“I’ve been chasing (the concept of this show) ever since I was at CourtTV when Dominick Dunne was there,” exclaimed Discovery Channels group president Henry Schleiff at the TCA panel for Investigation Discovery’s upcoming series Vanity Fair Confidential. The show premieres on January 19 and dives into the treasure trove files of the magazine’s investigative stories—read “The Counterfeit Rockefeller,” the story of French high class crook Christophe Rocancourt who stole money from millions after convincing them that he was part of the legendary family; the “The Runaway Doctor,” the story about the fairy tale husband Dr. Mark Weinberger who mysteriously left his wife; and “The Fugtive Heir,” about real estate scion Robert Durst’s entanglement during the 1980s in two murders and a missing person’s case.
Distinguishing itself from the slew of other investigative doc series out there is the fact that Vanity Fair Confidential will not have any reenactments. Rather, each episode rests on putting the Vanity Fair reporters of theses exposes before the camera as well as witnesses and specialists related to the articles.
Said Vanity Fair deputy editor Dana Brown at the TCA panel, “Some of these stories are a few years old, so the fun part is seeing what has happened since they originated.”
One critic at TCA asked whether the Vanity Fair series butted heads with HBO when it came to the subject of Durst. HBO is producing the Andrew Jarecki doc The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst. However, Brown mentioned that Vanity Fair didn’t encounter any overlap in sources with HBO. The difference though was that Durst made himself exclusively to the Jarecki doc.
The panel Thursday morning trotted out some of the actual players in these investigative stories, such as Gry Park, the ex-wife of Rocancourt, who recounted her suspicions about her husband and all the cash that was lying around their domicile. “I left a voicemail message to an FBI friend to see if they ever heard about him, and within 20 minutes I was surrounded by the international police and the FBI. Apparently they did know who he was,” said Park on how she called the authorities on her estranged husband.
Blurted one critic to Park during the session, “But most wives like to see a lot of cash lying around.”
To which Park responded, “Well, Christophe said he was the son of a diplomat; that his father was sending him cash to store it in a safety deposit box. He opened up to me, he was very vulnerable and while I hate to put him in a good light; he was very good to me and a human being. But there was too much cash. When there’s too much cash, you get nervous. Honestly, when I left that message for the authorities, I didn’t think anything could happen. But I didn’t want to bring (our) children into anything hard or difficult.”
Steven Weinstock, who is producing Vanity Fair Confidential through his True Entertainment label, explained his team’s sifting process for choosing Vanity Fair pieces. “We cross-referenced those stories that had already been given a TV treatment, then slowly whittled down choosing the most compelling stories we could actually do. In some instances, people are no longer alive. In others, some people didn’t want to be part of the story.”