Sun sets on Whicker's World as veteran travel broadcaster Alan Whicker dies of pneumonia at age of 87
Long-time partner: 'He had a wonderful life and I was lucky to have shared it with him'
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Friday 12 July 2013
Alan Whicker went to the ends of the earth on behalf of a generation that could barely dream of a hop across the Channel, let alone a trip around the world.
The broadcaster, who has died aged 87, combined a formidable intellect with gentle charm – and a military bearing that proved invaluable when tackling gangsters and despots on their home turf. His groundbreaking reports transformed television journalism, with the unintended consequence of turning Whicker into the first celebrity TV journalist.
“The right place at the right time, I suppose,” is how he summed up the secret of his success. In fact, he often deliberately went to the wrong places at the right time in order to expose the world’s rogues.
Whicker’s forensic analysis was allied with tenacity. He went to Haiti to stake out the dictator, Papa Doc Duvalier, finally making contact by sending the president a telex demanding a meeting. The resulting film about a country “which has less to celebrate than any nation on earth” revealed the horror of the regime of Papa Doc.
“You hear his presence in the silence of his subjects,” Whicker said chillingly.
Whicker learned his craft in the heat of conflict – first in the Second World War, in which he took the German surrender in the city of Milan, and later in the Korean War where his death was mistakenly reported. “Unkilled. Uninjured. Onpressing,” read his terse cable to the news desk.
He left a secure job with the Exchange Telegraph news agency for a pioneering current affairs programme, Tonight, in 1957. “My great leap was to go from EC4, which was Fleet Street, to W10, which was the BBC,” he told The Independent three years ago.
While other colleagues focused on the technological revolution, and in particular the space race, Whicker became an on-screen anthropologist reporting on the astonishing pace of social change – reporting from California on embryonic feminism and gay rights.
His rapport with viewers was rewarded with his own series, Whicker’s World, which became the first real travelogue. He offered a profound cultural perspective as well as the exuberence of new experience - such as flagging down an express on the Alaska Railroad. “After stopping a train in Alaska, the rest of your life is an anti-climax,” he said.
Whicker’s status as a national media treasure was confirmed when he became the subject of an early Monty Python spoof, “Whicker Island”. He took the portrayal of an isle entirely populated by moustachioed investigative journalists as a compliment: “I was very flattered. I felt that they weren’t being acid about me, they were being kind. I was having the piss taken out of me by experts.”
His broadcasting work spanned six decades. Whicker’s archive will continue to enrich lives, providing an enduring insight into the profound changes of the late 20th century.
“How did I manage it? Just good luck, I reckon.”
Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boymusic
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 4 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 5 Dylan Moran on quitting smoking, being about as sexy as the Pope and why comedy panel programmes are 'c*ck shows'
Sacha Baron Cohen is definitely not involved in Freddie Mercury biopic, says Brian May
Poldark review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Menstruation-themed photo series artist 'censored by Instagram' says images are to demystify taboos around periods
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans