Jimmy Savile has been the centre of an avalanche of accusations in the last week.
None of which have been proven in court yet but are all very disturbing.
Carl Loben look at this fast moving case that could be the pinnacle of an iceberg and gives a personal view…
Jimmy Savile â One Week On
The Jimmy Savile saga is a fast-moving news story. The ITV documentary on Wednesday October 3rd was when it all kicked off, with at least five women saying the former DJ and Top Of The Pops presenter abused them when they were young teenagers â but even at first the allegations werenât believed in some quarters.
Now though, one week on, the Metropolitan Police have announced that Operation Yewtree is pursuing 120 lines of enquiry connected to Savileâs predatory behaviour â with at least 25 victims of rape and sexual assault over an astonishing 50 years. The first was in 1959, the most recent not long before before he died. Even more are likely to follow. It seems beyond doubt that Savile was as guilty as sin of these crimes â and the scandal of the collusion with his behaviour is only just starting to unfold.
TV presenter Esther Rantzen wrote in the Daily Telegraph: âThere was a kind of national conspiracy which united all of us, and together we colluded with him. TV producers, viewers, the media, the fans, the charities he supported â we all allowed Jimmy to create the perfect shield, the mask of an eccentric jester we could laugh at, the saintly image we admired, an unassailable combination that protected him like armour.â
Rantzen, who set up ChildLine in the mid-80s â a telephone counselling service for kids to call if theyâre being bullied or abused â seemed to show remorse at the end of the ITV documentary after being shown the testimonies of the women accusing Savile of abusing them when they were girls. Everything seemed to click into place for Esther as she realised how Savile had got away with his behaviour for decades, yet her attempt to shift the blame onto âviewersâ¦ the fansâ¦ the charitiesâ is laughable.
It was those who worked most closely with Savile â in BBC television, at Radio 1 â who are most culpable of turning a blind eye. The BBC were slow to react even as this scandal broke, not immediately ordering an internal inquiry or explaining why a Newsnight investigation into Savileâs abuse was shelved just before a positive pro-Savile documentary was screened on the Beeb about his TV achievements last year.
Talk in the media soon turned to who else was involved in the abuse of young girls alongside Savile. Convicted paedophile Gary Glitter was named as also allegedly raping a 13-year-old girl in Savileâs BBC dressing room, and is to be interviewed by the police. Freddie Starr tried to take out an injunction to stop his name being associated with the underage groping sessions on BBC premises. When this failed, he simply denied all allegations.
Regurgitating an old Julie Burchill accusation, the Daily Mail went after the great John Peel for admitting in his autobiography that he had sexual liaisons with underage girls in America â a charge successfully refuted by Colin Mortonâs piece on LTW here (insert link) â but there was one crucial distinction between Peel and Savileâs misdemeanours: CONSENT. Savile groomed young girls, often from damaged backgrounds or childrenâs homes, before pouncing on them when he got them alone. They simply werenât believed, even if they dared to report something about Saint Jimmy.
There were whispers for years, though. Knighted by his friend Margaret Thatcher in 1990, there have been calls to strip Savile of this knighthood posthumously â The Sun newspaper, which didnât publish anything about Jimmy Savileâs sex crimes when he was alive, have started a front page campaign to have his knighthood removed. But why didnât the tabloids expose him at any time during the last 30 years?
The former Radio 1 DJ Paul Gambaccini claimed Savile used his charity work to prevent his abuse of schoolchildren being exposed. âHe was called and he said, ‘Well, you could run that story, but if you do there goes the funds that come in to Stoke Mandeville – do you want to be responsible for the drying up of the charity donations?’ And they backed down.â
Still thought of as some sort of saint by many until recently, Savile was fortunate to have died before he was able to be held to account for years of sexual abuse of young girls. The Telegraph announced that his four-grand gravestone was going to be dismantled, on orders of his family, âout of respect for public opinionâ. Savileâs epitaph read: âIt was good while it lasted.â
As articles emerged on the treatment of women in workplaces in the sexist seventies, more and more reports of Savileâs abusive behaviour came out. Coleen Nolan had a lucky escape, but Savile apparently molested a helpless hospital patient recovering from brain surgery when working as a volunteer hospital porter in 1972 in Leeds General Infirmary, according to a retired nurse in the Daily Mirror. He was also accused of groping a teenager after an op at the same hospital in a separate claim. The woman, now 55, said: âI felt too frightened to report it because everyone thought he was a saint.â
Horrible as all these revelations are though, what does it have to do with music? Well, Savile was reportedly the first ever DJ to put two turntables together at a gig during the second world war â although this claim has been disputed. Nevertheless, latterly he self-styled himself as âthe godfather of DJ cultureâ â which is why I came to interview him a few years ago for DJ Magazine â and was one of the most prominent figures in pop music in the second half of the 20th century. In the â50s he ran a slew of Manchester nightclubs (which is where he first gained his âhardmanâ reputation), and also effectively one of the first DJ agencies by putting 400 DJs into 52 dancehalls in the north.
He joined Radio Luxembourg in 1958, becoming one of their most popular DJs, and in the early sixties he was the founding presenter of Top Of The Pops. Friends with The Beatles, he was voted No.1 DJ in the NME for 11 years in a row, and carried on presenting on Top Of The Pops right up to its final show in 2006. He was also on Radio 1 from its beginning in the late sixties until 1987.
His TV career flourished in the â70s with shows like Jimâll Fix It (which is where I first met him, and visited his dressing room, as a young teenager. My school-friend and I asked for his autograph, and he was cold, rude and more or less told us to sod off. We were probably lucky… It was fun meeting his guests that week, though, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, and guest singer Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, and drinking cider in their dressing room). Although arguably more into his own ego than in promoting new music, Savile was still part of the narrative for much of modern-day popular music.
So the question for the music community is how to respond to these vile Savile allegations?
Top Of The Pops are announcing that theyâre suspending the repeat broadcast of shows featuring him, but should he be completely written out of history? Or what sort of example should be made of him, if these allegations continue to stack up, so that hopefully similar tales of the abuse of showbiz power donât happen again?
The list of victims is growing daily. None of the women stepping forward to claim they were raped or molested as schoolgirls by Savile has asked for anything in return for telling their story.
âAt this stage it is quite clear from what women are telling us that Savile was a predatory sex offender,â said Commander Peter Spindler, head of specialist crime investigations, in an interview with the BBC.
âIt’s vital that those who have been victims of that actually get the recognition and acknowledgement and support that they deserve.â