Broadcaster Alan Whicker dies at 87
Alan Whicker, who brought the lifestyles of the rich and famous into UK homes for decades, has been hailed as a unique and original figure in broadcasting after his death at the age of 87.
The globetrotting TV presenter and reporter died at his home in Jersey after suffering from bronchial pneumonia.
Whicker was best known for his Whicker's World TV series for 31 years but was a familiar personality in his own right.
Monty Python star Michael Palin - who famously parodied him in one sketch, but went on to follow in his footsteps as a travel broadcaster - called him "a great character, a great traveller and an excellent reporter". And presenter and writer Stephen Fry called Whicker's death "sad news".
The Whicker's World documentary series - which was screened on both the BBC and ITV - gave viewers a glimpse of exotic jetset lifestyles which were beyond almost everyone's reach. The show saw him interviewing the rich, glamorous and powerful as he presented viewers with a glimpse into the lives of figures such as Joan Collins, Peter Sellers, the Sultan of Brunei and the Haitian president Papa Doc Duvalier.
In 2009, he returned to some of the locations and people who featured over the years for a BBC series, Alan Whicker's Journey Of A Lifetime.
Egypt-born Whicker had also been a war correspondent and, during his own service in the Second Word War, he was among the first group of Allied forces to enter Milan and he filmed footage of the body of Mussolini.
His distinctive voice and delivery led to him regularly being parodied, including Python's "Whicker Island" spoof in which the team all mimicked the presenter. There was even a novelty record rap record delivered Whicker-style, called Wikka Wrap, which made the top 20 in 1981, and he once entered a Whicker soundalike contest, finishing only in third place.
Whicker, who was awarded a CBE for his services to broadcasting eight years ago, moved to the UK as a child. He went on to become a captain in the Devonshire Regiment, and was in the Army Film and Photo Unit in Italy in 1943. After the war, as a news journalist, he was a correspondent in the Korean War, during which he was mistakenly reported to have been killed, but in a telegraph to reassure people he was still alive he wrote: "Unkilled. Uninjured. Onpressing."
After joining the BBC in 1957, he became a reporter for the Tonight programme and within a couple of years he had launched Whicker's World, a hugely popular programme which continued until 1990. He was also an early shareholder in the ITV regional station Yorkshire Television, which produced Whicker's World for many years.
Whicker was honoured with the Richard Dimbleby Award at the Baftas in 1978 for his contribution to broadcasting.
Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, said: "Alan Whicker was a genuinely unique, iconic figure and positive force in broadcasting.
"He leaves a rich legacy, having been hugely influential in shaping several generations' understanding of the wider world with his long-running series Whicker's World as well as having played a key role in setting up our own regional channel, Yorkshire Television. We are very sad to hear of his passing today."
Whicker's partner of more than 40 years, Valerie Kleeman, 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 has had a wonderful life and I was lucky to have shared it with him."
Film-maker David Green, the president and chairman of September Films USA, who worked with Whicker on a number of occasions, said: "He was a television giant. I made my first of 24 films with him as a baby director in Alaska, 36 years 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."