Stephen Fry explores the states of New England, before heading south to the nation's capital and ending up at the civil war battlefield of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
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I was so nearly born an American, I came that close.
In the 1950s, my father was offered a job at Princeton University
and he turned it down.
And so I was born not in NJ, but in NW3.
And I was born a Stephen, not a Steve.
But ever since I found this out at a later age,
I've been intensely curious to discover more
about the world of my other self -
this strange American, Steve.
MUSIC: "America" from West Side Story
Over the next months I and a trusty London cab,
albeit one hired in the US,
will be visiting each and every one
of the 50 of the United States Of America
to explore the continent that I came so close to calling home.
In this episode, I shall be travelling through the heart
of the region called New England,
before heading south to New York City and thence to New Jersey,
Delaware, Maryland and on to Washington DC and Pennsylvania.
The first stage of my journey is Maine,
and I'm at the very easternmost tip of the USA in the town of Eastport.
This is the lobster capital of the world
and I'm out on the water with the McPheil family,
who've been harvesting the bottom of the sea for three generations.
-So what do I do?
-Make a pocket, make handfuls,
get it nice and tight, stitch it up.
-But you've got to make sure it stays closed, so the crabs don't pick the bait out.
-Nice and tight so they pick through here.
-Oh, I see.
What would you say is the view most Americans have
of the State of Maine?
-Moose, someone told me.
The animal, not the pudding.
A lot of people think of lobsters but they don't realise how much work goes into it.
Maine lobster of course, yeah.
-Three out of four lobsters sold in America are Maine lobsters.
-That's what they say.
What about the people? What is the characteristic of someone from Maine?
-What do you call yourselves? Mainians? Maniacs?
-I've been called worse!
-What is the word? Is there an official word?
-Hard workers, I guess.
Is that the view people have of Maine people?
I've worked away and when you mention you're from Maine, they'll hire you on the spot.
-No job application, nothing.
-A good characteristic to have, I guess.
These hardy New Englanders are mainly
of Scottish and Irish descent,
and have in spades that strong puritan work ethic
which has shaped so much of this country.
Oh, no. I've broken this one!
That's coming out of your pay.
-So how old do you reckon that sort of size is?
-I'd say it's probably 10, 12 years old.
How much would you sell that for?
-That's probably worth 20, 25 dollars.
-By the time it's got to the restaurant?
-Probably 60, 70 dollars.
-Yeah, it's not a fair world is it? With the farmer, the fishermen...
-We do all the work.
-The hardest part.
-We do the hardest part.
-I know. You said "hardest part" -
now that's a bit like Boston, isn't it? It sounds almost Australian. "Hardest?" It's really unusual.
Back in Eastport, and the morning's catch is unloaded at Bob Del Papa's Chowder House.
Angus McPheil, lobster patriarch, has been lobstering all his life
and knows a thing or two about these snappy insects of the deep.
When you say "put to sleep", what does that mean exactly?
-How can you...?
-Oh, just, you know, we usually...
play with them, kind of, you know...
stand it out,
kinda put their claws down...
-Rub their back,
kind of puts them paralysed, like...
So, it's now in a trance?
Can I try that? Cos they're definitely awake, aren't they?
-Oh, yeah, they're alive.
-I mean that's...whoa!
See look, he's flapping away, so hang on, let's...
we put him down like this,
claws in a position... Is that right?
Yep. Just kind of...
HE SINGS A LULLABY
Look at that!
Here we go.
It's gone. I feel a bit cruel, but on the other hand...
They just...they're transformed, aren't they?
So different from the little brown speckly thing
you pull out the ocean. It's amazing.
-It's a lobster bib. You put it over your head...
-Oh, yeah and tie it around your back. Oh, yeah.
-Maine people don't do that.
Oh, great. Thank you! So suddenly, I'm the only one with one.
Where did this taxi cab come from? Did you have trouble?
Well, the thing is, Bob, in London I actually drive a taxi around.
I'm not a taxi driver.
-I was going to say, is that your profession, taxi cab?
No, many people think it should be,
but it's just a very useful way of getting around the city!
So I leave Eastport and head south,
then west towards New Hampshire, my second state.
New Hampshire is well-known for its role
in the US presidential primaries.
Over the gruelling months of these preliminary elections,
all the presidential hopefuls trek to every corner of this small state,
each trying to convince the suddenly important New Hampshirite,
that they have what it takes to be chosen to lead their party
in the race to be the most powerful person on Earth.
Or Leader Of The Free World, as Americans prefer to put it.
How many here are Redsocks fans?
How many are also Yankees fans?
How many of these kind of things does he do a day?
Erm, it depends on the schedule but today we have like, two major events
-and then a house party, which is our next event.
-A house party?
-Yes. So it's a little smaller, more informal.
-He meets more people and actually shakes their hands?
But normally we can have, like, even five in a day.
-Yeah, and you've no idea what kind of people will be or what the questions will be?
He just takes them as they come in.
That school in Maine that recently is allowing birth control for a middle school,
Well, there's no question in my view
that one of the ways that you help instil, if you will, family values,
is by having the White House be a place that demonstrates family values.
-Stephen Fry, I'm from the BBC.
-Nice to see you again.
-Your lovely Deirdre has been very kind to us.
-Which way? We've got a picture in here.
For me the moral line that I would not cross -
and we had this in Massachusetts, is what would we make legal?
