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This programme contains some strong language
This week, I'm back in America looking at some of the people
and stories that were part of Whicker's World.
I suppose it's a sort of land of make-believe
in which you can be anything you like if you can pay for it.
Americans, articulate, open and generous, make for great television.
I'm told you can get someone killed around here for 500.
Oh, yes. Any number of ways.
And Whicker's World has covered their continent from coast to coast during more than half a century.
Look right at the bottom of the can.
-I did it. I did it.
-You were great.
It's a place you can go anywhere and ask anything... as long as you're polite.
That's about a pound on each side, isn't it, you're carrying around?
No, not quite a pound. I don't know for sure what it is.
-Do you know how much you've got there?
-No. I couldn't weigh them.
Our first programme on cosmetic surgery in the US went out in '73,
when even here in California it was not something you boasted about.
Then Harley Street, which had seen it as piffling and unserious surgery, began to change its attitude.
In Beverley Hills, the surgeon Kurt Wagner set the tone and we filmed him in action.
Here in Hollywood, one sees a lot of women of a certain age who've
obviously had a face job and one does detect there's a sort of grin where your skin is drawn back.
It's poor workmanship.
And as there is a Michelangelo and a Leonardo da Vinci,
there are different individuals doing plastic surgery
and I like to think that my patients don't have those tell-tell signs of cosmetic surgery.
Don't you sometimes feel a bit like Dr Frankenstein?
I like to think that I feel a little bit more like closer to God than that.
I like that analogy a lot better.
I don't like Dr Frankenstein, at all.
Dr Wagner's most enthusiastic patient was his wife, Kathy.
He decided that he would fix my chin.
He would just add a little tiny silicone insert in there that went in through the mouth,
just a tiny little snip in there and it would go right in.
It would make the chin come out a little,
make the cheek bones look better
and then he'd pin back the ears and for doing that, I was able to have this done...
-..which is my favourite. Yes. This is my very favourite.
The sizes are small, petite, medium, large and extra large.
I have the mediums
and I think that they're plenty large enough.
I love them very much.
The point is, you see, when you had the wrong eyes,
the wrong ears, the wrong chin and the wrong breasts, you got your husband.
Well, I was lucky, I guess.
Maybe when he looked at me, he figured that, after he married me,
he could make these slight adjustments and I would look better.
First of all, what he always says is that he'll never have to divorce me because he can change me.
He can change me every year.
Kurt was so pleased with our report
that he offered operations to all my crew, to tidy us up a bit, you understand.
There was plenty to be done.
My researcher's protruding ears, the producer's weird nose and
because they're not making mirrors the way they used to,
I needed so much adjustment that Kurt didn't know where to stop.
In truth, we were all scared of the size of his scalpels and knives, of course.
So, missed the opportunity of becoming unbelievably gorgeous...
If I have it in my power...
I received an enormous postbag after that 1973 programme.
Most viewers wanting Kurt's address.
Others suggesting that the only operation Kathy really needed was a brain transplant.
Next will be my hips because they're very, very large for my frame.
I've really tried to lose weight. I still have to lose more weight.
For years afterwards, I was receiving letters
from all corners of the globe, from viewers transfixed by the pair.
Seven years later, I was back on the West Coast, where two out of every three marriages ended in divorce.
Any union lasting ten years or more was for the record books.
To my surprise, Kurt and Kathy were still together after 13 years.
And Kathy was a walking, talking advertisement for her husband's scalpel.
So, I thought it might be interesting to take a close-up look
at marriage through the eyes of this unusual couple.
What emerged was honest and revealing
and, to a British audience unused to confessional television, quite startling.
My second film about their thoroughly modern marriage
was watched by a staggering 18 million viewers.
A friend of mine says she finds it impossible to stay happily married in Beverly Hills
because there's so much movement of beautiful and available people.
Women no longer want to be subservient.
They're looking for equality.
They're right up there saying, "I want what's mine,"
and of course, in California, it's very well defined.
Half is hers.
If you tell your husband how wonderful he is and how good he looks
and how you're so pleased that he's helping to make your life better
for you and your children and your animals and your homes and things,
and if you keep yourself a nice, pretty cosy kind of person to be around,
I think he can still look at all those other beautiful ladies that are about,
but they don't always have such great things to talk about, either.
30 years on, I wondered what had become of Kurt and Kathy.
I left California to meet them in Florida,
where Kurt, in his 50th year as a surgeon,
is still at the cutting edge of his profession,
still anxious to help me face the nation.
My dear chap...
you haven't changed a bit, except you're a bit younger.
You look well and you're a bit... Well, I'd recognise you.
-Yes, yes, yes. Well...
-I've changed a little but not much.
Not much. No. Wow. Wow.
-So, how are you?
-I'm fine. All the better for staying here.
-Well, that's wonderful.
This is a great establishment.
Well, this is the spa.
-This is the newest part of our establishment.
We haven't seen one another for how many years? 1979? So it's almost 30 years, isn't it?
