What is the origin of the phrase, "up close and personal"?

  • I don't know, but it looks like it came about in 1979.
    – Flimzy
    Jul 11, 2013 at 3:04
  • 1
    @Flimzy Beware of using mixed case at Google Ngram Viewer.
    – MetaEd
    Jul 11, 2013 at 3:51

3 Answers 3


Identifying the specific origin of a phrase is often impossible, though something can always be said about its history. But in this case we can do better. The phrase was popularized in connection with the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Difficulty of finding early uses in print

Search tools are unreliable. Google Book Search says the phrase was current as early as 1961, as evidenced by this excerpt from a crime novel:

A scream of pain, then a low groan, signaled that his timing had been perfect. Contact had been established, up close and personal. down the middle of his forehead. (G. A. McKevett, Helen McCully, Eleanor Noderer. Just Desserts. Kensington Books, 1961.) [emphasis added]

However, Google Book Search is wrong; the book was published in 1995. There are various other GBS dead ends.

Connection to 1972 Olympic games

But there is an interesting true development in 1972. Sports-film producer Michael Samuelson writes:

I knew it was impossible to send film crews all over the world, yet all over the world is exactly where Olympians live, and I wanted to show them “up close and personal”, to get at their non-athletic personalities, their uniqueness as human beings.
Michael Samuelson. “Behind the Scenes at the Olympic Games ‘Shoot’”, American Cinematographer, Volume 53, Nov. 1972, p. 1281. [emphasis added]

And then Jim McKay, famous host of Wide World of Sports for ABC who covered twelve Olympic Games for ABC and introduced the phrase “the thrill of victory – and the agony of defeat” into popular memory, writes in 1973:

The idea of the personality pieces (they’ll probably be called “up-close and personal”) can be shown by the contrasting thoughts of two American swimmers. One piece is on Mark Spitz, the brash young Californian by way of Indiana University … . (Jim McKay. My Wide World, Macmillan, 1973, p. 120.) [emphasis added]

It was around this time that the phrase “up close and personal” began its rise to popularity. (See: Google Ngram Viewer chart.)

Popularization by ABC Sports

It turns out that Jim McKay did a series of ABC television segments consisting of interviews of 1972 Olympic athletes, and these segments were called “Up Close and Personal”. (For details start with: Google Search, [jim mckay up close and personal].)

The phrase is not original to Jim McKay, but he popularized it and it remained associated with him in the public mind for the rest of his life.

The name of the segment was apparently chosen by Don Foley at ABC, who later said:

I did it with some embarrassment—it's so ungrammatical and advertiserese. I started life as an English teacher. But I decided to forget my pride and go with the thing. (Don Foley, quoted by William Taaffe. “Adding That Personal Touch: ABC’s profiles of athletes bring warmth and bad grammar to the Olympics”, Sports Illustrated, July 30, 1984.) [Tip of the hat to @Hugo for digging up that admission.]

Foley did not say where he got the phrase; neither did he say specifically that he invented it. But he is as close to an origin as we are likely to come.

  • I did some more digging: the idea for the 1972 Olympics segments presented by McKay were thought up by Doone Arledge, and Don Foley came up with the term. See my answer.
    – Hugo
    Jul 11, 2013 at 15:06
  • @Hugo That's a great find! I have included the Foley note in my answer.
    – MetaEd
    Jul 11, 2013 at 17:06


"Up close and personal" came from a segment on ABC Sports where they would show an Olympic athlete in their everyday surroundings or whilst training for the 1972 Olympic games in Munich.

ABC sports and news broadcasting pioneer Roone Arledge came up with the concept and is sometimes credited with the term as well, but a 1984 article says ABC promotion executive Don Foley thought it up:

"I did it with some embarrassment—it's so ungrammatical and advertiserese. I started life as an English teacher. But I decided to forget my pride and go with the thing."


The earliest example I found is from August 1972, via Barry Popik:

Display Ad 45 -- No Title
(http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?index=0&did=93418511&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=10&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=HNP&TS=11046562 78&clientId=65882)
New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Aug 25, 1972. p. 67 (1 page)
Watch the greatest athletes under the sun...up close and personal...the ABC way!