Well, there you are. Politics on the stump. It's rather marvellous.
It's very American.
It's a mixture of Halloween and clapboard houses
and sort of hokey politics, but it's rather splendid.
I don't think we have anything like this in Britain and, er, I have to say one can only approve.
I don't think he knew the questions and yes, it's the house of a supporter,
but he seemed to answer very well. I'm more interested in the process, though.
Democrat or Republican, it wouldn't matter, it's the style...
and I find it very likeable, very amiable, very American in that sense.
It's casual and I think all Americans have a sense of great connection and pride
about their democratic beginnings, and their sense of being involved
in the democratic process.
And that's something we could learn in Britain.
100 miles north,
and the White Mountains of New Hampshire
that straddle the border with Canada.
The Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods,
built in 1902, has an illustrious past.
I'd heard of Bretton Woods, but wasn't sure what it was -
well, it's this place.
It was an international conference held here in 1944 that set up the World Bank,
the International Monetary Fund, tied world currencies to the dollar,
set up the gold standard at 35 an ounce...
Everything our prosperity depends on, really, started here.
Because for the first time in history,
instead of destroying the enemy, we set up conditions to rebuild.
And that's why Germany prospered in the '50s,
and that's why we all prospered too.
The Bretton Woods agreement and all that it stood for
is an enduring monument to American enlightened self-interest,
at a time when the US was at the peak of its power at the end of World War Two.
If only it were that simple, these days...
-Have a good trip.
-Thank you very much.
My name is Mike, I'm going to be your brakeman today.
Back in the cab we have Joe and Pete, they're going to be our engineer and our fireman.
I'm on the world's first and still the greatest cog railway,
heading all the way to the top of the highest peak
in the north east of America, Mount Washington.
It's an exhilarating ride on a dizzying gradient.
When was this line built?
The line was built and established 1869.
-They actually started work on it 1866...
and it took three years and 100 men to build the original tracks.
And, erm, the amount of fuel that you use for one of these journeys, how much coal?
-We use a ton of coal.
Much more efficient than previous trains
when the original trains were actually wood trains.
-And how much water does it take?
-It takes about 1,000 gallons.
Just from the base to here we're going to burn about 300 gallons.
-Was it built for any purpose other than tourism?
-Nope, solely for tourism.
-They used to have a hotel at the top.
-A hotel at the top of the mountain?
Mount Washington, or Agiocochook in the Native American language,
meaning "home of the great spirit", is the windiest place on the planet.
That's official. 231 miles per hour recorded on the 12th April, 1934.
But luckily, not today.
I'm on the summit of Mount Washington.
6,300 feet up and around me, all of New England lies.
There's New York State, Connecticut, there's Maine and Vermont,
and we are right in the middle of course, well, at the top half of New Hampshire.
Vermont, literally "green mountain", vert mont from the French
who initially colonised this land is very green, very wet and very milky.
Half a million cows worth, and from that milk
comes something that is as American as Apple Pie,
yet at the very cutting edge of culinary science.
30 years ago, two hippies called Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield
started making ice-cream here in Vermont.
Ben and Jerry's phenomenal success is built on continuously
experimenting with unusual new flavours and names.
So let's see what I can do.
We're going to start with our base.
-We've got vanilla ice-cream because we understand you are a fan?
-I do love vanilla.
And it is a perfect base for any inclusions that you put in,
-any of the pieces or chunks. We've got a nice variety for you to choose from.
-Toffee candy bars!
Between nuts, cookie pieces, er...
That's a very Ben and Jerry's thing, that you have real pieces, not just little bits.
-We like big hunks of chocolate.
-Can I put these in?
-I'd say dump a good number of them and we'll have you stir that.
-Oh, yeah. Walnuts, I think.
-Something a little more of your palate would be nice.
-Walnuts, a little touch of sophistication.
That's what you're bringing to this! HE LAUGHS
Part of the Ben and Jerry's motif is we have to come up with a good name.
-A catchy name helps a flavour greatly.
I was thinking possibly we could either go with Even Stephen... HE LAUGHS
and maybe do a little, like a blend of flavours down the side.
I'll tell you what though, it's quite cold!
Yeah. That's how we make it.
One last one, and then we can do some of the true test which is actually going to be eating the product.
-Now squeeze together in there..
-Oh, I think we've got a winner, don't you?
-It's pretty good.
Right, fresh samples today, folks. This is going to be a real treat.
Ladies and gentlemen, I've mixed my own unique flavour which we're calling Even Stephen
and I'd like to know what you think, I think it's good, it's not too sweet and it delivers.
Anxious to know your opinion.
-That's the walnuts!
Walnuts might be very crunchy.
The toffee's chewy, I wanted a chewiness and a crunchiness and a yielding mouth feel.
I'm making these words up as I go along, but they sound reasonably professional to me.
-Oh, thank you.
It's that feeling of comfort you get.
An ice-cream delivers that in a hard and harsh and unpleasant world.
-We NEED ice-cream, that's my feeling.
And so we say farewell, Vermont, state of Ben and land of Jerry
and we say hail, New York,
but not New York City, not the New York of Manhattan and Broadway.
This is New York State, a vast land dominated by the Adirondack chain of mountains with Niagara at the top,
they say it's the size of England.
