The Paellataffy Award for Best Comment On The Whole Sorry Jimmy Savile Business goes to Mark Steel, comedian and Independent columnist: “… of all the revered institutions that were clearly up to no good, none was more obviously sinister than Jimmy bloody Savile. I felt abused by him when I was 13 and I only saw him on the telly.”
Like all the best witticisms, this observation has the ring of truth about it. I am almost exactly the same age as Mark Steel and also feel moved to ask just what it was that we did to deserve being exposed to the horrors of Savile on TV almost every week?
“This is Top of the Pops and those were the Nolans. How’s about that then, guys and gals? What a cracking bunch of young ladies! (Makes manic noise that sounds like the result of a random sexual encounter between Tarzan and a duck) Now, what have we got next? Well, it’s Gary Glitter and who wants to be in his gang, guys and gals?”
Pass the sick bag.
Savile’s presence on a myriad music shows was always something of a mystery, given that he lacked any deep interest in pop and rock and never exhibited any of the almost insane enthusiasm displayed by his contemporaries, Alan (“Fluff”) Freeman, Paul Gambaccini, John Peel and even Kenny Everett. All Savile seemed interested in was getting his gurning boat-race on TV as much as possible. You could as easily imagine him volunteering to host Crufts or a series about caravanning – anything as long as he remained in the public eye.
Jim’ll Fix It was no less one giant enigma of a programme, with those who knew Jim claiming that his desire to “fix it” for kids was a total mystery to them, given that he had always purported to dislike them.
Now we know that when he was slipping his Jim’ll Fix It medals around the necks of the “lucky” children for whom he had fixed it to ride in a tank with the army, eat their lunch on a rollercoaster or meet some fleetingly famous celebrity or other, he was actually making his selections, like an elderly aunt lingering slightly too long over a Yuletide box of Black Magic.
Savile could almost be described as a sort of human double bluff; surely nobody who seemed so creepy and unsavoury could actually BE creepy and unsavoury?
The other inspired comment about the BBC paedophilia scandal was made by Craig Brown in The Daily Mail, who described Savile as hiding “in plain sight”. This is an excellent summation of the situation, since the man himself actually confessed to some of his least acceptable sexual tendencies in his autobiography.
In one peculiarly vile anecdote, Savile admitted that he was interrupted by a knock on the door while ‘entertaining’ a runaway from some type of young offenders’ institute. A pair of police officers had arrived to ask him whether he knew of her whereabouts (and what, I wonder, made them beat a trail to that particular door?) Savile said that he hadn’t seen her, but if he did he would invite her to spend the night with him, which would be his reward for ‘finding’ her. According to dear old Jim, the police officers seemed perfectly satisfied with that and, instead of searching his apartment and feeling his collar, there was a nod and a wink and an understanding between consenting adults. For who, given a clearly disturbed teenage girl, would pass up the opportunity to get his leg over? Anyway, think of all the millions raised for Stoke Mandeville.
My hatred of Savile can be ordered into a fairly neat three-tiered system, consisting of:
1. The acts themselves, which do seem to have been particularly horrific and, for the most part, involved some of the most damaged and powerless members of society in institutions such as Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor.
2. Bullying his victims and colleagues into silence. Apart from the initial paedophilia claims, Gambaccini claims that Savile was also a necrophiliac, who used his status as a volunteer porter at Stoke Mandeville to visit the inhabitants of the morgue. All I can say is that he would have been laughing on the other side of his knighthood if all of this had emerged when he was still alive. Yet the fearless, “I couldnae gi’ a fuck” Scottish comedian, Jerry Sadowitz was very vocally pursuing the “Savile is a paedo” line as far back as 1987. “Jimmy was The Guvnor,” says Gambaccini. “You didn’t mess with him.”
3. Making me feel like one of the rabid “hunt him down and cut off his knackers with a rusty knife” crowd who put a Newport paediatrician out of business because they didn’t know the difference between a children’s doctor and a kiddy fiddler. Having never been a “there’s one on every street corner” paedo-hysteric it gives me little pleasure to feel some perverse sense of self-satisfaction that my belief in the essential grubbiness of human nature has been justified.
Worst of all, though, is that Savile is dead and his scores of victims will never receive the justice that they deserve.