Time passes even if you're not having fun.
-Right? But it happens and, you know, I'm still alive.
-And looking great.
My arms and legs work and I know it's Monday and I can still dance.
My teeth are still my own.
-And some of my hair is my own.
-And what about herself?
-You'll see the queen.
The queen looks better than I but she has an advantage.
She has a good plastic surgeon.
He'll never have to divorce me.
He can just change me every year or every few years.
Wait a minute. Come on in.
-My goodness sake.
-You still look fucking great.
Don't have that B on!
When we first met, you told me,
-"He'll never have to divorce me, he can always change me."
-It still works?
-It's still working.
He'd done your eyes, your chin, your face and your breasts.
-And he'd pinned back the ears.
-What was there left to do?
I decided that I needed
the entire face, the eyes, the body, the everything done.
When I got down to a size eight, it was the most beautiful I'd ever been in my entire life.
When we came into the parties, I felt like a true princess.
The prettiest girl I had been ever in my whole life.
What would you have done if you hadn't married your own surgeon?
I still would have wanted to have things done.
It just wouldn't have been quite as much.
All right. Here we go.
Some of Kurt's machines reveal more than his unsuspecting patients expect to see.
My wrinkles are better than they should be for my age
but I've also had a facelift and I've had some work,
but you can see that there's some skin changes here
that ultimately will necessitate some kind of aggressive treatment.
What is your definition of middle age now?
Who is middle aged?
-Anybody who's about five years older than me.
A good answer. A good answer.
By the time I say goodbye and you say goodbye,
a middle-aged person will probably be 80, so there we go.
-He tried to make me have a facelift, I remember, when I was there.
-Well, would it be bad?
That was the only promising thing that you said to me and that you'd come and look after me if I had it.
-I nearly did.
Well, it could still happen.
Any time you want.
-I'm absolutely fascinated by what I could do to you in about three or four hours.
-Give me a quick rundown.
A quick rundown. Your eyes.
-Incidentally, you probably would see better if your upper lids were fixed a little bit.
And, of course, I don't have as much, but of course I've cheated before.
But you're doing terrifically well. It gives me hope for the future.
What a relief. It gives me hope for the future. Like next week!
Next week? Well, you know something, you know where I am.
You can see I've had two facelifts.
Almost three, I guess, including the laser one in my lifetime now.
I don't have that tight-tight look.
I've a natural look.
That's what you want. I'll keep on having surgery until my 90s.
I think I'll live till way in my 100s.
I've done something with Kathy that I think is truly difficult to do.
And that is I took a woman who was very pretty and I made her beautiful.
Can you be unfaithful to Kathy and would you worry if she was unfaithful to you?
I'm sure I could do practically anything that I wanted to do.
OK. Maybe your husband wants to leave for a while,
or wants to go away, or has to know what other ladies are like,
or has to feel other things, that's all right.
How would you fare without Kathy?
I must tell you that I feel that I'm relatively self-sufficient.
And the trouble with my life, until recently, was I was always
looking for my good friend outside of me, but my good friend is me.
I'm my own best friend.
And you want to know something, that makes my life worthwhile.
-This has got something to do with self-satisfaction.
-I would think so.
If I could say what's real, I'd be getting a divorce tomorrow
because I hate this BLEEP man that I'm living with.
Godammit, he's a BLEEP goddamn pain in the ass, who thinks he's Dr God.
On our last interview, when I was getting a little drunk there
as you were helping me...
It was my fault too. I thought I could keep up with you, but...
..I just... It's better now.
I have a new respect, a new love for him since we came here. There's been a magic kind of existence.
How long have you been married now?
-Now that must be a record.
It almost is. We have met a few people around
who've had their 50th anniversaries, but not so many back in LA any more because it's a different world.
Last time you left us, we were a lot younger, but we still looked good,
thanks to plastic surgery for both of us
and feeling good about each other and our lives.
Well, I like her. I like her.
She's good. She's a nice person.
-I love you. You're lucky to have me.
-Yes. I'm lucky to have you.
-That's for sure.
-I tell everybody how lucky I am to have you.
-And I tell them how lucky I am to be with you, too.
-So I guess we're both lucky.
-I believe that.
-Know that's true.
God, that's quite enough of that.
I just thought that would be... HER VOICE TRAILS OFF
Thank you, both. That was very, very...
After filming with them during 30 years, Kurt and Kathy are as entertaining and candid as ever.
A true American story.
My first major tour of the United States was in 1961,
with a director, a cameraman, a recordist, with camera gear,
film stock and luggage, we squeezed into one station wagon and
set off from Houston to film our way through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and into California.
In ten weeks, we drove 7,274 miles...
..and at least earned an approving smile from the car rental office.
Could we have done a tour like this today, in a world where accountants
rule and unavoidable permissions must be sought?
We met the scientist responsible for the first nuclear bomb at Los Alamos
and penetrated a murder trial in Texas.
This is Houston in Texas.
