Derek Watts: A special tribute | Carte Blanche | M-NetSep 10, 2023
foreigner was a formidable journalist a conscientious storyteller a fearless defender of justice a voice for the voiceless Derek Watts defended the marginalized the victimized the ignored always curious Derek also loved adventures his 35 years at COD Blanche took him to the most corners of the world opportunities seized with his famous enthusiasm yes Derek was a life lived to the full good evening to the
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tributeto Derek our colleague our mentor offering normally we would remember Derek with a minute of silence but we know that he I would never Instead, they want us to stay quiet, let's loudly celebrate a true South African icon in 1988.
Derek took a leap of faith by joining an as-yet-unnamed reality show as co-host with ruling Lantman. The programs that the program changed the broadcasting landscape in the country. By propelling Derek into the public spotlight as he told the stories of a difficult transition to democracy over the next 35 years, he wormed his way into the hearts of our loyal viewers in a way only he could. Derek believed in treating people with dignity and respect. He rarely got angry in interviews and still got the heart of the stories that needed to be told He had the same off-camera approach too quick with a joke He was never too busy or too distracted to chat and few could let their hair down as enthusiastically. while making his dance floor, his dancing is a testament that on Tuesday, August 22, Derek lost his battle with cancer and in recent days our team has been deeply moved by the thousands of messages,
tributes and memories that many of you have shared with us, you spoke of a gentle giant, kind, compassionate and someone who always made time for the people he met.
We are hurt by the loss of him, but we come together to pay tribute to one of our country's most extraordinary broadcasters, a man whose love for his work and his family knew no bounds. Our executive producer John Webb shares a few words. Well, this is something I don't feel prepared for at all. How could I be? How could someone be in the last days? I have struggled to find the words to quickly do justice to Derek Watts' legacy to a life that was so extraordinary, to a man who was so extraordinary. I have talked to many people and done several interviews in which I have tried to paint. a picture of what the man was like, who he was, what he valued and the impression he left on me and I know it on other people too, but in some ways I have struggled, I don't think I have done adequate justice to the legacy of Derek Watts. nor to the influence that he has heard in my life and I know the lives of the rest of the
I've tried but I don't know if I have the vocabulary to fully paint the picture, particularly for people who didn't. I don't know him personally, I've never met him and maybe the reason for that is that, more than anything, being with Derek talking to Derek on his campaign was about how he made you feel how you somehow felt bigger than you were. maybe you felt like you were. in some ways you were better than maybe you sometimes felt you were. Derek had that ability to make you believe that you were your best self because he had a genuine interest in what you had to say and again I don't know if I'm completely capturing who he was or what he stood for, but I hope you get a sense that you're getting some kind of image of that extraordinary, extraordinary man.
To be honest, you've been much better at it than me among thousands. of messages shared by people from all walks of life from every imaginable corner of the country, has shown how Derek's impact surpassed the boundaries that so often define this country of ours and that so often divide us and what better testament could there be? to Derek Watts, from all of us at carte blanche, the entire carte blanche family, as we call ourselves, from our colleagues at multichoice and mnet, please from the bottom of our hearts, except our thanks to you for the tributes, the memories, the reflections of an extraordinary man and an extraordinary life and join us after the break as we try as best we can to pay tribute to our patriarch, our mentor, our colleague and our friend Derek Watts.
I remember it was one of my first times in the studio and at the end of my first show. He turned to me and punched me, hit me in the eye and all was right with the world in that hand. I know that every time you meet Derek Hill, he'll say hello and he'll always put his hand on your shoulder and I think that no matter how bad your day was, comforting yourself with a big hand on your shoulder just makes you feel like everything's going to be okay. be well, make me laugh a lot, he gave me very good advice.
I will miss hearing his footsteps in the hallway, it's two meters. stop it's okay I'll miss hearing his footsteps because I know they come after those footsteps it's just that he has touched my life in an incredible way he gave his all and his heart to everyone he met these bosses just kept going the whole damn time judging by the theory eyes I saw at the conference yesterday you have had mornings like this every morning until now the people's presenter Derek Watts entered our living rooms and our lives over 40 years ago. I feel like kissing them, it's not good for most of the time he was on I Can't, Blanche's Green as a presenter and journalist, something in his own words of which he was extremely proud and we, as his family with carte blanche deceased and present, we are grateful that Derek touched each and every one of us in his own
This is our tribute. 7 p.m. m. I'm Derek Watson. As a journalist, he probably has the longest career of any broadcast journalist, certainly on the African continent, if not globally. It has been the fabric of South African storytelling for as long as I can remember. Hello and welcome to the last carte blanche of 1993. Sunday night and I was sitting on the floor dreading the fact that tomorrow I have to go to school and my mother was telling us to shut up, Derek and rudau, and it's serious news. I saw the first episode of Carta Blanca when I was 15 years old.
I knew that in order to prepare for this carte blanche interview I would one day do in my head and audition for the show, I watched his every move. I have this little book at home where I wrote notes because for me it served almost as a textbook of what existed and how to do it, so I met Derek as a fan, like millions of other South Africans. Derek Neil Watts was born in 1948 in Johannesburg, Hillbrow, he was the youngest of three behind his brother Roy and sister Geno, he was Mr. card blanche, look well, card blonde to me, that's like the ultimate, that's the Saint Grail.
People want to share these stories. People want to tell their deepest stories. Darkest Secrets Derek's father, Basil, was a fitter and Turner was a surprisingly honest man who hated lies. Her mother Edna entertained her friends with her piano playing and some daring routines. Qualities. Derek inherited the ability to capture the public. I told him yes? Derek is my name. It's an abhorrence of dishonesty Dennis you're trying to sell courses for 150,000 per course what was I going to get out of that? That's irrelevant a family moved to Bulawayo in what was then Rhodesia Derek was a quiet boy who loved to read. naughty and out of character Rebellious fun was at the heart of a lot of what he would be doing, so it seems very serious, we are broadcasting life to the nation in a studio, but believe me, his cheeky little dad jokes are creeping in in it. fun of the camera crew, he's having a good time, you can imagine what Derek was like when he was a teenager.
I just returned to the personal, enormously curious. Derek didn't have great success as a student at the University of Natal, it wasn't the endless party he had imagined, it's the mischief he has a very, very wicked sense of humor. There are 15 international versions of Penthouse magazine and it has been my carte blanche duty to flip through most of them. His father thought the army would solve it and in a sense it did. he was selected for the office training course and ended up as a company commander in the Rhodesian Bush War or the Zimbabwe Liberation War depending on which side you were on, a long and bitter conflict, there was a lot of propaganda that we know that said that We were fighting the CT communists. terrorists, but yes, the truth was different, right?
I mean, it was a liberation struggle and I think in the back of our minds, yes, we knew that was what it was about, but in the end a lot of people lost their lives, nothing 578. We lost that initial belief in why we were fighting in the Army, key characteristics of Derek's identity came to the fore so evidently in some of his most difficult assignments. It is the famous story. I don't know if it has become an urban legend or if it is being embellished. but the story he did in the Balkans during that terrible war in Bosnia in the early '90s, when he traveled to cover an incredible British woman, arrived in Mostar, a city at the center of this conflict, and did a piece with the camera About what I thought.
It was just an arbitrary road and they later informed the locals that it was a sniper alley and they could have shot at any moment in this area as soon as there is a building left intact there is a putrid smell in the air you can only imagine how much blood has been spilled how many lives have been lost how many families were destroyed just on this street working as a cadet reporter for the Rhodesian Herald on us at his posts in the army Derek was very disappointed that the Smith government's censorship prevented journalists from reporting on what was really happening on the field Derek Watts is the truth for Powers, he is a social justice warrior, he was just a larger than life hulking person who walked into the room and just owned it, but there was so much light and warmth which I think might have been a bit too um Starstruck at first but who is it when they meet the records we have been invited for a cup of tea or shires, they call him and it is very rude not to accept but here he was he saying that?
He would rather die than live like this for the rest of his life Derek had an extraordinary enthusiasm for bringing the news during the post-9/11 crisis. I sent Derek and producer Diana Lucas to the Persian Gulf and the mission was to board the USS George. Washington, but getting on an American warship is not an easy task, especially when you have channels like the BBC and CNN and all the big international channels trying to do the same thing, but Derek and Diana managed to get on the USS George Washington. Now that for me it was Derek's extraordinary determination a question that comes to mind is how do you defend this huge floating platform in a military world of long range missiles that have pinpoint accuracy and enemy aircraft that are difficult to detect and destroy? most of the answers here at the Combat Direction Center we like to think of ourselves as actually less of a target than an Air Force Base when it came back, we got a sense of the magnitude of the American military presence in the Persian Gulf, it brought me the trophy. and the trophy was from the USS George Washington, which I wear with pride to this day.
The first time I saw trans boy Derek Watts. 1982. I'm about eight years old. I had never seen a television before my visit. a friend from across the street and it happens to be a Saturday afternoon and the biggest sport is being played and guess who the presenter was. Good night when 13 wickets fall in a day. You know the wonderful track is a little complicated in the early 80s. Sportsman Derek. he was in his dream job in front of the camera he's in Johannesburg presenting topsport for sabc I was a newsreader and he was a sports presenter so I didn't really have much to do with him then, but he walked into the offices of the diary. which was a current affairs show on the sabc to speak to one of my colleagues, agenda presenter John Bishop, just to ask his advice about coming on a current affairs show called extraordinary carte blanche because how did any of us know we would land? working together in 1988 mnet a new south african television channel launched cartilage a weekly current affairs program when you think of the beginning of the blanche cut you always have to remember it was a completely different time, we were the first alternative to sabc in august 1988 and bill four of the phones and says he's starting a one-hour show on Sunday night.
Do you want to present carte blanche? Bill was the producer for its creation. He wants Derek to co-host the new show with Ruda. Derek, 40, known as the mild-mannered one. The topsport presenter is a surprising choice. Enjoy the foreign program. He was chosen in our name. Searching for the ruler of the competition. I didn't know Derek. I had never met him and he came from a completely different background. I come from news and actually he came from sports and I think. he made theassociation was so strong is exactly the fact that we were different, this is a completely different cartilage, let's put it on other guys today, aren't we?
And then both with the middle, he was the most incredible partner I ever had. in the studio because you could completely relax he had it in his hand and would never let anything go wrong you know, even when he was teasing me, which he did, it wouldn't make me look bad overwhelmed by these fumes, they were magnificent. team together here's Ying to her Yang or however you put it, she was the deeply intellectual and serious type and he was the approachable everyman. It was a magical combination. I think he loves being on the air, he loves broadcasting and he shines through those incredible views.
I mean he's got a six meter female here, he's got a very quirky sense of humor and pushes the boundaries, he's not PC like the night we had a Fitness insert of some kind and when we came out of it he told me on air live . Well, women, of course, keep themselves fit by jumping to conclusions. You know you just got the good stuff. Running through Alex, you get a very realistic view of the township and the conditions so hard to believe now that this insert in Alexandra Township in the late 80's was a pioneering release which won first prize for an insert in Alexandra Township. and it tells you so much about South Africa at the time that it was remarkable because now it wouldn't be Zen for two white presenters to go and spend a day in Alexandra.
It won as an award because our white audience had never seen that because Apart from it working, it kept us apart because in this award-winning story, the magic and personality of what Derek brought to the screen would define all of his stories, these guys are so tired And in so much pain you want to help them, but I guess that's it. Against the rules, you have to tell all different types of stories and access all parts of yourself in order to tell those stories and Derek was able to do that for over 30 years in the ever-changing landscape of this country, down to the person homeless.
Go to powerful politicians and businessmen to Crooks, he could do it. I am working with Gladys Beloit and she works quite well. I'm pretty lively for a dead person because, according to Home Affairs, she's been dead for five years. Derek. gave us the whole plan to do the job we do, we did nothing but the media and most people say the police supported Carter and that's ridiculous because this is the police again, we entered a world completely different and expanded. our world our vision and when South Africa entered a roller coaster of changes it caught Blanche raising the mirror in which we saw ourselves any doubts about the effect that the application of the law had, I remember him covering a demonstration that was quite controversial with the farmers on one side and there were racial tensions and he knew how to relate to both sides and make both sides feel like they have a friend in him and that will forever be Derek's legacy.
His ability to adapt his ability to transfer that warmth that he had to everyone and everything he touched. first democratically elected president on April 27, 1994 with the first democratic elections in South Africa the world opened up as part Blanche began to explore outside our borders Derek's passport was ready I know Derek had his favorite stories landing on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf War traveling to Everest Base Camp interviews Mark Shuttleworth in Russia before his trip to space, but for me, and perhaps what he took for granted, is the extent to which his work stands out to me precisely because of this profound coherence in which was never anything more or anything less than what Derek wants and I think that's what people gravitate towards and it's a very, very difficult thing to do in our industry and looking at the camera I think it's directly at the camera, yeah, but at what point do I start actually recording drinks or before?
No no no. Worry, you just have to start and then it will count again. I'm the Instagram person on the team. Claire is really good at Tick Tock, so she said guys, I'd really like you to be in one of my Tick Tock videos and I said, you know. say snap, I'm interested and Derek, we basically had to teach him about Tick Tock first how it's going to work and guide him one at a time good morning Angels, good morning Charlie, all he needed to do is say hello angels and he wanted to do more all the time , so Clay kept saying no, it's not necessary, he says, I'm saying it and then I cut the frame, I went up, no, no, just say hello angels.
He says later, should I turn to you angels? No, just, and it was just funny but also indicative of Derek because he really gave his best all the time in 1989. The elusive bachelor's life changed forever when he got married. with the small but feisty Belinda Woodhead, a sun. Tyron and his daughter Kirsty completed his family. Oh, you love the kids too. Kelly, do you want to kiss? Derek certainly loved his job, but his family always came first, his kids were very, very important to him and that's how we got to know the kids because Tyrone would come into the studio as a little kid when he finished training at the studio on a Sunday.
At night he is fine, it has been a difficult day, his first priority was to get home to be with his wife and children. Can I get you a drink, honey? Thanks Dad. I started at the launch of the Club in 2019 and that year I lost my king. dad and while I was in the hospital Derek was asking me how are you, how are you, and I mean, I was a very new member of the team and he showed me a lot of support during that time until the end, you know, he. He became a father figure, this is to say that one of the lowest points of his life was passing by an elementary school with the children singing, the little kittens came running to the fence screaming, monster, monster.
W Mitchell had a profound impact on Derek and his story was extraordinary. story of a man who had lost both legs and both hands but still ran for Congress in the United States. What I wanted to tell you is that yes, I am different, I look different but inside there is a wonderful gift and that in your life you will see many packages, but if we only look at the package, we will miss many gifts, many opportunities in life and Mitchell said it doesn't matter what happens to you, it's what you do. that counts and that penetrated Derek's psyche to a high degree and that's why when Derek's daughter got sick with cancer he made sure they turned it into something positive and thank God Kirsty recovered and created the Kirsty Watts Foundation which Derek later He was supportive to the core, but I mean, from now until the wedding in July, he's probably just going to be a big stick on my desk.
I won't start telling you about that right now. It's very easy to be with Derek, but when he talks to you, he looks at you and I see you. I'm surprised you've been able to deal with all this that's happening, it's not easy, but it's the choice. Do you have people stolen? The story told really mattered to him. He recalled people from 30 years ago whom he interviewed only once he knew he had time to walk. with Derek it was like walking with a turtle because he stopped, for all the producers hate working with them because it's like you know he's going to meet someone they interviewed a long time ago or someone you know saw the story but he'll give them their time of day and really investing in having this conversation with this person, which is something really endearing about him, I learned a lot from him as a human being, never mind as a brilliant broadcaster, which was okay, this is in the Luanda Zoo, located right in at the edge of the ocean Derek's most traumatic experience in his long career 1994 Angola he and producer Rick Lumber were documenting the transport of forgotten caged animals to the Johannesburg Zoo we heard what had happened, of course, that Rick had been killed by Tiger Derek was flying back with the body in a Freightliner finally landed and Belinda went upstairs to meet Derek.