The Adirondack Mountains were the first playground
of the super wealthy of that gilded age back at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Rockefellers and Vanderbilts built their so-called great camps
in the cool hills to escape the humid cities
where they'd made their millions.
But it was camping in a style and opulence never seen before or since.
This is Top Ridge, built originally by breakfast cereal heiress Marjorie Merriwether Post,
and now owned by a rich Texan family,
though it's Lawrence Leicester, the long serving caretaker,
who opens up the house for me.
-How many weeks of the year would the family be here?
-About eight weeks.
-Eight weeks each year.
Oh, oh. Gosh.
Isn't that something?
Some sort of animal skin, isn't it?
That rather beats the headdress that I had when I was a little boy.
Crikey, that's a staircase.
What I love about this is that most rich Americans try to build houses that look European,
like chateaux or English castles but this is 100% American.
Everything about it is American. Skins and antlers,
everything's made of, sort of, it's a cabin,
but it's cabin as re-interpreted by someone with all the money in the world, really.
But it's not only the elite rich who come to the Adirondacks, plenty of blue collar workers come
to pursue their love of the great American outdoors, an outdoors that teems with game.
There's a hunting season for practically everything - bear, moose, squirrel, otter,
beaver, porcupine, great cat and small cat, weasel and wolverine.
You name it, they shoot it or trap it.
Right now, it's white-tailed deer season.
Here we've got some fresh deer nuggets, deer poo...
..and what we do with that, occasionally, is we'll rub that on our clothing,
-get it all over us so we smell like the deer...
..occasionally we roll in the leaves, you want to get rid of your human scent as much as possible.
What does it actually smell like? Let me smell.
-Yeah. That's, there's worse poo than that.
But it's still poo, isn't it?
My clothes and that, I don't wash till the end of season. I change my underwear once or twice.
-A couple times.
-How does your wife respond to you smelling like that?
-My ex-wife doesn't respond any more.
-What's the plan, Bill?
-Now we're gonna come up here,
we're gonna separate, and we're gonna get a couple of watchers over here to the right.
We're going to wait just a couple of minutes, let you guys get up in there.
So they're bedded right now and we're gonna jump them right out their nice warm bed.
You wouldn't mind if I said shall we shoot the deer
-in the sense of with a camera rather than with a gun.
-We could do that.
-We can let them go? Cos I am...
Catch and release.
-I do eat meat but...
I'm afraid I don't think I could bear the sight
-of a deer being killed.
-We can do that.
They call this the green side of the Big Apple.
-Right. That's very good.
-That's what they call us.
Not the rotten core.
-and people in New York City don't even know this is here.
And the wind'll make a difference because if the wind was blowing
from behind us, they would smell us and avoid...
Deer are always gonna run into the wind.
Oh, is that right?
They'd rather smell what's ahead of 'em and know what's out there,
than look behind 'em to see what's following.
-There's something following 'em but they'll always go into the wind.
Well, do I see it?
I just...just now.
Had the cross hairs on it.
If I'd been 50 yards lower, it would have had to come this way.
Did you see me up on the hill?
-At any point?
I look and I go, "Look at that! There goes a tail."
Right by Mullarney's Rock.
Instead of driving straight down to New York City,
I'm heading back to the coast,
and into the State of Massachusetts,
the town most people associate with the War Of Independence.
Well, here's the city of Boston,
regarded by many Americans as the cradle of the revolution.
By revolution, they mean the independence wars
in which they fought us, the British,
for the right to govern themselves. And it all came to a head here, actually,
we're on the very bridge where the harbour was,
where a famous tea party took place.
What it actually was all about was money, as so many things are.
The Colonists, as they were known, the Americans, were fed up
with paying taxes to a parliament that didn't actually represent them.
There were no American MPs and yet they had to pay taxes.
And so their cry was, "No taxation without representation."
And things came to a head when the British put an extra tax on tea
so when a ship arrived with this tea,
they dressed up as what were then called Red Indians -
native American tribesmen - and dumped the whole lot
into the harbour. Worth...now it would be hundreds of thousands,
if not millions of pounds. It was one of the sparks that lit the tinder of the whole revolution.
How fitting then that I'm dropping in on a tea party
at one of the country's most famous institutions, Harvard University.
My host is Harvard's pastor and professor of divinity, Peter Gomes,
a black gay Republican Baptist,
with a very British way with a cup of tea.
-You've made my day.
-You've made my year.
-I'm so thrilled to actually see you in the flesh!
-You are nice.
-I even read your books!
-Well, you are one of a glistening minority of discriminatory people.
-That's all right...
16 years, I think I'm right in saying, after the pilgrims hit Plymouth Rock,
a Cambridge man founded a university here in this very place.
Good man, John Harvard.
Now, I have to make one modest correction.
He didn't "found" the place, but he did something far more important than founding it,
he supported it, he gave it, er...
all of his books, half of his money and the legislator gave it his name.
-Ah, so it already existed before.
-It already existed.
Not very long and it probably would have died in its cradle were it not for benefactions from John Harvard.
America often strikes me as entirely a land of contradictions,
almost anything you can say is true about it,
the opposite is true as well. It's a land of the free
and of a classless society, and yet it's ritzier in New York
in certain places, and certainly in Newport,
than it is in Britain, there's more class consciousness...
Which is what makes it an interesting country,
and a country that has a fascinating present
largely because it had to make up its past,
it doesn't have this long unbroken romantic stretch
to some primeval moment.
