Photo: YouTube Screenshot
Jimmy Savile, a formerly beloved British TV star who died in 2011, has become the centre of one of the BBC’s greatest scandals after a series of posthumous allegations about decades of sexual abuse of children and other vulnerable people.
A new police report seems to confirm everyone’s worst fears — almost 500 confirmed victims, with reports that Savile spent “every waking minute” thinking about abusing boys and girls.
It’s all horrifying, but one aspect worst of all: it was blindingly obvious.
For 60 years Savile hid in plain sight, being perhaps the most high profile television star in the UK. More to the point, he was a BBC television star, meaning for decades he was the most visible person on one of the UK’s only non-cable TV channels. He surrounded himself with children and young people, hosting the BBC’s historically important music show Top of the Pops and even hosting his own show that would grant children’s deepest wishes, Jim’ll Fix It.
Despite his high profile, rumours about his sexual life followed him for years, and the recent police report confirms that he was investigated by police five times during his lifetime, with no investigation ever leading anywhere.
Even Britain’s notorious tabloids stayed away from the issue. In 2008 Savile told British police that he had a “policy” for dealing with accusations and that he had sued at least five British newspapers.
This is one reason that we’ve described the Savile case as like the Jerry Sandusky case but worse. Savile wasn’t just a hero for one college or one region — he was a hero for an entire nation. And the rumours about his sexual conduct weren’t limited to those close to him — the rumours were pretty much public knowledge across the country.
For those unfamiliar with Savile (his schtick certainly didn’t translate well overseas), it’s really worth watching a documentary he made in 2000 with British journalist Louis Theroux. Theroux spent several days with Savile, attempting to get past his goofy public persona and see what actually made him tick. Savile did not come out of it looking good — frankly he seemed like an ego-maniacal creep — but even Theroux admitted he was shocked when the new accusations came out.
One except, transcribed here by the New Statesman, is incredible in hindsight:
Voiceover: We were nearing the end of our time together, and as we headed back to Leeds, it was clear that Jimmy was pleased about the press coverage of his broken ankle.
But it struck me that his relationship with the press hasn’t always been a happy one.
Louis: So, why do you say in interviews that you hate children when I’ve seen you with kids and you clearly enjoy their company and you have a good rapport with them?
Jimmy: Right, obviously I don’t hate ’em. That’s number one.
Louis: Yeah. So why would you say that then?
Jimmy: Because we live in a very funny world. And it’s easier for me, as a single man, to say “I don’t like children” because that puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt.
Louis: Are you basically saying that so tabloids don’t, you know, pursue this whole ‘Is he/isn’t he a paedophile?’ line, basically?
Jimmy: Yes, yes, yes. Oh, aye. How do they know whether I am or not? How does anybody know whether I am? Nobody knows whether I am or not. I know I’m not, so I can tell you from experience that the easy way of doing it when they’re saying “Oh, you have all them children on Jim’ll Fix It”, say “Yeah, I hate ’em.”
Louis: Yeah. To me that sounds more, sort of, suspicious in a way though, because it seems so implausible.
Jimmy: Well, that’s my policy, that’s the way it goes. That’s what I do. And it’s worked a dream.
Louis: Has it worked?
Jimmy: A dream.
Louis: Why have you said in interviews that you don’t have emotions?
Jimmy: Because it’s easier. It’s easier. You say you’ve emotions then you’ve got to explain ’em for two hours.
Jimmy: The truth is I’m very good at masking them.
The documentary, titled “When Louis Met Jimmy”, is available on iTunes UK (if you are using iTunes US you will have to switch regions to download). Clips from it can be found on a variety of video-sharing sites.
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