The murder capital of the United States, it's been called,
where, among a population of just over a million,
there are as many murders each year
as there are in the whole of Britain, with a population of 53 million.
Here, the law is regarded with a casual nonchalance and life is cheap.
In a few moments, a man will be sitting there,
waiting to learn whether he shall live or go to the electric chair.
The most sensational Houston police case of the year followed an unusually brutal murder
in the office of an suburban estate agency.
Two young killers shot the middle-aged owner Fred Tones to death, set fire to his body
and left it burning in a roadside ditch as they escaped in his car.
And the first lead for the police came with the discovery of the missing car in New York.
Carolyn, would you describe for us what happened in Tones' office?
-Was there a fight there?
And how many shots were fired, do you know?
Well, the newspaper said six.
Were you firing the shots?
I fired five of them.
-Who fired the first one?
-I did it, accidentally.
And then what happened after the shots were fired?
Well, he was dead.
The trial of Carolyn Lima, a teenage prostitute,
and Leslie Douglas Ashley, a female impersonator, was a bizarre drama.
At the outset, the judge set a time limit.
The trial must last no longer than three hours.
The air conditioning whips away the judge's cigar smoke.
The iced water machine gurgles and throbs.
The attorneys posture and persuade and plead before their chosen 12.
Proceedings in the Houston courtroom were as dramatic as any Hollywood film.
This real life-and-death drama was unfolding, not just in front of us, but in front of millions of viewers.
By then, what was Douglas doing?
-After he already fell down?
Douglas was in panic and everything else, as I was.
We both got real scared and I went and checked him to see if he was dead.
Right on cue, the jury, all men you'll notice, came back with their verdict.
-Chairman of the jury, have you reached a verdict in this case?
Stand up, please.
We, the jury, find the defendant Leslie Douglas Ashley guilty of murder with malice aforethought
and set his punishment at death.
Both were sentenced to death.
In a subsequent retrial, Lima entered a plea bargain and received a reduced sentence.
As for Ashley, he was sent to a mental institution, but was later pardoned.
On release, he underwent a full sex change and became a gay rights activist.
..absolutely no demonstration...
Gun culture reigned supreme in Texas and I wanted to find out what ordinary people felt
about this throwback to the wild days of Wyatt Earp.
I took my camera into the Houston streets one morning
and stopped passers-by at random to ask whether they owned a handgun.
Every one of them did, including a newspaper seller who had a dozen,
a priest who wouldn't leave home without his automatic
and a couple of nuns who carried theirs in the glove box of the convent car.
Sadly, this footage has disappeared into a black hole in the BBC archives.
Revisiting Houston in colour in 1974,
it still had the same frontier flavour.
Riding into town at high noon, across a prairie, deep in the heart of Texas.
From here on the range, the Wild West seems tame enough, yet it's earned its frontier reputation.
We're heading for one of the best places in America to get yourself murdered.
Rich and eager and going places, Houston has grabbed all those Texan superlatives.
America's fastest growing city,
the most air-conditioned, richest, the energy capital, the city of tomorrow.
Despite its 21st century air, this is still a "whiskey and trombone town",
cherishing old saddle-sores.
HE PLAYS HOEDOWN TUNE
A chilli cook-off.
Texas, after all, has a common frontier with Mexico.
This traditional dish is served by 76 cowboy cooks
in a variety of Wild West ways, under a variety of titles,
some of them, highly resistible.
The fastest guns in the West leap out of Joe Bowman's metal-lined holsters.
He's probably the last American hero to make an honest living out of gunslinging.
Now watch this very carefully because this is gonna happen so fast, you won't even see it,
but it'll be three shots, it'll sound like one. There you go.
Joe, you're fantastic.
The American gun lobby's strongest in Texas where bumper stickers warn,
"If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."
Many respectable Houstonians would sooner leave home without their trousers than their revolvers.
Stand yourself over.
-Hey, how about that?
-I did it! I did it!
You were great.
Having filmed one of the last of the Texan gunslingers, we drove
a couple of miles uptown to discover a disturbing new American phenomena,
the serial killer,
years before that chilling phrase became part of our language.
A youth called Wayne Henley lived in this suburb
and set out upon a most terrible endeavour from this house.
The space-age, city of tomorrow character of Houston can change rapidly.
Here, I'm only two or three miles from the elegant high-rises downtown,
in a small clapboard house area known as Houston Heights.
The Heights, as it's called, boasts the largest gathering of churches in the city,
but today it also holds another record.
Along these streets,
lived the young victims of America's biggest and most lurid mass murder...
..a horror story even more dreadful perhaps than Britain's Moors murders.
Just before dawn, on the scorching morning of August 8th, 1973,
a young ex-pupil of that school,
The Helms Elementary School, between 21st and 22nd Street,
this young 17-year-old drop-out shot and killed Dean Corll.
Corll was 33 and homosexual.
He was also a sadist and a murderer...
..and that killing revealed the deaths of 27 Texas teenagers.
In a confession, afterwards retracted, Henley told a chill tale
of two years of homosexual orgies and torture acts,
of strangulations and shootings,
And the boys who were killed, these youngsters, were not
the riff-raff and the runaways, as at first reported.
They were youngsters aged only 13 and 14.
At least 17 of them were Henley's ex-school mates.
They were his neighbours.
They died a horrible death and they were all the boys next door.
The remains of many of them were dug up along this beach.
A few hours after he'd shot Dean Corll,
using a car telephone to tell his mother what he'd done, Wayne Henley confessed to murder.
Is Momma there?
-This is Wayne.
-Yes, this is Momma.
-I killed Dean.
Where are you?
I'm with the police, Momma.
After that confession of murder, Wayne Henley went on trial in San Antonio.
He's just been found guilty of six murders and received a typically Texan sentence...
It is no surprise Wayne Henley remains in a Texas jail to this day.
In 1977, we took a look at American cities.
Charleston, South Carolina, for its history.
Anchorage, Alaska, for its pioneering spirit
and Salt Lake City for its Mormon roots.
A couple of hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, I was
entertained by a remarkable woman with a life straight out of legend,
a direct link to the old Wild West.
This log cabin at Circleville was the birthplace of Lula Parker Betenson and her brother,
both children of a good Mormon family, from Preston in Lancashire.
When we met, she was 94 and sharp as a pin.
She knew that her brother didn't die with Sundance
in the South American shootout, made famous by that superb film.
I mean, his reputation is that he liked children, he loved his mother,
he robbed banks to help the poor.
Banks and railroads, he was death on them, I'll say that.
But he helped people that needed it, with what money he ever got.
-He enjoyed doing it.
-At least he never killed anyone, did he?
Oh, no. He said there was better ways than killing people.
America, United States,
-got too hot for him and he had to go to South America.
And they decided to go straight.
That's what they went for.
They made their last big haul and they left and they intended to go straight.
Now, 16 years after that, he came here in 1925.
What sort of a man was he? You'd never seen him before, had you?
No. Never seen him before.
I don't know. He was so...
We were so happy to have him
and father said, "I'll bet Lula that she don't know who this is.
"This is Leroy."
And of course I was... My knees just shook.
You know, I had that feeling of just like I was going to collapse.
But, oh, he took me in his arms and he was just one of us, always.
When he left you, after two weeks, you never saw him again?
-Now, today, you know where Butch Cassidy is buried.
My father said they hunted him all his life.
Now he's going to rest in peace.
And that never never yet has been told.
My children don't know.
My father always said, "If you want to keep a secret, don't tell it."
And I find that's the truth.
-Have you ever visited his grave?
-No. No. No, I haven't.
And would you like to?
I may, sometime. I don't know.
I don't know.
I doubt it.
Shortly after our conversation, we lost that last link with the past.
Lula joined Butch, taking his secret with her.
Both had lived through lawless days when old age was the most unusual condition, when Butch,
everybody's favourite outlaw, rode out into the pages of legend.
Leaving Lula's log cabin, we went to meet another Mormon whose home life was rather more...
How can I put it?
Alex Joseph, an ex-cop from LA, had substantial success in the marriage market.
Most men find it hard enough to handle one wife.
Alex had been married 16 times,
though when we met, he was living more conventionally with a modest 12.
How does it differ, this marriage, to just living together?
It differs a great deal in that we're under a contract of marriage.
Each one of us has entered into a contract of marriage
and our behaviour is regulated by that contract.
In other words, we're a moral family to start with.
All of our family activities are confined to the family.
I'm talking about sex.
You see, to the outside world, since you are talking about sex,
this would look more like a harem than a happy and celestial group.
I never have worried too much about the outside world.
You seem to have missed the most obvious truth here.
And the most obvious truth is this,
that more women than men go for this lifestyle.
But what are the advantages for your wives?
The advantage of independence.
The advantage of getting away from the conventional emotional things
that are nothing but sand to build a marriage on
and building it on fact.
The advantage of having a husband
who's vastly superior in intelligence and ability at governing a family,
and being a husband, than any monogamous could ever imagine to be.
I get the advantage of his relationship with every other girl in the family which makes him
a better husband for me.
Alex Joseph died in 1998, leaving behind nine wives.
Four of them have since remarried but admit to a certain nostalgia for the freedom and independence
they experienced in their days of polygamy.
Our next stop was Charleston.
From here, we drove 70 miles south to discover a rather alarming group...
They were willing, almost anxious, to curse anyone to death for the going price of 500.
And, apparently, it worked.
The witch doctor would point the bones at some unfortunate
and, before the money was in the bank,
he'd have walked under a truck...
Their chief, who was also the senior witch doctor, liked England.
I believe he'd been a GI during the war
and he was full of Southern hospitality.
He offered me a freebie curse
which would take care of anyone I didn't like.
A sample, on the house, you understand,
a sort of loss leader.