So you, you make things happen, you know?
Another reason that you have these examples of conspicuous wealth
is we can afford it. We've still got it, for better or worse.
People still aspire to enormous wealth, money's not a bad thing.
Puritans were not afraid of money at all.
Yes. Gore Vidal says that the puritans didn't leave Britain
and go to America so as to be free from persecution,
they went so they could be free to persecute.
Well, there is alas more truth to that than I would like to admit
as a former President of the Pilgrims Society,
but it is true that they did NOT come to the New World
to set up some utopian, "I'm OK, you're OK" society. That was not at all what it was,
they came to set up a just and righteous society,
and that usually means that somebody's unjust and unrighteous.
And there were religious people saying that the reason for 9/11 was because
there were gays and decadence in New York and that was the reason, but you're not having any of that?
One of the many things one can say about this country is that we dislike complexity,
so we will make simple solutions to everything that we possibly can.
Even when the complex answer is obviously the correct answer,
or intriguing answer, we want a simple yes or no,
or a flat-out this, or an absolutely certain that...
and the notion that God could have two thoughts simultaneously
and people adhere to him who don't look or talk like us
is just hard for many Americans to believe.
The persecution and intolerance that characterised
the early days of the conquest of the New World
were never more clearly seen than here in the town of Salem,
on the outskirts of Boston.
The witch trials of 1692 obsessed the colonies.
Of the 150 women accused, 19 were eventually hanged.
Today is Halloween and modern Salem is awash with witches once more,
some more serious than others.
Laurie Cabot, the high priestess of Salem, is a stout defender
of their civil right to practise their religion.
Are you really a witch? Is Wiccan your religion?
-Is that the word for it?
-Witchcraft is my religion.
Erm, Wicca has become a colloquialism meaning witchcraft,
you know, so people don't have to say the "W" word.
-But it's witchcraft, yes,
-and it is a legal religion in America, you know.
It's recognised by the Constitution.
-And protected, supposedly. Hopefully.
Christianity wasn't kind to witchcraft, or supposed witchcraft.
-Here in Salem, the most famous...
-Right, that was not witchcraft.
That was a Christian definition of the word "witch",
and then applied to people, you know,
that they wanted to get rid of, I think,
or take their properties, but it was the wrong definition.
Christianity still has the wrong definition of what witches are.
ANNOUNCER: As we get ready for our circle...
Tonight is the opening of both worlds.
-The world of our ancestors and our world.
-And you don't call it Halloween, do you?
Oh, absolutely not.
-What do you call it?
-Samhain. Erm, it is a night, one of the most holy nights,
because we're starting our new year, Summer is over, winter is starting.
We're calling upon our ancestors' spirits to speak to us,
to come and lend us their wisdom.
-Right. So that's the connection with the dead rising, is it?
The frosted air blows and changes...
..changes summer to winter and the wheel of the year turns once more...
Happy New Year! Happy New Year.
Well, as a matter of fact, it's no longer Halloween.
It's actually All Hallows Day or if you're a witch,
it's the beginning of a mad, merry new year.
Or if you're a Stephen, it's bedtime.
This is Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.
and a little further down the coast is my next state, Connecticut.
But somehow I seem to be helping crew the Weatherly,
a 12 metre class yacht which won the Americas Cup back in 1962.
This is sailing as it should be and my crew, unlike me,
have that fit confidence and blonde assurance that have inspired a million Ralph Lauren
and Tommy Hilfiger commercials.
Very American, very attractive. Slightly too perfect.
The crew are giving me a lift down the coast on my way to a different
but no less exciting type of boat.
Groton in Connecticut is home to the US Navy nuclear submarine force,
the undersea guarantors of the deadly authority of the world's only superpower.
Oh, Lord. Am I going down there?
Ooh, this is not me at my best.
And this, Stephen, is the control room.
This is where we dive and drive the boat from.
This guy steers the boat and the outboard station that works, excuse me...
Yes, the outboard station over here is in charge of the stern...
So you really literally steer it in these seats rather like a kind of gaming arcade.
And is that what I think it is?
-Is that a periscope?
Oh, I say, I couldn't, could I?
It's a long ambition of mine, the idea that I would one day...
Raising number one periscope!
Up scope. Aah!
-Oh, my God!
-This is a little more old fashioned than the number two periscope.
-Old fashioned is good.
Oh, my. Oh, my.
The zoom is fantastic.
Oh, a kitchen!
Oh, my word.
Oh, good, we're going to sit down and eat.
-So what do you call this, a mess?
-A crew's mess, yes.
-A crew's mess.
It's where the crew eats, the officers have a separate messing area.
-They have a ward room.
-Yep. Oh, they do get looked after a bit more, do they get served?
-They do get served, yeah.
-So you've got 100 and how many mariners?
-130. So obviously you have to do it in staggered shifts.
-Absolutely. 24 at a time.
-Oh, I like that.
And do women fall on you like that if they've heard you've volunteered?
-Well, I'm married, Stephen...
-You wouldn't want that to happen, sorry!
What's your average tour down...submerged?
Six, between six and eight months.
Six and eight months!
In this cramped environment with 130 other...men and women or just men?
Just men, just men. We're pretty much the only submarine force left that hasn't incorporated women.
That's quite surprising. That's interesting.
-Is that simply because there isn't room for extra facilities and so on?
-We'd have to have a different head, or bathroom...
-Loo, I guess you'd say.
No, I think in the British Navy, they say heads as well, but...
And different berthing areas. We just don't have the facilities right now.
So six months? Is that because after that people start going mad?
Er, actually, the only thing that limits how long we can be underway is the amount of food that we can carry,
so six months is usually how long,
but we can stay out indefinitely if we could carry the food.
Oh my goodness, are these the quarters? They look...
That's one of the three main berthing areas on the ship,
or the boat as we call it.
So, privacy is not a word that you're used to?
No. Not at all. STEPHEN LAUGHS
-This is a torpedo?
-It is a torpedo.
It's a fully functioning torpedo, the only exception is because it's painted orange,
that means it's an exercise weapon, so it doesn't have explosive in it.
-Oh, OK. And this?
-This is a, er...Tomahawk missile.
Whoa, Tomahawk! So that's a really serious piece of weaponry?
-That can travel how far?
Er, over 1,000 nautical miles and hit the area the size of a chalkboard.
This is Newport, Rhode Island.
This is the dead centre of town.
-The dead centre of town!
These enormous houses, or cottages as the rich call them with rather knowing irony, I think,
they were just here for the fresh air that Newport offers as opposed to the stifling humidity
of New York in the summer months, so they were only lived in for a very short period of time.
Now, they're mostly owned by the Preservation Trust that tries to keep them
from falling down because the kind of multi-billionaires who live now don't want to live in this style.
Oatsie Charles is the doyen of Newport's old money.
She now lives in converted stables attached to one of these so-called cottages,
a house that was once home to the celebrated novelist of Newport's heyday, Edith Wharton.
-Can you tell me why they call them cottages and why they came here?
-Snob appeal, I guess.
-They thought it was funny to build a huge mansion and call it a cottage?
-I wasn't here then!
No, you weren't! But you know about the history?
-There's your drink... don't forget that.
is a very beautiful girl.
Who would that be?
-That's Mammy Whiting.
-And who's the lovely girl on the right?
That's you. I can recognise those cheekbones and that jawline.
We dressed every night for dinner.
We went out practically every night.
The houses were still fully staffed.
-And formally staffed.
I mean, you know, footmans...
-What's that word?
-It sounds weird! Uniform.
-You don't use "livery"?
And what kind of sizes of staff are we talking about in...
back in the day when it was really the place?
-I would think at a minimum ten or twelve.
One of the people who lived here was the great novelist Edith Wharton, who was the chronicler, really,
the nonpareil of, er, of the upper...what do they call the upper?
-The upper classes. It was a number, she had...
-The upper 400.
-Why were they called that?
-Just the 400.
Just the 400. Why were they called the 400?
Because that's what Mrs Astor's ballroom in New York could hold.
Oh, so if you were one of those... if you were important enough,
if you were 401, you were a social outcast, ruin...
As we say in Alabama, tough titty.
And I suppose the best known family,
certainly in dynastic terms in America, to a Briton at least,
must be the Kennedys.
-Oh, I went to the wedding.
And it was too funny, because... Oh, my, it was really so awful.
All Jackie's family, friends...
were on this side,
and we all looked just the way we did -
always in Newport, you were sort of slightly underdressed unless there was some big occasion.
-And this was just Jackie getting married.
And on this side were the Kennedys.
All in frock coats and...?
I mean, they were dressed to the nines,
and the difference between the two sides was simply fascinating.
So really, the Kennedys tried a bit too hard to be into the old money...
They were just not part of...
No, because they were Boston Irish, and they were Catholic,
and above all he was a racketeer, wasn't he, Joe?
-Let's be honest, we can't deny that.
-Joe was attractive, was he?
For all that he was a Nazi sympathiser and a criminal?
-Really horrible, but never mind.
-Horrible but attractive.
That's fair, people are! I'm the other thing -
incredibly nice but not very attractive.
A short ride and it's the Big Apple.
I have a date with a fellow cabbie, John Mancuna,
an Irish-American who lives in the predominantly Italian borough of Queens,
but like most cabbies, plies his actual trade mainly in Manhattan.
-Ooh, hello there.
-Welcome to New York.
-You must be John?
-Yes, that's it.
Well, as I told you when I called you up,
-it'd be great to come to a cab garage to have my cab looked at.
-You know where the dipstick is in this?
-You do? Good luck. See if he can find it.
Is this it here?
-You see. You're right.
-English side, that's it.
the steering wheel is on this side, you see.
-What do you reckon?
-You need some oil.
-I do, don't I?
-John, that's yours, is it?
-Yes, that's mine but..
-I love the flower.
Today we're gonna go in the black taxi.
Yeah, I'm going to take you in...
What's going on now in Manhattan is class cleansing.
All neighbourhoods, no matter what colour,
are being cleansed of poor people, like Harlem,
which was predominantly African American - now that's all changing.
The wealthier people are buying up the brownstones.
The Lower East Side are moving out all the immigrants
and wealthier people are moving in.
So all of Manhattan is just being cleansed of a lower and middle class
that are moving out to Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
So that's what's going on.
I notice with cab drivers that a huge number are from the Ukraine,
-from India, Bangladesh and, er...all kinds of countries.
-It's quite rare now to get one who seems to have been born in New York.
There's 60,000 drivers, 10% would be native born.
The yellow cab now is worth 600,000 dollars, and that's called
-the medallion that you would buy for the yellow cab.
So it's a huge investment, whoever wants to buy one.
-Do you get used to seeing people and telling from their body posture...?
-Then you just drive on.
-By the way they dress.
-A lot of these guys like to dress like gangsters,
have the hood over their head, the pants hanging around their ass, right? And the baseball cap sideways.
Well, I say if you're going to look and act like a gangster,
I'm going to pass you up like a gangster. After an 11-hour shift, you're at a light,
it's 3 am and you hear both doors open and guys jump in and go, "Yo, my man,
"we're heading up to the South Bronx." And like, the hair on the back of the head, yeah.
HE LAUGHS Oh, not at this hour.
So you've run them off and then at first you're saying, "Oh, God, please don't rob me!"
Then as you get closer, you say, "All right, you don't even have to tip me, just pay me!"
Then as you see the neighbourhood you say, "Listen, just jump, please. I'll take the loss, I don't care."
And someone was asking me about, "What are the benefits?
"What's your retirement plan like?" I said my retirement plan is 4.30 in the morning,
a 9mm to the back of the head in the South Bronx, and I said that's when I've retired.
The Big Apple, of course, is not just the Isle of Manhattan.
I'm keen to explore the other boroughs, the people that make up the quintessential New York City.
So John is taking me to a rather special place
in the Italian neighbourhood of Queens,
to meet one such tribe, the Goodfellas,
the petty and not so petty types made famous in The Godfather and The Sopranos.
This is their social club.
-So this is it, eh?
-This is it.
You might get in, I don't know if you're gonna get out.
There's tea, coffee, cake, soda in the refrigerator.
Well. Hello, gentlemen.
I'm Stephen. And you are?
-Stephen, that's Larry.
Mike...there had to be a Mikey.
Hey that's it, a Mikey.
Hey, a Mikey! Well, this is...what a place.
-I've always dreamt if being in one of these. Er, you seem to be pretty keen on your sports?
We've got racing, football, a whole wall of Yankee...New York Yankees.
-Every Yankee World Series team.
Tell me something I've always wanted to know.
There's a thing you get in movies right, in which people are described as running numbers.
-What does that mean?
-They have the racetrack...
..and they have how much money is bet on a racetrack.
-What, the whole total?
-The whole total.
And it's got racetrack total and the last three numbers,
if you're lucky enough to play it, you'll win some money.
-Oh, so you predict...
..how much in the course of the whole afternoon at the racetrack...
Let's say you wanted to play your birthday, and it was 410.
-You put a dollar on 410.
Next day you look at the paper,
at the end of the racing "track total handle".
-So it could be anything from 000 to 999?
So what are the ways to get an edge on anybody, to get an edge on a bookie or...?
Listen, it's real hard today to get an edge.
-We wouldn't be sitting in this club if they knew how to do that, all right?
-You know how you get an edge?
-See this phone?
You're in here with the bookmaker.
-I'm at the racetrack.
The horse is going right over the finishing line.
-He's number eight.
I press number eight on here.
You've got your cell phone.
-Your cell phone will ring. The first number will be eight, that's the winner of the race.
Now you're talking to the bookmaker, say, "Excuse me, I've got to answer the phone."
-You see eight, make a little conversation, "Talk to you later, I'm busy."
-Give me eight.
Give me number eight. And you've got the winner.
Who's going to tell me why there's a bullet hole on the door here?
The bullet hole was a Friday when we had a card game.
Somebody parked their car and they shot six bullets into there.
Can you see the one in the wall over there,
-there's a hole, that ain't a mouse hole, that's a bullet hole.
One went through and hit one of the players and it missed his head. It grazed his forehead.
-That went all the way through? Wow.
-And when he said, when my friend got grazed in his head,
he called an ambulance and he says, "I'm shot in the head!"
so the ambulance driver says, the person over the phone says, "How do you know?"
He says, "There's a hole in my head and blood's coming out!
"How do you think I know I got shot?"
-So what's your nickname?
Why are you called Big Time?
Because I've done some movies. I've been in about 300 movies.
-I'm always playing a gangster in the movies.
-I knew the part De Niro played in that movie, in Goodfellas?
Yeah, I knew the guy he played.
He played... Well, the guy's name was Jimmy The Gent.
-Well, listen, I knew the real Jimmy The Gent and I told De Niro,
-when he went to go visit him in jail, to ask him questions.
De Niro says, "Listen, this movie ain't going to help my parole,"
he told De Niro, "so take a walk!" STEPHEN LAUGHS
-and I told him the exact phrase, I don't want to mention it...
But the exact phrase, how he told him,
so De Niro turned around and says, "Mick, you really knew the guy?"
I says listen...and that's how I became friends with De Niro.
Wow. Goodbye, everybody.
Goodbye, now. Nice to see you.
Bye! Nice to see you all.
-God bless you.
-And next time, we'll give you it all when you come in.
Before I head off to New Jersey, I have a quick fare to pick up
in the shape of a more recent immigrant to the City.
MUSIC: "Englishman In New York" by Sting
-I've always loved it here.
-I mean, the British here
are pretty invisible, we don't look like a community.
-The only place you'll find us in numbers is one of the pubs downtown.
-If there's football on?
-On a Saturday morning.
You are now an Englishman in New York of course. That's your...
One of my favourite songs I play here. It was also adopted by Jamaicans,
there's a Jamaican In New York song,
Croatian, you know, everyone. THEY LAUGH
Written their own version of it, which I don't mind.
Of course. So people just change the one word in it and do a cover version of it?
Oh, that's wonderful.
# A Bosnian-Herzegovinian in New York... #
It doesn't quite scan, Stephen.
-This is why I'm not in your business!
-Stick to the acting.
Down the coast from New York in the state of New Jersey, Atlantic City's Boardwalk was,
between the wars, the playground of America, the queen of resorts.
After flatlining in the 70's, it's re-invented itself
as the gambling capital of the eastern seaboard.
-Thank you very much.
-I'll be very smart, won't I? Splendid.
Let's, er, let's play cards.
I am to be initiated into the charmed circle of washers and dealers on the blackjack table
by a representative of one of the latest waves of immigrants, Vietnamese croupier Kelly.
You put them in there? Oh, I see.
-And take out.
-Now take the whole lot out?
I see, it's just a way of squaring them off.
-And now, they've got to go in here?
-No, no, no, no!
-Oh, more? Oh.
-And now we just?
Grab a few, square them off?
-Away to you.
-Oh, to me, so they don't see the...
-Facing you, yes.
-Yeah. Facing me so they don't see the...
And then, back in here? So now they go in the shoe?
-Wait for the...?
Shuffle again? But we just shuffled them!
-No, that's a wash.
-That's the wash?
-Now we shuffle?
Oh, my. So like...
Cut in half.
-Make sure they're even.
-Right, two halves...
-cut another one.
-Into two packs?
Oh, my. You're very good.
No, you pick one of these and shuffle.
I pick...what, like that? And then like that?
You have it there.
Of course. What a fool I am!
There we go. Do you want to double up?
I imagine you would.
-I don't care if he spends my money!
Oh, you take it. Sorry, that's your card.
-Oh, yes, what? He has won.
-Don't say "oh, yes".
So do you reckon in your gambling, your gaming, any of you have made a profit?
-You do well?
A lot, a fortune.
-I built a house on it.
-Really? On this game?
I wouldn't be surprised if they put a small plaque up there to commemorate that. That's wonderful.
SHE LAUGHS That's so fabulous!
This is a great personality.
-A small plaque!
What's the biggest amount you've seen someone win?
A couple of million.
A couple of million!
-And lose the same?
-Lose the same.
-Amazing, isn't it?
So, it's a good living to be a croupier?
It's a desirable job, is it?
Is there a lot of people who want to be a croupier?
You have a lot of demand? A lot of people come to the school?
-And what about tips? What's the biggest tip you've been given? Might you get a 5,000 chip?
-You really won it as a tip?
Gambling is on the increase in America
as more and more states, realising how much revenue could be gained, license more and more legal casinos.
And while I have nothing against gambling per se, the effects are truly devastating.
Many have been ruined by their addiction, easily as toxic as any drug.
In the end, the house always wins.
It's irrefutable arithmetic and as embodied in these trashy, tawdry palaces,
I personally find the whole business vulgar,
tasteless and desperately sad, but maybe that's just me.
Now we're crossing the Delaware River which takes us from New Jersey to the State of Delaware
and it was here, on Christmas Day 1776,
that George Washington sneakily crossed with his Continental Army
and delivered a massive defeat to the British allies, the Battle Of Trenton.
He did it in midwinter. God knows what it must have been like.
There's a very famous painting actually, which I have here,
of that very scene, Washington crossing the Delaware.
It's entered into American myth and legend
as one of the turning points in their history.
God, it must have been cold.
Delaware. What can we say about Delaware?
Well, Delawareans will tell you proudly that theirs was the first state
to be incorporated into the Union,
so it's important for that reason.
But there's a certain generation, my mother included,
who would first associate it with a Perry Como song.
"What did Delaware boys, what did Della wear?
"She wore a brand new jersey.
"Why did Cali phone ya?
"Why did Cali phone?"
MUSIC: "Delaware" by Perry Como
From Delaware, I've crossed into Maryland and over the Chesapeake Bay
and yes, I know I'm short-changing these charming states
but I have a rendezvous to keep in the nation's capital, Washington DC.
Not strictly a state at all, but merely a district.
It's an attractive mix of imposing architecture, nationalistic symbols,
broad boulevards, the 19th century grandeur of Lincoln's memorial,
the White House and Capitol Hill. It feels more European,
a product of the enlightenment, fit to stand alongside Berlin,
St Petersburg, Paris.
I'm meeting up with the newest purveyor of the enlightenment,
a modern day Diderot.
Jimmy Wales was the founder of the most compendious encyclopaedia ever,
How many people work for Wikipedia?
-Er...ten people, worldwide.
Just ten. We're the number eight website on the internet now, so...
and those ten are, other than the one guy who's like community liaison,
pretty much don't edit Wikipedia at all.
They're tasked with keeping the servers running,
answering the phones, dealing with the press, things like that.
So not just the entries but the checking of other things, of alterations,
the acceptance or denial of little extras,
-all that is done by volunteers?
Just the main community members, the really active people.
The administrators, all volunteers.
And just working in their spare time, or...
So, unlike Google, which is probably the best known
and certainly, probably at the moment,
er...700 a share or something.
Well, we're actually a charity.
We're a non-profit organisation.
You don't? So you haven't...
