Richard Nixon that coaxed an unexpected apology from the disgraced US president over the Watergate scandal, died Saturday.
"Sir David Frost died of a heart attack last night aboard the Queen Elizabeth where he was giving a speech," his family said in a statement.
"His family are devastated and ask for privacy at this difficult time," the statement added.
Operator Cunard said the ship left its British home port of Southampton on Saturday on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise.
A ship steward told the Daily Telegraph that the alarm was raised soon after the ship left Southampton and that Frost was found dead in his suite.
His body is expected to be flown home when the boat makes a scheduled stop in Lisbon on Tuesday, the paper reported.
Those interviewed by the veteran broadcaster read like a who's who of the rich and famous, from big names in show business to world leaders, including South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
Frost was the only person to have interviewed the last eight British prime ministers and the last seven US presidents before Barack Obama, as well as the last person to have interviewed the last shah of Iran, the late Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
Pivotal 20th century leaders including Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Putin, Yasser Arafat, F. W. de Klerk, Jacques Chirac and Benazir Bhutto were among others who faced his congenial grilling.
"Hello, good evening and welcome" became his catchphrase, starting off his incisive interviews with a friendly veneer that belied a blunt determination to extract information.
"His scrupulous and disarming politeness hid a mind like a vice," said Menzies Campbell, former leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats.
BBC director general Tony Hall said: "From satire to comedy to the big political interviews, for more than 50 years he brought us the history of the world we live in today, that's the mark of the man."