Trouble was, having made me an offer I couldn't refuse,
I had to produce a suitable victim.
And people I didn't like suddenly seemed, well, not too bad.
And a snuff job can be so final.
I am told you can get someone killed around here for 500.
How would that be done?
Oh, yes. Any number of ways.
-Just as there are many ways in real life to get rid of people.
First thing, of course, is take a reading on the individual,
then find out what type of world he lives in,
which God rules over the world that he lives in,
and then make sacrifices to that God.
-Do you mean to say you could kill a man in New York?
-Without his knowing about it?
-Without his knowing about it.
He'll just walk out in the street and get smashed by a truck.
It's cheaper than going to a hitman.
Well, it's much more discreet.
I thought I'd better check this coven with the local sheriff, down at Beaufort.
Sheriff Ed McTeer turned out to be a white witch doctor with a flourishing practice.
He refused to advise me about his neighbour's black magic
because he said it would be unethical for one doctor to criticise another.
Put one finger in the bottom of that cup.
Just put one finger in the bottom.
I am known to be one of the most powerful witch doctors in the United States...
maybe the world.
Put your hand on that.
Hold this in your right hand.
Close down to get warm.
It takes a little time.
No-one is going to be able to put a spell back on you.
All the spells from you are removed.
And if anyone tries to, it's going to turn on them.
Now I'm going to seal your force and my force in that amulet.
Give me that.
That should be hot. It is.
But these people who come here, are they really in danger or are they just mentally sick?
They are entirely normal but their genes from hundreds of years back
have carried their superstition and adversity has brought it out in them.
Hold this in your right hand.
This is a hex doll.
Keep it pointed towards this hex doll there
because that's where your kinetic force is going to come through
and we'll see what happens... if we get it in.
You came in here filled with trouble, filled with evil.
Now every piece of evil has gone from you.
Your aura is as clear as my own is.
It'll stay clear as long as you believe.
I suppose the unkind might say, Sheriff, that this amulet and that mumbo-jumbo would impress a child
but I can't imagine many college professors being impressed by it.
It's a collection of mumbo-jumbo that comes down from the last four or five centuries.
Driving back from Sheriff McTeer, I was stopped for speeding by a local patrolman.
Confused by my Jersey driving licence, he sighed,
"I'd like to give you a ticket, Alan," he said, "but to be honest, I wouldn't know how to do it."
So, maybe after all, the Sheriff's mumbo-jumbo had lifted the black magic curse.
Leaving voodoo behind, we flew straight to Palm Beach, Florida,
the ultimate, elegant, party town.
The culture shock could not have been greater.
I believe television looks best when it ventures where no cameraman has trod.
Into Papa Doc's study, say,
or running the tar and feather gauntlet
through the tough Australian union town of Broken Hill.
Displaying bravado beyond the call of documentary, I got in and out of Palm Beach, Florida,
a closed society behind high hedges, if ever I saw one.
This improbable sand bar lies 65 miles north of Miami, but in another world.
Once its hedges had been breached, its rare and exotic inhabitants could be fascinating.
For a century, the sand bar had been the Mecca of the super-rich who faced only one money problem -
how to spend it -
and felt improperly dressed without a yacht.
Palm Beach shows what God could do, they say, if he had money.
On this elegant sand bar, people ask each other, where do you live in real life?
Everybody's rich here. They're all just run-of-the-millionaires.
Nobody who's anybody goes to the beach on this preposterous island
which stands for achievement in a society that invented success.
The wealthy here are not an endangered species.
They can build £2 million homes like this, with 26,000 mosaic tiles in the pool and only one bedroom.
I suppose it's sort of land of make believe in which you can be anything you like if you can pay for it.
We don't have any old people down here, what we call "old".
There's nobody old in Palm Beach.
And you must be white,
preferably Protestant, you know, but money is the chief thing.
I went, not to tease them, but to enjoy the glittering entertainment of their pageant.
Viewers' usual reaction was, "Why can't they act their age?"
As though wishing wheelchairs upon them.
I know people say to me once in a while, "Just how old are you, Helene?"
And I say, "Well, I'm between 21 and death," because that's my old private little secret.
-Women don't give in easily to the ageing process here.
Palm Beach, in its insular way, ignores the passage of time.
If it is ever forced to acknowledge that it is marching on, it uses the most personal of calendars.
Now, just as China has the Year of the Snake and the Year of the Ox,
Palm Beach has the Year Mrs So-and-So's facelift fell.
Or the Year Madam X had her bottom ribs removed.
That's done to give a wasp waste and provide an outstanding figure.
Or even the Year Madam So and So went to Paris and had all her blood changed.
You look in the mirror and see this...
..this old creep that comes around when you get older.
If you look at yourself and you look old, you think, "Oh, dear God, why even bother?"
I have so many friends who will not tell one thing.
They haven't had anything done, they've just grown old younger!
I, of course, would just love to lie down
and have them lift everything from my feet on up to here
and whatever's left over, tie a little bow on the top.