-I'm not talking to one of the famous dotcom billionaires then?
-Oh, gosh, no.
-How extraordinary that you should create something
that is so well known, is used by so many people,
and still have not polluted it with adverts and things like that.
Yeah, well, I mean, for me Wikipedia is something...
I think it's something that can be really special
and I think the core community is guided by that idea,
so whatever criticisms are received,
well, we take it very seriously because we want to be good.
And I think when people look back on the early days of the internet -
which this still is very much the early days of the internet -
you know, 200 years from now, 500 years from now,
they'll say, "That was something that was good."
There was spam and there was pop-up ads and nonsense on the internet
but this is something we remember that was worth doing.
To me that, as an American, it is a bit of pride in that respect that,
especially in this era when America has a very bad reputation
around the world in many ways and for many reasons, but what's interesting about American culture,
is that there is still some very strong old values that really are,
to me, very good and inspirational.
Freedom of speech, and the idea that ordinary people
can come together and build something,
and, you know, ideas about sort of, like, can-do spirit.
Ladies and gentlemen, The President Of The United States.
Thank you for that warm welcome.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm George W Bush, President Of The United States.
-But on a more serious note...
DC is truly a company town.
That the company happens to be the US Government, makes it all the more interesting.
Venality, corruption, incompetence,
lying, cheating, philandering,
They're all words that come to mind here.
Luckily the Fourth Amendment guarantees free speech,
luckily, that is, for satirical groups like Capitol Steps.
Work with me, people. OK? Thank you. AUDIENCE LAUGHS
Barrie Byrne, like most of the Capitol Steps troupe,
started off in a Government job on the hill but then turned from gamekeeper to poacher.
Is this the source of most of your material then?
This is the source of much of our material.
The rest of it comes from, of course, The White House.
Now recently, I spoke to you from my library
where I admitted that we made mistakes in the handling of the war in Iraq.
Many people were shocked - to see me in a library.
I noticed on the programme that, well, politicians seem to like you.
They were also very critical of myself and the NSA for wiretapping American citizens.
They feel like any publicity is good publicity.
But you know I don't understand what all the fuss is about.
I mean for years I have been criticised for not listening to the American people.
It's comedy gold,
it's comedy gold.
# Three little Kurds who want formation
# Of a Kurdish sovereign nation
# Where we'll be free for ululation! #
# Three little Kurds from school
# Three little Kurds from school! #
Politics is the main industry here.
Politics and businesses around it
seem to feed into that.
Lobbyists, for example,
there are many, a lot of associations are headquartered here.
It's amazing how it is a self-perpetuating business,
that each administration will come with its own problems
and we'll be sitting right there waiting to jump on them.
Many great men and women have filed in and out of this Willard hotel,
but none greater, and certainly none more revered than Abraham Lincoln,
who actually lived here at the Willard in the period between his election
and his inauguration into the White House.
And I suppose Lincoln is best known and remembered
for a certain speech he made on a battlefield in Pennsylvania.
Did you make this great address over the bodies of the slain,
sort of a day after the battle?
No, the graves were still places where people would be buried,
there were caskets...
80 miles to the west of the capital,
the serenity of Gettysburg today belies the savagery of the battle
that was fought here over three days in July, 1863.
The Union victory was the turning point
in the Civil War against the Confederates of the South.
On November the 19th that year, President Lincoln came to the battlefield
to dedicate this cemetery to the nation,
and deliver what has become the most famous speech in American history.
Well, I was asked to make a few appropriate remarks.
I was not to be the main speaker, Edward Everett...
Jim Getty, a perfect Abe-alike, has been working the heritage trail for nearly half a century.
Can you run them by me?
Well, I wanted to go back to where we had started,
87 years ago in Philadelphia.
Er...four score and seven years ago,
our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation,
conceived in liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a...
MOURNFUL MUSIC PLAYS
..that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.
And the government of the people, by the people, for the people,
shall not perish from the earth.
The 270 words of Lincoln's address, that lasted barely two minutes,
have entered popular culture because they so concisely and eloquently
summed up the high ideals
of what the Union hoped the Republic would become after the war was won.
Standing here, on the blood-soaked battlefield of Gettysburg,
one can't help but be put in mind
of the extraordinary earthquake-like fissure that opened up
between the Yankee North
and that romantic, mysterious,
eccentric, bewitching part of America,
that they still call the Deep South.
On the next leg of my journey I shall be visiting coalmines and distilleries,
body farms and cotton farms,
snowbirds and parole boards,
guitar-pickers and turkey-stuffers.
Discovering how much or how little,
since that bloody civil war, the Deep South has changed.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Stephen Fry was very nearly an American. Just before Stephen was born, his father was offered a job at Princeton University, but chose to turn it down.
And so, Stephen was born in NW3 rather than in NJ, New Jersey.
In this six-part series he travels, mostly in a London cab, through all 50 states of the country that he could have nearly called home and which has always fascinated him. In this first episode, he explores the states that make up New England, before heading south to the nation's capital and ending up at the civil war battlefield of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. Presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire, witches in Salem, nuclear submariners in Connecticut, deer hunters, small time mobsters in NYC, socialites in Rhode Island, lobster fishermen in Maine, ice cream blenders in Vermont and card washers in New Jersey - Stephen meets them all as he takes the road through the autumn colours to uncover what really makes America tick.