The millionaire former travel agent died on Monday after making the call from his home in Thailand just two weeks ago, cutting the conversation short as he gasped for air.
The businessman hit the headlines in the 1990s when he was convicted of possessing child pornography.
Friend Beryl Beattie, from Livingston, today paid tribute and told how he broke down on the phone and struggled to breathe.
She said: "By that point the cancer was in his lungs and he needed to take oxygen.
"He was a very dear friend I had known for many years – a fantastic character who was larger than life. He will be sadly missed."
Mr Frutin, 69, formerly of Ravelston Dykes, is best known for his former business Frutin Travel, but was once a dancer and rock group manager.
Yet it was in the mid-1990s that he found himself in the spotlight when police raided his then Edinburgh home and seized child pornography.
In June 1996, he appeared in court, admitting possessing indecent photographs of children, including three videos, a magazine and a set of photo negatives.
Although he was found guilty and fined 500, friends have always maintained his innocence.
Mrs Beattie said: "I definitely think he was framed for this. I remember being in Thailand with him and he told me about this, insisting it was not true.
"He said, like a lot of men, he did like porn films, but not ones with children. I believed him."
It is understood Mr Frutin had been suffering ill health for a short while, having received treatment in Edinburgh for what was understood to be pancreatitis but developed into cancer.
He died in his lavish Thai mansion with his nephew Joe, from Glasgow, and his adopted 27-year-old Thai son Ton and his girlfriend Nay – both of whom lived with Mr Frutin – by his side.
Mrs Beattie said: "Ton was like the son he never had – he had known him since he was about 15.
"Ton has a son who is eight who Martin always referred to as his grandson – he was the apple of his eye.
"They lived a very happy existence in Thailand."
Mr Frutin had visited Thailand since the 1960s – where he was known as Somsak-Martin and had bought a property – and was a recognised television host and a prominent member of both the local Masonic Lodge and Rotary club.
He had ten luxury cars and an Olympic-sized swimming pool in his mansion, into which he could slide from his second-floor bedroom.