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Uhlmann is determined to get Chantal's story out to the public. Her second action, after convincing Chantal to file for divorce, was to get Chantal to sign over the rights to her life story.
"Robert said, 'She needs to give you the rights to sign all the deals, negotiate all the contracts, and (specify) that you own her story.' He said, 'You can't go any further until you have this piece of paper.' So I talked to her about it. I said, 'This is what my husband says we have to do. To me it sounds like a big, scary thing for you to do. Are you up for doing this?' and she said yes." Uhlmann says Chantal was relying on Fischbach's assurances about Uhlmann's character. "Remember, she's known Deb for 10 years and Deb's telling her, 'Sally's got plenty of money. She's not in this for the money -- believe me, you couldn't hire her, you couldn't pay her to do it. She's not there to rip you off in any way, shape, or form, so if she says she needs this to progress, you need to do it.'"
Uhlmann contacted a family friend who had worked in Hollywood for 30 years, had headed the made-for-TV movies division of CBS, and now worked for Universal. He advised her that no one in the business worked with unknown writers and told her she should write an "as told to" autobiography, which could then become the basis for a screenplay. She showed him pages from Chantal's diaries, and he encouraged her to move ahead with the project.
"He said, 'This is unbelievable. This is a story of the times. This is the best cautionary tale and it hits so many levels, so many different issues,'" Uhlmann says.
Uhlmann told Chantal to send all her journals, and she started sending Chantal questions about characters and events in her life. Chantal now sends her journal entries daily.
Chantal began keeping detailed journals starting on May 9, 1997, the day more than 40 federal agents raided the McCorkles' million-dollar home. Chantal's "mum" was visiting from England so she could go on a Mother's Day cruise with her daughter. Uhlmann read thousands of pages of her journals and assigned Chantal writing projects to tell about various episodes in her life. She also convinced Chantal to talk to the American press, though Chantal had little faith in the media that had portrayed her as a glamour queen and a swindler. But she had talked extensively with British press, and London's Daily Mail championed her as "The British Girl for Whom the American Dream Became a Living Nightmare."
After Dateline aired one segment about Chantal without interviewing her, Uhlmann convinced Chantal to talk to the program's producers for an hourlong special. Uhlmann is now working eight hours a day on Chantal's autobiography.
Chantal Watts was born in Slough, Berkshire, England, about an hour west of London. Her mother, a dental hygienist who also ran a mobile food canteen, left the family when Chantal was 7, and Chantal took over the ironing, laundry, cooking, and mothering of her 3-year-old sister. Her father, whom she adored, ran a silk-screen printing business, making posters and T-shirts. She was devastated when he committed suicide in 1994 because of financial problems.
When a friend of her father's moved to the United States, Chantal decided to visit and work as a nanny for six weeks. To pay for plane fare and earn spending money, she waited tables and cleaned offices. In America, Chantal met William McCorkle, and when her visa expired he told authorities the two were engaged. They married in a rush in 1989, and friends described them as in love and happy.