I said to Anne one day, "You have all these things done and you don't mind talking about it,
"but why, then why, dear, please don't tell your age any more."
-And Anne says, "How can I lie about my age when my son needs a facelift? "
-That's my older son.
# And at the balls are dazzling gowns
# With diamonds, emeralds and handsome men. #
In a town with an average age of 60, life was an endless round of parties.
I mean, I get pretty drunk at most parties at Palm Beach.
In fact, I've never seen a town where people drink more than they do in this place.
-I mean, when you go to count the bottles...
Not the bodies. The bottles.
God, I can always rely on you to look great.
A man who's paying for it all doesn't often get in the picture,
but tonight's fling'll cost him £10,000.
Victor, nobody wants you anywhere but on the organ.
-We want his organ.
-We want his organ.
There's no answer to that question except perhaps a quick flash
and Victor Farris, inventor and industrialist, is now authentic.
Come in the middle. You may come in the middle.
The most noticeable aspect of life
amid such rich and rewarding reconstruction was the shortage of escorts.
Ageless matrons, overdressed and over-decorated,
waited in solitary splendour to emerge from their soft lighting, needing only an arm to hold,
a hand to raise them out of the shadows of the Cadillac, into the fluorescence of life.
It was said a man only needed a dinner jacket
and a little smiling small talk to become a social success.
Why, even I was in demand...
..though that was a few years ago.
At the heart of Palm Beach society, it's clubs.
The harder to join, the more prized the membership.
The Beach Club confronts the only Jewish club
where it's said you'll not be considered
unless you've donated a million dollars to charity.
Despite such discouragements, each club has a waiting list of anxious applicants longing to get inside.
You can be stymied here most easily by your race or your religion.
Now, it's one thing to say that you can't have a Jewish member to your club and they'll blackball him,
but you can't have a Jewish friend to lunch or to dinner.
And what I think was staggering, being a musician,
is that when Leonard Bernstein came here with the New York Philharmonic,
they couldn't have a dinner party for him at the Everglades Club. That's just savagery.
Juliette de Marcellus is still living in the family home
and she offered to give me a whistle-stop tour of Palm Beach.
I remember one or two friends of yours were refused admission and you said, "That's savagery."
Well, it is. It is. It's ridiculous.
What you find in Palm Beach are these cells of society that work in among each other,
rather like the inner workings of a clock that go round and round and round and never really meet.
And you can have people live here for 20 years and never
have understood quite where some of the other people are.
Most people live here very quietly,
rather old-fashioned lives and belong to the Garden Club and play bridge.
But the whole town has been taken over by developers - and most of them speculators.
This house is the one that's been bought by the Russians for a hundred million,
behind this hideous hedge.
The reason it's so much money is, A, I suppose the Russians just would buy anything
and the second is because the property's immense.
And everything that is slightly artificial is now called Mc something and these are McMansions.
Here's a McMansion on the left.
You see how ugly it is, huge and clumsy and pretentious.
Palm Beach has been invaded by money you're not quite sure where it came from.
-But you'll never know where the Russian money comes from.
Probably we'll never know where the Russian money came from,
but even the American money, a lot of it,
one sort of wonders where it came from. That's what's changed in Palm Beach,
because in the old days, you knew where it came from by the names.
There was the Pillsbury, from Pillsbury Flour.
There was Mrs Post from the Post Toasties.
There were the Lynches from Merrill Lynch.
And everyone had a trade name, like the Fords.
You knew exactly where the money came from because you were buying their products all the time.
A great deal of this new money appears with rich men and they always show up with trophy wives.
And the trophy wives are very beautiful and they've usually had a modelling career and they
think it's absolutely smashing to have married a rich man and come to such a famous place as Palm Beach.
But when they get here, they don't know what to do,
because we don't have a brilliant nightlife and nightclubs or anything of that nature.
And they go shopping on Worth Avenue and they look about...
After a year or so, they can't bear it any longer
and their husbands take them away again and the houses are put up for sale.
So what we've seen in Palm Beach is old names and old money, what there is left of it, pulling out.
I'm beginning to think I won't buy a house here.
No, don't. Come and stay with me.
It's cheaper. THEY LAUGH
Palm Beach is a girls' town, run by girls for other girls of a certain age.
So its excitement centres upon the frivolous,
shopping, dressing up, parties and going out.
It's impossible to be overdressed.
The chicest French hat I've ever seen.
Mary, thanks for all you did for us tonight.
Palm Beach, it seems, is no longer the party town that I remember,
with its caste system of queens and aspirant princesses.
I think the first requisite would be having been here a long time.
Somebody can't come in one year and expect to be the queen the next year.
It's been tried and it doesn't work.
Tenure is a very important thing.
Um, a big name...
..also makes a big difference.
I mean, somebody with no name, at all, isn't going to make it,
simply because she doesn't have the clout that goes with it,
to accomplish what a queen would have to accomplish.
