UPDATE : My mother – who worked for the BBC in the 1960s as a teenager – heard no disgusting rumours and was harrassed by no one. So Auntie wasn’t all bad.
As a personality Jimmy Savile has pretty much past me by. I watched Jim’ll’Fix’It when I was very small and it was as boring as Blue Peter (which was like a Scout Camp) and he also presented ‘Top of the Pops’ – which I only watched for the music and the fashions and because we only had 4 channels at most for my entire childhood – and it was the eighties, so he was rarely on it, and when he was, it was usually in ancient clip form, because he was the first presenter back in 1964.
I didn’t find him weird or creepy – but I did find his endless catchphrases a bit wearing : ‘Now then, now then’, ‘How’s about that then’, the yodel. It was like a man with nothing to say finding ways to fill the dead air time. He became good with people by being bad with people. He was certainly less distressing than Esther Rantzen (I love her despite her glaring flaws) who oozed and slimed over the public, her eyes shining with a desperate, desperate need to be liked, and to be on television. There wasn’t a bit of British low culture in those days that wasn’t grooming us for sexual abuse with its relentless nudge-nudge, wink-wink penis shaped vegetables. It was a relief when the snotty over-educated alternative comedians (Ben Elton, French and Saunders, the Comic Strip, Not the Nine O’Clock News etc) came to rescue us from the pit of smut. But they were mean about it and in the ironic 1990s dreadful things like Jimmy Savile were redeemed and paraded on crappy documentaries nostalgic for the innocent past when life was one long innuendo.
And in real life it turns out Jimmy was an amazing net-worker with a particular fondness for such halo-bestowing activities as going to Church and raising money for charity. Like a lot of people unable to form intimate human relationships he was good at acquaintances. He was something of a control freak – which explains why most of the victims of his abuse were fourteen year old girls, hospital patients and young offenders – they wouldn’t tell, and if they did they wouldn’t be credible, and anyway – in the 1970s girls were dollies and crumpet and up for it. Within his working-class family he was the one with all the fame, money and power – and he was generous. When you see him drop his persona (which he did occasionally) you either see a very physically fit and threatening angry man, or a very clued up, engaging, intelligent, rather witty man. He had some level of self-awareness, and he was – from the interviews – odd, but nice. He was friends with the Prime Minister, the Royals (wither they liked it or not), he had flats in hospitals and camped in the grounds of Children’s Homes, he was even put in charge of re-structuring Broadmoor, Britain’s hospital for the Criminally Insane – which he probably should’ve been an inmate of, bearing in mind he seems to have had no self-control and couldn’t help cornering and groping any teen he came across.
Jimmy Savile! Naff D.J. and Children’s presenter Jimmy Savile enabled by the entire British Establishment (the BBC, Newspapers – tabloid and broadsheet – left and right – police, the government, the NHS, social workers, the Catholic Church – yes them again) to abuse youths because he ran a lot of marathons.
They all knew!
And it’s true that the press hinted – including the BBC.
But we – most of the public – didn’t. Because the man was wallpaper and words like ‘legend’ and ‘iconic’ are not taken seriously in popular culture. It’s an affectionate joke and we assume that if we’re allowed to see a star often enough to get affectionate about them they can’t be predators or total bastards – regardless of what a biographer will dredge up to sell copies of their dull, dull showbiz books after the poor sod is dead.
This has been a shock.
If only the BBC had quietly exiled him in the 1970s, he would’ve slowly declined in fame till the police thought he was unloved enough to be nicked. In fact – denied access to a regular quota of girls and boys – he probably would’ve resorted to a laptop and Operation Ore would’ve got him.
But no – we’re going to have a massive – and far too late (for him, but not for others) SCANDAL. Although to be fair, much as we love a moral panic, almost everyone is too stunned at the scale and the absurdity to focus on witch-hunting and hysteria. It’s bloody bizarre. And what else are they hiding if they’ve been hiding this??? Conspiracy theories seem less crackpot by the minute. Sooty could be spying for MI5, Keith and Orville could be serial killers and no one’s been listening to Cuddles.
And somewhere the ghost of Benny Hill – berated for his comedy-style of scantily-clad ladies chasing him in slow-mo – in fact all of the artists ever hounded out of the business for their unrighteous (fictional) acts – must be having a giggle. Because none of them looks as shameful or malign as genial Uncle Jimmy.