Roone Arledge

Popik adds:

By the time Roone Arledge became president of ABC News in 1977, it's safe to say he already merited a lifetime achievement award for his accomplishments as president of ABC Sports. In fact, Sports Illustrated selected Mr. Arledge as one of the individuals who "have most significantly altered or elevated the world of sports," ranking him third behind Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan.

Under his leadership, ABC Sports programming set standards that others have tried to emulate. During his years at ABC Sports, Mr. Arledge personally produced coverage of an unprecedented 10 Olympic Games. He is cerdited with creating instant replay, slow motion and advanced (and informative) graphics. Mr Arledge's concept of "ABC's Wide World of Sports" introduced superb coverage of offbeat sporting events and solid news reporting about sports personalities. His creation of "NFL Monday Night Football" can easily be credited with changing America's TV sports-viewing habits. And the phrases "up close and personal" and "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" are now part of our vernacular.

Ted Koppel

Ted Koppel, anchor and managing editor of ABC News’s Nightline, wrote:

Roone Arledge, the legendary broadcaster who invented ABC’s “Wide World Of Sports” and “Nightline,” may be unaware of his debt to Mark Twain, but it exists nevertheless. The great American humorist once observed that “we are all ignorant; just about different things.” That could very well have been the inspiration for the fashion in which Roone began so many of his “Wide World” segments.

Back in the days when ABC had access to none of the major sports events; when football, basketball and baseball contracts were sewed up by the other major networks, Arledge fashioned a hugely successful series out of the arcane and secondary sports that received little or no attention anywhere else. Since almost nothing was known about the champions of ski jumping or downhill racing, let alone the masters of hurling or the luge, Roone created an introductory segment that he called “up close and personal.” The theory was simple: Give the public a video sketch of these unknown athletes, let us see their training methods, introduce us to their families, and we would have an investment in their success or failure. We would bring a level of interest to the events in which they competed. The concept worked brilliantly.

Don Foley

However, a 1984 Sports Illustrated article says Arledge came up with the concept, but an ABC promotion executive, Don Foley, came up with the term:

Besides ABC's relentless self-promotion—the arrogance of a network that links the Olympic rings to its logo speaks for itself—the most obvious characteristic of its Olympic coverage over the last 12 years has been the little profiles called Up Close and Personals. To be sure, a lot of people make fun of the pieces, especially their title. Are they Up Close and Impersonals or Out Front and Up Tights? But they usually make the athletes come alive and lend a certain warmth to the proceedings.

It's probable that at the end of ABC's 180 hours of Olympic programming from L.A., we'll have had it up to here with Jim McKay's cheerfully saying, "Now let's go to Timbuktu for another Up Close and Personal...." If so, it's the name that will have deadened our enthusiasm, not the profiles. What does "up close" or "personal" refer to anyway? The cameraman doing the shooting, the shootee or the camera itself? And how can "up close and personal" be a noun? Edwin Newman get in here!

Not surprisingly, the name was dreamed up by an ABC promotion exec. His name: Don Foley. Before the 1972 Games, the network's sports president, Roone Arledge, decided to film athletes in their everyday surroundings, and it fell to Foley to find a moniker for this aspect of the network's prime-time coverage of the Munich Olympics. The name stuck. Foley, now a Madison Avenue adman, says, "I did it with some embarrassment—it's so ungrammatical and advertiserese. I started life as an English teacher. But I decided to forget my pride and go with the thing."


As far as I know, the phrase "up close and personal" comes from an englishman (whose name now escapes me) who liked to hunt wild pigs with a pack of dogs and a short sword instead of a spear or firearm. Once the dogs had brought the pig to bay he would get in amongst the fracas and dispatch the animal with a thrust to the heart with his sword. When asked why he chose to dispatch animals this way, especially something as tough and dangerous as a wild boar, he answered that he liked it "up close and personal". When I stumble on his name again I'll post it.

  • 2
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    Feb 27, 2018 at 10:15

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