You can't hide your light under a bushel and become the queen of Palm Beach.
You'd better watch your grapefruit juice.
30 years on, long-term resident Julie Schraft
is aware that the only thing about life here that hasn't changed
is her passion for enormous dogs.
The queens don't exist any more. There doesn't seem to be a queen.
No queen any more.
And no-one's even competing to be queen any more.
Looking back, there seems to me that people don't have quite as much fun these days.
-People don't drink as much, for one thing.
-That's probably it.
Everybody's on some sort of a health kick.
It's always said about Palm Beach, that the police used to take such good care of Palm Beachers
who weren't able to drive themselves home.
The police would drive them home and leave their cars where they were
and pick them up the next day. But that doesn't happen any more.
I mean, there's sort of a joke about Palm Beach where people will go to great lengths
to have a magnificent dinner party,
and at ten o'clock, the whole thing empties out.
Everybody goes home so we don't miss the 11 o'clock news.
It's kind of come to that.
There's one final story from the American continent that I want to tell,
but to do so, I'm returning to London.
In 1968, I was filming a series about the various rulers of South America,
starting with Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay.
And the President of Ecuador, whose name escapes me, although I remember his avenue of volcanoes,
stretching away from Quito.
Touching down in Miami, I bought a ticket on to Haiti.
Everyone thought I was mad.
And I probably was, a bit.
Just a few hundred miles from Florida,
Haiti was the poorest, most dangerous place in the western hemisphere,
held under the lash of its tyrannical president,
Francois Duvalier, known as Papa Doc.
Filming was an anxious time, with the constant fear
that at any moment, things could go fatally wrong.
But we came away with an extraordinary insight into life with a real Bond villain.
In 1971, Papa Doc died of natural causes.
Such an unusual achievement in such a violent country.
But Haiti has never recovered from his nightmare rule.
Still the most violent island in the Caribbean,
and the kidnap capital of the world.
Now, do I really want to pay a return visit to that place?
I think probably not.
You feel his menace in the pit of your stomach.
You hear his presence in the silence of his subjects.
'On arrival in Haiti, I was uncomfortably aware that the airport
'had just experienced a slaughter of three of the regime's opponents.
'They'd been gunned down following the sign from Papa Doc, in full view of the horrified passengers
'of a flight en route from Puerto Rico to Miami.
'I'd not yet obtained the President's permission for my film,
'so first, we had to get to the remote and inaccessible Papa Doc.
'By a stroke of good luck,
'we discovered that he was making a very rare excursion outside his palace that day.
CACOPHONY OF CAR HORNS
'We followed and pushed our way through lines of troops and Tonton Macoutes,
'Papa Doc's fearsome militia,
'which you can do if you don't speak the language and are sufficiently polite.'
'"Do you mind, British television, excuse us, we must push by. Sorry. I'm so sorry. Just one moment."'
'In the scrummage, I got to Papa Doc and explained we'd crossed the world to see him.
'He agreed to our request, and told us to return to the palace next day.
It seemed that at least we were not going to be shot...for now.'
I just heard the most eerie story which does, to a degree,
illustrate the complete unpredictability of President Duvalier.
And it may be caused, I've heard it said, because he is a diabetic
and therefore subject to extreme fluctuations in mood.
Anyhow, the other day, he was on the telephone himself to a local airline
to enquire about a certain flight.
He spoke not to the airline official but to a young Haitian who worked in the office.
And he found this boy so helpful that he enquired...
and there's no doubt about it, Papa Doc is a most courteous man...
may I know to whom I'm speaking, he said.
And the boy said "My name, Excellence, Dupont", let's say.
And the President said "Dupont, Dupont, does that name mean something to me?"
And the boy hesitated and then said,
"Excellence, I am the son of Major Dupont of the Presidential Guard
"who disappeared 11 years ago."
It was, incidentally, exactly 11 years ago that Dr Francois Duvalier was elected President.
And Papa Doc said yes, yes, I remember, I remember.
Well, thank you so much for your help.
I'm so pleased to hear that you've got a good job, with a foreign company and that you're doing well.
Thank you very much. Put the receiver down.
That was that.
Except, the next morning, Major Dupont returned home.
For 11 years, he had been a prisoner in one of Papa Doc's jails.
And all I can assume is that having put the receiver down,
the President said, "Incidentally, what happened to Major Dupont?
"Did we shoot him?"
"No, Excellence, he was sent to prison."
Crouching behind his tanks and his fortress, the palace Haitian exiles tried to bomb
before one of their abortive invasions,
the palace many fear to enter, Papa Doc receives no-one for months.
His own minister seldom see him which may be why he's often reported dying or dead.
But from such seclusion, he has agreed to see me.
So now to try and find out what sort of man is this, who can inspire such terror.
To have peace and stability,
you should have a strong man in every country.
Not a dictator. Not a dictator.
-But a strong man.
-NOT a dictator?
Not a dictator, but a strong man.
Democracy is a word...
is only a word, as philosophy's a conception.
What you call democracy in your own country,
another country can call that a dictatorship.
Papa Doc's reign of terror was probably the most harsh in the Caribbean.
Yet, he could be courteous. He inscribed a book of his poems to me.
To the friend of the first black republic.
He had created the Tonton Macoutes, his private militia, who could kill at will,
since his regular army was neither loyal nor brave.
The population was also too cowed,
even to move the bodies of those who had been killed and left in the street.
The killing of a Haitian was unimportant,
but the death of a white man had to be agreed by the President himself.
Getting to the President, up there, can be quite difficult.
Mainly because everyone who surrounds him is so terrified of him
and there's no doubt that this quiet-spoken man does generate considerable fear.
When I left him the other day, he asked that I return this morning
to see him once again, and I duly presented myself with my various credentials,
armed indeed with a laissez-passer,
signed by the President himself to all civil and military authorities.
This laissez-passer got me through the sentries on the gate, here,
through a gaggle of guards on various doors,
up the stairs, along the corridor and right to the door of the presidential chambers.
There, I was met by a group of captains and lieutenants of the presidential guard.
And they said, although they'd seen me before and they knew me,
and they knew that the President was expecting me, they had no authority to disturb him.
He was inside his chambers.
I was outside. And no-one had the authority to approach him.
The only person who could approach him is his secretary.
A rather formidable lady who is related to him.
And she is away sick.
So I stood outside and waited and he is presumably in his study there, waiting.
And nobody has the courage to knock on his door.
The only way out of this silent stalemate was for me
to leave the palace and walk to the capital's telephone exchange.
There, I called up the number that I had noted on Papa Doc's desk.
My message, direct as it was, to Dr Duvalier, was uncomplicated.
Mr President, I am waiting outside your door.
Well, it worked.
It got me past a procession of sentries.
On another day, he decided to show me the capital from the comfort of his Mercedes 600.
'He carried with him, wads of brand new Haitian bank notes,
'which he distributed to the nearest peasants,
'who then carried away a year's wages in one publicised grab.'
Sometimes, he'll scatter handfuls of money through the car window.
Yes. It's well worthwhile trying to keep up with the Duvaliers.
Believing himself secure from enemies,
protected by gunmen and by the voodoo power lying within the number two,
his presidential inauguration was on October 22nd,
Papa Doc, hushed and curious with that sinister smile,
seems unconcerned and unaware as his stricken nation sinks deeper into its zombie trance,
watched by a critical but helpless world.
There's no doubt about it, Mr President,
you have had the worst international press of any president I have known.
That's right. Yes. They consider me like a black sheep.
'All we needed now was a climax to our film.
'Next day, as we were approaching Christmas,
'Papa Doc decided to go gift shopping around the jewellers' shops in his capital.
'And when presidents start suggesting their own sequences for Whicker's World,
'even I begin to feel confident.
'The prospect of the terrifying dictator Christmas shopping
'had to be the best sequence, the situation of a lifetime.
'At that moment,
'we ran out of film.'
Papa Doc, the black sheep, was one of my most applauded films.
It won the Dumont Award at the UCLA against 400 competitors from around the world.
Later, I had to address the UCLA Faculty of Journalism, a most prestigious ceremony.
The chapter of massed undergraduates were attentive and appreciative
about what, to them, was a new form of signed documentary.
The Dean, Charles E Young, made a few graceful remarks and called for questions.
There was a long silence.
Finally, a plump young woman, who had been absorbing every word and every scene intently, stood up.
"Mr Whicker," she began, ponderously, as I waited nervously for her cumulated wisdom.
"Is it true that you married an heiress?"
Well, as it happens, it wasn't, but it was in keeping with our whole Papa Doc experience,
which had been full of light and shade, triumph and fear,
a black and macabre tragic comedy.
'Next time, we're going east.'
-Good morning, sir.
-Whereabouts are you flying to, today?
'Flying in the slipstream of my first ever world tour...
'And revisiting some of the most exotic destinations on the Whicker's World flight path.'
The sun shines all the time. It's an absolutely marvellous place to come.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Celebrating a remarkable fifty years on television, TV legend and undisputed travel king Alan Whicker sets off round the world on a journey reflecting his incredibly varied life and career.
Alan travels from West to East across America to track down his all-time favourite couple, a prolific Hollywood plastic surgeon and his wife, who also happens to be his favourite patient. When originally shown, they generated the biggest ever postbag of Whicker's career, but after thirty years will they still be together - and what will all the surgery have done to them?
Also in this episode, Whicker explores once more the closed community of the ultra-wealthy ladies of Palm Beach. He revisits the groundbreaking 1960s programme where he filmed the trial of modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, who were both facing the death penalty, and looks back at startling footage of America's first so-called serial killer seconds after his arrest. Whicker also re-examines his extraordinary interview with Haitian dictator Papa Doc, his most critically acclaimed film for which he won the prestigious Dumont Award.