David Frei, a longtime Woodinville resident before moving to New York City in 2002, is heading into his 27th and final year hosting the Westminster Kennel Club show telecast, beginning Monday.
NEW YORK — He’s become the face of dogs, with a voice as gentle as a Saint Bernard, as friendly as a chocolate Lab.
David Frei, a longtime Woodinville resident before moving to New York City in 2002, makes it all feel so familiar He is heading this week into his 27th and final year hosting the Westminster Kennel Club show telecast.
Frei routinely offers up a mix of insight, advice and information. Neapolitan mastiffs, for example, are judged by the “wham” method — that’s wrinkles, head and mass. And he reassures viewers “that the real best in show is the dog you have on the couch next to you.”
Westminster on TV
Monday: CNBC, 8-11 p.m. ET
Tuesday: USA, 8-11 p.m. ET and delayed until 8-11 p.m. PT
By his count, Frei has watched more than 72,000 dogs from the TV tower above the ring at Madison Square Garden. Since 1990, he’s shared the perch with notable company — NBC “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, former “Today” show host Joe Garagiola, tennis expert Bud Collins and now Mary Carillo, among others.
Monday night on CNBC, Frei begins the countdown toward best in show. The next evening on USA Network, the winner gets picked.
Many watchers know Frei from his commentary, along with actor John O’Hurley, on the NBC telecasts of the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day.
The Westminster telecast is moving to Fox Sports 1 next February for 10 years, and the kennel-club management didn’t want Frei doing both its show and the National.
Last October, Frei finished up 12 years as director of communications for the club. “I have had a wonderful 27 years with the Westminster Kennel Club,” he said.
The 66-year-old Frei leaves with his paw prints all over Westminster. He arranged for the Empire State Building to be lit in the club’s purple and gold during the show, and helped set up the traditional, day-after visit for the winner with Donald Trump.
“I’m proud of how I’ve represented our sport to the outside world,” Frei said.
His father, Jerry, was the head football coach at Oregon and later an NFL assistant coach and scout. On Westminster telecasts, Frei often wears the Super Bowl ring his father earned when the Denver Broncos won in 1999.
Frei owned two Seattle-area sports bars when he lived in Woodinville, and at one point he did PR for the Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and ABC Sports, handling publicity for O.J Simpson and Howard Cosell. He moonlighted as a breeder, handler and judge of purebred dogs — in 1989, he had the No. 1-ranked Afghan hound in the country — and Westminster asked him to audition for the on-camera job, which he got.
David commuted from Woodinville to co-host Westminster until 2002, when he moved to New York.
Here, Frei created Angel On A Leash, pairing therapy dogs with hospitals, rehabilitation centers, the Ronald McDonald House and other places. Frei’s wife, Cherilyn, is a chaplain and director of family services at the Ronald McDonald House in New York, a few blocks from their Manhattan apartment.
At home, the Freis have two dogs, Angel the cavalier King Charles spaniel and Grace the Brittany. A sign on the back of the front door advises “Wag More Bark Less.”
In his Upper East Side neighborhood, Frei is a fixture. As he recently walked to a favorite local restaurant, he stopped to pet a couple of dogs he knows. As Frei passed another popular spot, a pal spotted him.
“Hey, Westminster guy!” the man called out.