He had gone through this terrible trauma of seeing Rick being murdered and then, of course, they both knew that The Show Must Go On tells the story that we found. in a quiet corner of the airport maybe, but 20 minutes before he died he was joking with someone and someone was being a little serious and we said look, don't take things seriously, no one gets out of this life alive anyway. I did an interview. I supported him in telling the story and I remember very clearly that we sat like that on the couch and our hands were on his back and I just squeezed his hand because I felt like I was holding it together, you know, and it's always understood in our work. this thing you almost need to report this was probably one of the most important moments that Derek had to do, that he had to tell the story, you know, it was something that happened to you wrong, thank you, maybe I just want to.
People talk about this attraction that he has for people of all generations, of all cultures, of all genders, and I think it's because people recognized in Derek the attributes that they most admire in people. He was generous, he was kind, he always made time for people and I believe. people even through a television screen were able to recognize and I think we as a team also recognized that if things get a smaller reporter for this job, no matter how powerful they are, he had a way of talking to them like if they were his teammates Magic in 95 and Magic again in 2007.
Thank you very much for being here, thank you very much, you know, I like him too, he supports our children, he spoke to Madiba with the greatest possible respect, but at the same time there were points in common. humanity that crossed between them and that applied no matter who he talked to, Derek's most beloved celebrity, the interview, Jane Fonda, who he met at his ranch in New Mexico, USA let him break the line, pretty fish , there was such a wonderful dynamic between us always, although strangely enough off screen, we didn't become close friends, but there was never a distance on screen, we were totally focused on each other working together.
It's a very special kind of interaction after 19 years as a carte blanche co-host in 2007, Ruda decided it was time to take a bow when Ruda left carte blanche, took on the mantle of the person who would ask the tough questions, and did just that. with a plum and I think the more difficult the challenges became as a country, I think the more determined he became to hold people accountable, hey, is this this operation or what, uh, Jake was good at confrontational stories and He did it to Derek. very broad, can we help? Yes sir, how is he?
Derek has always been a good guy even with our Crooks and he always said no. You know we have to give people a fair hearing. You have nothing to hide. Because? If you hadn't followed my lawyer's advice, I would almost be translating the frustration you felt as a bystander, how could you have done this? And he would look these people in the eyes. Stephanie, yes, repent, child abuse allegations. Well he never yelled and screamed and missed the call from him, he was very firm and there's a balance to that, he just got it from Derek Watts from the court pitch.
I know it is. We actually know what you're doing. You are actually slowing down meters everywhere. The city starts trying to make a living now, when he talks to you, he talks with authority and you know you almost feel like I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have done this. I turned Derek on on the field, that's how he feels. Like crazy, the Rocks keep raining and the strikes I call, that don't quit, will just continue all night. I remember having a conversation with him and his people, you know, as exhausting as it is at times and heartbreaking. he said, but imagine if we hadn't done it, Mike, all these stories, all these investigations, you know all the things that make a lot of people want to pack up and leave, imagine if we didn't do the work that we do.
Derek must have walked through more airport terminals than most just looking for my luggage he's cocky with a black handle constantly countless destinations exotic explorations cutting edge technology following dreams then dashed this is where the Oscars spend most of their time he actually called it office training in this very lane on the Jamona athletics track all fed Derek's insatiable appetite for novelty and adventure, but the vehicle he chose to drive in his homeland was unexpected. I remember going to lunch with him one time and he got out of the smallest little Fiat, I don't know if people know that Derek would drive the smallest one of course, and then he would get out of it, you know that in all its glory and I said, Derek It's your daughter's car, why did she say it's a great car.
We saw Derek as a patriarch, he was the lead executive producer of the team, even though he was the person around whom everything seemed to revolve. We wanted to give you a chance to ask us some questions and we've received an avalanche of them, especially for Derek. ready Derek, I'm ready, nothing too personal, I'm telling stories, it's one thing to walk into that live studio on a Sunday night at seven o'clock broadcasting to South Africa and another thing entirely, there are four or five cameramen,there is a sound. guy, there's someone who's operating the auto queue, they're directors, there's a full room in the control room that you don't know, you don't see, but it makes the show happen and he knew that everyone created.
