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Gods come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re guys in beards and cloaks; sometimes they’re burning foliage; sometimes they’re wonderfully fleshy, full-breasted women.

Just as often though, they’re monsters. Ugly, frightening and wanting fed.

I suppose at one point, Jimmy Savile was a god – or what passed for one in the days of just three television channels. Bestowing favours and boons, fixing things for you and you, and you. Now it seems that he was a monster, too.

The more allegations of abuse are made public, the more it becomes difficult to believe that the late TV presenter, DJ and showbiz personality was innocent of the revelations levelled against him.

I have a slight pang of discomfort over such claims appearing now. Making them against a dead man isn’t fair on anyone. Savile cannot defend himself to any earthly authority, and the victims are denied a sense of justice. That little sting is my sense of fairness, and it’s a good thing. But I feel it less almost by the hour.

Millions of people watched his show, but Savile fans will be understandably hard to find. It’s a bit like all those thousands upon thousands of folk who went to those oh-so-knowing… if-only-they-knew Gary Glitter Gang Shows in the late 1980s. Very popular at the time, although like Noel’s House Party, Phil Collins and Jive Bunny, you’d have a hard time tracking down anyone who’ll admit to having enjoyed them. For vastly different reasons, I must stress.

Savile’s cultural cache was still well-stocked when he died, aged 84, last year. I guess he did do a lot for charity. People lined the streets, applauding his gold-plated coffin on a grandiose post-mortem tour of his favourite places. He lay in state in his native Leeds; books of condolence were filled. Such was the gravitational force still exuded by this elderly has-been, a self-confessed oddball and lifelong bachelor of questionable dress and habit. After 50 years in the glare of publicity, he was a part of everyone’s childhood, it seemed.

There are two things to take from this dreadful story. The first is that it underlines the fact that whatever hell is being inflicted on you by another human being, in a civilised society, you are not powerless. In these days of rapidly evolving, instant communication, it is difficult for anyone to be totally isolated and cut off from avenues of salvation. This applies especially to children, who are usually more tech-savvy and plugged-in than adults.

I’d say to anyone suffering abuse: Tell someone. Shout up. You can do it anonymously. You have power against abusive people. Never hesitate to act. Look at these poor people in the documentaries now, the smudged ones, overdubbed and out of focus, suffering their whole lives. Don’t let it be you. If there’s a positive here, let it be this.

In the sixties and seventies, of course, things were different. Especially if you were a troubled or simply unfortunate child housed in an isolated, bloodless institution… Of the type Savile regularly visited in his fancy cars.

As a corollary to this, anyone who turned a blind eye to any abuses Savile carried out should be made an example of. If he’s guilty of the crimes he’s accused of then there must have been plenty of these people, in high places and low. A particularly abject individual interviewed on ITV’s Exposure documentary explained that he had seen Savile abuse a young girl, but he looked the other way because he was frightened that Savile – that known hard-case – might carry out reprisals.

Did it not strike anyone to maybe lift a telephone? I understand there’s an easy-to-remember number you can dial if you see a crime being committed.

Also, you can write some letters. Better than doing nothing, eh?

The second point to make is that Jimmy Savile illustrates a certain hypocrisy which endures today. If we accept that – if guilty – what Savile did was wrong in and of itself (and incredibly, there are some who do not), then it must be true across the board, and apply to everyone. The problem is, as a society, our rules seem to be flexible when it comes to certain showbiz personalities. There’s a crisis of perception.

It’s easy to hang a tag on Jimmy Savile. Frankly, he looked like a paedo. I said earlier on today to some colleagues that if Jimmy Savile was a child abuser he was one of the most conspicuous examples who ever lived. With his piss-stained dye-job, his bulging eyes, his tracksuits, his mining disaster teeth and string vest, the guy might pass for an identikit photo of a nonce you might put together for a laugh. It’s like a burglar wearing a stripy jumper and a cowl, or more appropriately, a flasher walking into a public park wearing a dirty raincoat.

