A high-society conman

Michael 'Dandy Kim' Caborn-Waterfield (1 North 1946)

Few Cranleighans have become as notorious as Michael ‘Dandy Kim’ Caborn Waterfield (1 North 1946) who died on May 4 aged 86.  Politely described in various obituaries as a “gentleman adventurer” and “rogue”, he actually possessed few redeeming features although he had an ability to charm which he put to good use.

In a chequered life he had a relationship with Diana Dors, smuggled guns into Cuba, served time in a French jail for theft and set up the first Ann Summers sex shop.

“He was not known to conform to the high ethical standards that most people take for granted, and indeed had several brushes with the law during his life,” The Times said. “Throughout it, he inspired love from many beautiful — preferably rich — women, some of whom were considerably younger than him. He divested them of their clothes and sometimes their fortunes. He was a chancer and often the chances paid off, at least at first.” The BBC noted that “he moved in high society and carried on some pretty low deals”.

His obituaries all claimed, as he did, that he ran away from Cranleigh at the age of 16 to become a jockey. The truth was less romantic; he was actually expelled by David Loveday for theft from another pupil. Loveday described him as “a sinister and untrustworthy child”.

His racing aspirations came to nothing and he was soon in London peddling black-market goods and trying to get into acting. By the late 1940s he had three cars and a flat in St John’s Wood.  On New Year’s Eve  1948 he met 17-year-old Rank starlet Dors Cross Keys pub in Chelsea. “I glanced away from my friends to see a boy with the most disturbing eyes that seemed to pierce right through me,” she recalled in her 1981 autobiography. “His dark good looks were almost beautiful… I half-smiled in his direction, but abruptly he turned away as if he hadn’t seen me.” As he had expected, his lack of interest intrigued her and they became lovers.

The relationship lasted two years, though they remained friends, and she went on to marry Dennis Hamilton, a door-to-door salesman with whom Waterfield became involved in a fracas at the Embassy Club in 1955, resulting in his first conviction for “insulting behaviour”.

By then he was at the hub of a smart Chelsea set, throwing parties attended by the likes of Lord Lucan, his good looks and natty dress sense (a friend recalled his collection of 25 handmade suits) earning him the nickname “Dandy Kim”.

A succession of women fell under his spell. In his memoir Serendipity… a Life (2012), Peter Watson-Wood recalled how after seducing one such unfortunate – the daughter of an American millionaire – Waterfield had swept her off to Gretna Green for a quick marriage: “The American tycoon had to part with very considerable money in order to rescue his beloved daughter from this unsuitable union. Kim did the decent thing and, with the bank seriously topped up, he told the girl it wouldn’t work out after all and she should go back to daddy.”

He also went out with the actress Samantha Eggar, though he claimed to have resisted the charms of the ex-wife of Randolph Churchill (née Pamela Digby, later Pamela Harriman, the US ambassador to Paris), whom he described as “a true redhead… aflame, mop, collar and muffs”

His high-profile associations eventually proved his undoing. He was tried and found guilty by a French court, in his absence, of the theft of £23,000 in francs from Barbara Warner, the daughter of Hollywood mogul Jack.  During the trial he was described as “seductive, witty, courteous, unscrupulous and the possessor of a criminal record”.

Michael 'Dandy Kim' Caborn-Waterfield being deported to begin a prison sentence for robbery, London Airport, June 25 1960.
Waterfield boards a plane at Heathrow Airport in June 1960 after being deported to begin a prison sentence for robbery

Although he was sentenced to four years in prison, he remained free until he was eventually extradited, after a spell in Brixton prison, in 1960.  Before then he briefly ran guns for the Cuban dictator Batista, and opened a water skiing school in Tangiers, from where he claimed to have been spirited back to Britain by the Kray twins after the French authorities tracked him down.

He spent a little more than a year behind bars amid rumours Warner had urged the French authorities to release him, the belief being that Waterfield possessed highly sensitive documents about Warner which he threatened to reveal. He was never forced to repay the stolen money, which was at that time a huge sum.

Back in England, he bought a manor on the Dorset-Wiltshire border and became a keen rider with the South and West Wilts Hunt. He returned to the London social scene, partying most of the decade away.

“He ran a wildly successful insurance company which took in premiums but never under any circumstances paid out on any claims,” said former friend Charles Marsden. “Eventually  it all went wrong and he had to disappear and had to hide his helicopter in a haystack to avoid repossession.” The pair fell out when Waterfield threatened to have him kneecapped after taking umbrage at a memoir.

In the late 1960s he opened the first Ann Summers sex shop near Marble Arch, naming the enterprise after Annice Summers, a former girlfriend who was working as manager of his Dorset estate. He felt that his own name and notoriety might be bad for business and Summers fronted the enterprise.  The shops were an immediate success, even if they attracted negative publicity and considerable opposition from church groups and councils. Summers became famous as a standard bearer for the sexual revolution and in 1971 London Evening Standard named her Woman of the Year.

Inevitably, the partnership ended acrimoniously, Summers explaining she was unhappy with some of the products being sold under her name and claiming Waterfield had not paid her what she had been promised.  Most damaging for Waterfield was that the media coverage exposed him as the driving force behind the shops. “It was disastrous for the business,” he said. “Until then it was perceived as being naughty-but-nice. Her revelation condemned the Ann Summers shops to seediness.”

The shops closed but the name was later purchased by David and Ralph Gold. More than four decades later Waterfield sued Jacqueline Gold, the chief executive of Ann Summers, who, he claimed, had suggested that he had had an “adulterous relationship” with Princess Margaret and was in the habit of illegally landing his helicopter in Hyde Park. The case, which most thought was another scam aimed at getting Gold to settle, came to nothing.

In 1972 he married Penny Brahms, a model and actress who had co-starred with Joanna Lumley in the 1971 sex comedy Games That Lovers Play, and with whom he had a daughter, although the marriage did not last. In 1976 he proposed a Miss Topless World beauty pageant, which did not, in the end, come off.

A friend recalled that Waterfield, a “restless spirit”, had a somewhat cavalier attitude to banks and when he was short of funds had a habit of “evaporating” into thin air. For a time he lived in Australia. In 2000 the Daily Mail discovered him living in Ireland. “At first,” the paper reported, “he denied he was Dandy Kim. But very few 70-year- olds sport shoulder-length white hair, tight jeans, denim shirt, suede boots and cut-glass accents.”