My memories of working with Alan Whicker
BBC 2 commissioned Journey of a Lifetime, a series to celebrating Alan Whicker’s 50 years in television.
In the series, Alan Whicker takes us on an autobiographical journey through the second half of the 20th century. Classic clips from Whicker’s World are inter-cut with new material as the nation’s best-known international reporter retraces his steps, catches up with past interviewees and reflects on how the world has changed – for good and bad – over the last six decades.
An extraordinary archive reveals the number of genuine TV firsts established by Whicker – moments that have been endlessly copied ever since. Apart from landmark interviews with a diverse mix of characters ranging from Papa Doc to John Paul Getty, Whicker was a pioneer who brought subjects including plastic surgery, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, gay weddings, polygamy, swinging and gun-toting cops, fly-on-the-wall style, to British screens for the first time.
The show revisits these pioneering, iconic films, including the shocking clips of Whicker taking the first ever look inside a sex club in 1979; the first ever bullfight on British television in 1966 and the first ever gay kiss for British viewers in 1973.
The series also includes a number of landmark Whicker interviews with figures as diverse as Papa Doc, J Paul Getty and Percy Shaw, the inventor of the Cat’s Eye. There’s also the poignant, prophetic last ever interview given by Peter Sellers in 1979 in Beverly Hills, where the actor eerily predicts his own death shortly before tragically suffering a fatal heart attack.
During the series, Whicker provides some captivating fresh material as he returns to some of his favourite locations around the world and meets some of his most famous interviewees again.
In one episode, Whicker revisits one of his most famous encounters, Kurt & Kathy Wagner – the Beverly Hills plastic surgeon and his favourite client, his wife. Plus he returns to Palm Beach, the subject of perhaps his most-watched show, to find out how life has changed for the super-rich on this improbable sandbar in Florida. As gay rights in California once more make headlines as the state argues over whether gay marriage should be legalised, Whicker meets up with the Reverend Troy Perry who has been campaigning for this right ever since Whicker first filmed with him in 1973. He also catches up with his old friend Joan Collins to explore how women can make it to the top in Hollywood.
Baroness Fiona Thyssen, the subject of one of Whicker’s very first in-depth documentaries “The Model Millionairess” (1963), has become a close friend and Whicker interviews her for a third time for this latest series. She visits Whicker at his home in Jersey to look back at the original film which opened up a secret world of glamour and wealth to an eager British audience.
Alan Whicker said,” You might say I’m set in my airways. I’m one of those lucky people whose professional and private lives blend exactly: I can’t tell which is which – and one of the most agreeable things is that many of the people I’ve interviewed have become my friends. These programmes are signed. They’re intensely personal.”
Alan Whicker’s Journey Of A Lifetime is produced by September Films, a division of DCD Media, for BBC2.
Executive Producers are September Films’ Chairman and DCD’s Chief Creative Officer David Green who, as a young director, made 24 episodes of Whicker’s World , and September Films’ Director of Programmes, Peter Davey.
Series Director: Stan Griffin
Producer: Peter Wyles
Associate Producer: Katharine Begg
I then went onto promote the book to accompany the series.
I became good friends with Alan and Valerie, visiting them in Jersey.
Valerie Kleeman, Alan Whicker’s partner said
“A few years ago a poll asked who was the most envied man in the country – and Alan won by a country mile! He said that he didn’t know where work ended and private life began. Quoting Noel Coward ,he would say “work is more fun than fun”
On this last journey he will arrive curious, fascinated, and ready for a new adventure. He had a wonderful life and I was lucky to have shared it with him”.
David Green – Film Director and TV Producer. President & Chairman, September Films USA said:
“He was a television giant – made my first of 24 films with him as a baby director in Alaska 36 yeas ago next month – a true original, his passion for TV and life was unique – a brilliant popular journalist and observer of the human state who achieved legendary status among his peers and was loved by the great British public”.
Alan Whicker would be amazed by the wonderful tributes, I only wish he were here to read and see this out pouring of kindness.