Rumours always surrounded Savile, but I didn’t quite believe he was an abuser before. I thought that if he was less than saintly, he was even stranger than that. I wondered if there was any truth to some truly ghastly urban myths about Savile’s legendary shifts as a volunteer porter at Leeds General Infirmary. Added to this was a strange fixation he had on his mother – never a good thing, boys – whom he lived with into middle age until she died, and whose flat and belongings he had maintained and dry-cleaned until his own death.

If anything, the man seemed strangely asexual. This made me suspicious. But this was countered by the knowledge that, of course, banality doesn’t always equal evil, and strangeness of habit doesn’t necessarily mean perversion. Sometimes people just want to be left alone. Sometimes, people aren’t interested in having sexual relationships. Some people aren’t wired up properly.

That pang, that little pang, again.

Turns out he might have been a garden variety beast, after all.

Now look to your CD collection. I’m assuming Gary Glitter’s back catalogue isn’t there. But there’s a fair chance you will own a CD by recording artists whose sexual predilections ran towards young girls. And you know this, too. You maybe even knew it when you bought it.

We’ll gloss over Pete Townshend’s trouble a decade ago over credit-card paying websites and some extremely offensive content therein, because everyone else does. He claims it was for research for a book, and has recently added that he was suffering from “white knight” syndrome – wanting to help children who had been abused, like him.

It seems that Pete Townshend didn’t have any dodgy material on his computers when he was investigated by police, and never actually accessed any images on the site in question. However, the fact remains that he used a credit card on a child porn site, and he accepted a caution for this instead of defending himself in court.

And yet there Townshend was, at the closing ceremony of the Olympics. There he is in my CD stack; there he is on my iPod.

The Rolling Stones wrote a song called “Stray Cat Blues”, which features the line, “I know that you’re only fifteen years old… no, I don’t need to see no ID”. Former Stones bassist, Bill Wyman, famously married a nineteen-year-old when he was in his late forties… Nothing illegal about that, but she’s since alleged that he first slept with her when she was much younger.

Then there’s Roman Polanski.

And of course, there are great rock and roll “groupie” stories, those grubby tales which become part of popular mythology, passed around gullible teens like analogue porn. Sailor’s hats, octopuses, mud sharks… you name it. I can’t, for legal reasons.

I’m forced to conclude that there’s no disgrace, court action and ultimately prison for some well-known cultural behemoths because they enjoy greater public esteem and artistic credibility. The work they produced was more worthy of respect than that of someone like Jimmy Savile, even though there’s a chance they did exactly the same thing: preyed upon young, star-struck girls who treated them as gods. And who were in turn treated like receptacles.

And how the big stars must have seemed like gods. Media was not as all-pervasive as it is today. Newspapers and magazines, Top of the Pops, radio airplay, yes… But no internet. No instant media, no constant connectivity through computers and mobile phones. The possibilities for achieving high public profile in the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties were not anything like as diffuse as they are today. If you could crack those elements – and especially if you made it onto television – it was pretty much an open goal as far as public recognition went.

This concentrated stardom must have made otherwise obvious creeps like Jonathan King and Gary Glitter seem like they were otherworldly, larger than life, worthy of worship. And the girls – and boys – would have followed them, of course. They still do, even in these days of YouTube, iPods, rampant piracy and multiple, 24-hour music TV channels. They still faint at concerts, lose control. Older girls aren’t much better whenever Take That come to town. After these shows, casualty wards in major cities look like field hospitals in a war contested exclusively by thirty-and-forty-something women.

And you boys… Yeah, you’re straight, we know, but you still idolise the people who appear on that poster on your wall. The application might be different to that of a lachrymose Justin Bieber fan, but the impulse to venerate is the same. Guitar players, rock n’ rollers, the living and the dead, the posters you see after you wake in the morning and before you turn out the light at night, the six-string weapons of war you covet, the band logo you scrawl on your schoolbooks. You’re just the same.

Our rock stars exert a strange, atavistic power over us. But they’re just men and women, after all. