Who wants to be a billionaire? There were many attractive aspects of the broadcasting career of the late Alan Whicker, well summarised in Alasdair Steven’s obituary (13 July). A focus on the condition of the rich and, in particular, his interview with the late John Paul Getty must rank as one of them.
In his book Journey of a Lifetime, Whicker outlined the background to his interview with the man whose assets at the time were incalculable. Insights into the real world of the exceptionally wealthy were then rare. This was the era before Branson, Gates, Sugar and all the rest. Whicker thought it ironic that the condition of the poor was the subject of endless probes and reports, but the lives of mega-millionaires were seen almost as untouchable. With that evocative voice that so many strove to impersonate, the journalist set about bringing the lifestyle of Getty into very close focus.
The morose tycoon proved to have a most distinctive hangdog look and the driest of humours. This prompted Whicker towards the end of the encounter to delve into the sensitive question of Getty’s personal happiness.
He got him to admit before a mass audience that he knew he could not, at the age of 70, take his wealth with him and then added with a faint smile: “It’s probably a good thing – it might be quite a burden.”
Most of us will remember Whicker as a man whose sound and demeanour encapsulated the attractions of travel, adventure, mystery, exotic locations. But we should remember, too, the way he brought mysterious people like Getty into the public eye and reminded us that they were also human.
Shiel Court Glenrothes, Fife