Broadcaster Alan Whicker dies at 87

Alan Whicker's career spanned six decades

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Journalist and broadcaster Alan Whicker has died at the age of 87 after suffering from bronchial pneumonia.

His spokeswoman said he died in the early hours of Friday morning at his home in Jersey.

With a TV career that stretched nearly six decades, he was best known for his long-running documentary series, Whicker's World.

The show, which ran from 1959 to 1988 on both the BBC and ITV, saw him travel all over the world.

The series featured Whicker reporting on the unusual and bizarre, interviewing all types of people from millionaires and monks to gangsters and dictators.

He once said he counted himself one of the luckiest men in the world because he enjoyed his work so much.

Valerie Kleeman, Whicker's partner of more than 40 years, said she was "lucky to have shared" his life.

Alan Whicker Whicker was made a CBE in 2005

"A few years ago a poll asked who was the most envied man in the country - and Alan won by a country mile!" she said.

"He said that he didn't know where work ended and private life began. Quoting Noel Coward, he would say 'work is more fun than fun'.

"On this last journey he will arrive curious, fascinated, and ready for a new adventure."

Fellow broadcaster Sir Michael Parkinson remembered Whicker as "a fine journalist and great storyteller".

"He was a dear friend and I shall miss him greatly," he added. "So will television."

After joining the British Army at the end of World War II, it was his stint with its film unit - which provided official news footage - that whetted Whicker's appetite for a future in journalism.

While in Italy, he was among the first Allied forces to enter Milan and shot footage of the body of Mussolini.

After the war he edited the Army's newspaper and then became a war correspondent, covering the Korean War.

He joined the BBC in 1957, where he became a correspondent for the flagship current affairs show Tonight.

There he was credited with bringing interview techniques like walking to camera and cutaways to television.

But it was Whicker's World, a perennially popular ratings winner, that made him a household name.

Sir Michael Parkinson pays tribute

He was one of the television journalists who greatly influenced my generation. We were lured into television by the mistaken ambition to be as good as he was.

He was a fine journalist and great storyteller and a beguiling interviewer whose best question was the one he never asked but simply just stood there, raised an eyebrow and nodded until the interviewee felt he had to speak.

I can think of no other television reporter before or since who created such a wonderful catalogue of unforgettable programmes.

He was a dear friend and I shall miss him greatly. So will television.

The show even inspired a famous Monty Python sketch about Whicker Island, a mythical place populated by Alan look-alikes awaiting that "inevitable interview".

Former Monty Python star Michael Palin, now a travel writer and presenter, was among others to pay tribute.

"Alan Whicker was a great character, a great traveller and an excellent reporter," he said. "He was absolutely at the top of his game in front of the camera."

David Green, director and producer at September Films, worked with Whicker as a young man and remembered him as "a true original".

"He was a television giant - made my first of 24 films with him as a baby director in Alaska 36 years ago," he said.

Whicker, he went on, was "a brilliant popular journalist and observer of the human state, who achieved legendary status among his peers and was loved by the great British public".

Travel presenter Judith Chalmers called him "an icon for the travel industry". "Wherever Alan Whicker went, people wanted to go too," she told the Daily Mail.

"He really delved into destinations and taught people so much. And he would always go about his work in such a quiet, diligent manner."

In its tweet, Bafta called his death "so sad". The broadcaster won two Baftas during his career - the factual personality award in 1965 and the Richard Dimbleby award in 1978.

Alan Whicker with Michael Palin in 1998 Michael Palin said Whicker was "absolutely at the top of his game in front of the camera"

"RIP Alan Whicker," tweeted broadcaster Louis Theroux, calling him a "suave inquisitor of despots, jet setters, misfits and go-getters" and a "spelunker" - cave explorer - "of the human psyche".

Presenter Eamonn Holmes also paid tribute, saying Whicker was a "real gent" and "a professional inspiration who out of the blue wrote me a letter at a bad time in my life".

Whicker moved to Jersey in the 1970s after visiting many times in the '60s, saying the slow pace of life attracted him to the island.

He retired from full-time broadcasting in 1998 but returned to the spotlight 10 years ago in a series of adverts for a travel company, coining its slogan "Hello world".

In 2009, he revisited some of the people and places he had filmed over the decades for the BBC series Alan Whicker's Journey of a Lifetime.

He was made a CBE for services to broadcasting in 2005.

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