Everyone by name had a moment with everyone he understood. that while the rest of South Africa believed he had carte blanche, he knew he wasn't, he knew it was a product of the efforts of everyone who worked behind the scenes. I hate to mention it, but the order queue disappeared again, no. well, he's back, he's back, he's back, he's back, he always told me while we were counting down 10 seconds to live five four and he would look at me and say calm down and for some reason that little wink would give you the confidence to know that I'm in the right place I'm at the right time I can trust my co-host we have this Q clay your life for the nation in 2022 Derek was diagnosed with skin cancer that had spread to his lungs with the support of his family and specialists, continued doing what he loved most.
These are not petals as everyone would think. Like in Formula One, it's not about going up and down. We only have one march. These are used to activate different modes in the car, so it's to be expected I'm sure, but surprisingly he never let it weigh on his work and never created the impression among his colleagues, among his friends and among the people he met while working At first, the driver allegedly hit and killed a cyclist on the sidewalk in Johannesburg when McFarland accepted the challenge of completing an Iron Man in honor of a friend. who had died in a bicycle accident Derek was there when Derek became part of that story, he didn't know the severity of his illness at the time, but he was there every step of the way 180 yes, there was a point where he was doing the 26 mile run and you just say Mac keep going, going, going, going, going, let's go and then.
Right at the end, my mom put the metal over my head and, um, yeah, I'm Derek, I was standing on the other side and I went and gave her a big hug and it's a moment that you know you'll live with. Me for the rest of my life, yeah man, hey, what a time for you in March 2023. Derek got sick while on a family vacation. He was rushed to Park Mall Hospital and diagnosed with acute sepsis. His recovery was a challenge. Derek recorded a message from his hospital bed. I really want to thank our viewers, you know they are so loyal to the show and for the messages and the love and the prayers.
I really appreciate them everywhere I was, in a mall in an airport, people would come up to me and say, What's Derek like? It's okay, we have him in our prayers and his willingness to even share that very intimate journey that he was going through was a very important thing, you know, for me, it's hard to see him like that, you know, and know what he did for me. . to be there at that finish line and it really meant a lot to me. You know, he has given a lot of himself to all of us. Derek's longevity in this business is legendary through the 30+ years of him going solo.
We have witnessed history through his Everyone has a story and Derek had the ability to help people tell his stories when South Africa was just beginning to emerge from the days of apartheid and become what it was. we would convert Derek has helped tell the story of a hugely important noise that began three decades ago. the life of this country he told the stories of this country with dignity with aplomb and a little humor that she needed above investigative television journalism in this country there is no discussion about that you don't have to be rude to do what we do maybe more More than anything, as a practitioner of what he did, I have learned that, ultimately, this is a work about decency.
Derek Watts was fundamentally a decent human being. We all start out as these ambitious, fresh-faced journalists, ready to travel to the four corners of the world and, you know, take on everyone and win the awards, and of course Derek has done all that and more, but your priorities change when you have kids. , so I think the best you can hope for is that your wife, your children love you, respect you, admire you. you and that you do right by them and if Derek has a legacy, I think it transcends what he did for a living because I think his children and his wife have every reason to be extraordinarily proud of him, give me a minute, how ?
Can the legacy of a man who has produced such enormous work be quantified? Derek chronicled the modern history of South Africa up to the new democracy, seeing the wonderful changes that occurred and how the country gained recognition and respect, and then seeing the decline in terms of corruption and level of crime, Derek leaves a huge amount job that deserves an enormous amount of respect. and above all, although he is a family man, an example of how you can live life to the fullest without stepping on the aspirations of others, we were privileged to have met him on behalf of the president and board of directors of the multiple choice group and from our Cod Blanche team.
We would like to extend our deepest thanks to Belinda Tyron and Kirsten for sharing it with us over the years. Our deepest condolences to you and your entire family for your profound loss over 35 years. Mnet was Derek's home and we would like to thank the channel. and multichoice for the immense care and support over these years and to you our viewers across the continent. Belinda tells us that until the end she wanted to thank each of you for your love and trust. Derek leaves an extraordinary legacy of humility, courage and a lot of hope, but from all of us who worked with Derek and who love Derek, thank you for joining us and helping us pay tribute, thank you, thank you.
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