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Daniel Farson: 1927-1997

Dan Farson's obituary was published on 28 November 1997. It was sub-titled "Television interviewer, writer and photographer who turned into a monstrous drunk in his beloved Soho". The following is lifted from this obituary.

Daniel Negley Farson was born on 8 January 1927. His father, Negley Farson, was an American-born journalist who would bring the boy an elephant's tooth or an embryo alligator from his trips abroad. During one trip on which little Dan accompanied him, the boy was patted on the head by Hitler as a "good Aryan boy". Negley resigned suddenly from the Chicago Daily News in 1935, but then made money from his autobiographical books, The Way of the Transgressor being the best known. Dan Farson wrote of his father, "He was a stronger man than I am."

In 1940 Dan's prep school, Abinger Hill, was evacuated to Canada. During the holidays he was sent to stay with various unsuitable relations and friends of his father's in the United States. In 1942 young Daniel sailed back to wartime England and was sent to Wellington. He landed a job at the Central Press Agency where he was a lobby correspondent at Westminster. He served in the American army and was sent on a journalism course. He went, with the army, to Germany where he discovered the possibilities of photography in the ruins of Munich. He then went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge, aged 21. He took a degree.

He spent a short time with an advertising agency and in 1951 joined Picture Post as a staff photographer. In the 1950's, Francis Bacon took to Farson. Farson's next bright idea was to join the merchant navy and he joined the crew of 634 on the 30,000 ton Orcades and sailed 50,000 miles around the world, crossing the equator four times. He next found work on the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail. He persuaded Colin Wilson, the author of The Outsider, to speak unguardedly, and published the damaging interview in Books and Art. Then he was persuaded to interview Cecil Beaton for This Week on television and a new chapter opened.

Farson was ideal for television of that period, he was quick-thinking, still handsome, with enough charm to beguile interviewees. He drew out Dylan Thomas's widow in a live broadcast that had to be faded out when he provoked her to fury. He went from strength to strength. He caused outrage with a programme, Living for Kicks, about coffee bar teenagers. He produced a series Farson's Guide to the British (in which he included his famous piece on 'Jack the Ripper). His series Out of Step dealt with oddities from witchcraft to nudism. In 1962, with money left to him by his parents, Farson bought the tenancy of a pub on the Isle of Dogs on the Thames in the East End of London. The pub was given a boost by a television documentary Farson made called Time Gentlemen Please!

The venture lasted a year, in all he lost around £30,000, enough in 1963 to buy a row of houses. His days in television were numbered and a documentary he made, Courtship, proved "dull". Farson thought he had gone stale and threw in the towel. He moved to Devon, living in his parents' house near the sea and made an income from journalism and writing books. He still travelled much.

Farson knew he was dying from cancer when his autobiography Never a Normal Man was published just after his 70th birthday. At the same time he held an exhibition of photographs in a Mayfair gallery and went on Radio 4's Midweek with such a hangover that his voice sounded as if it came from inside a wardrobe.


Related pages:
  Daniel Farson
       Press Reports: Times - 11 July 1972 
       Press Reports: Times - 5 October 1972 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper (Farson) 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide - Father of G.W.B.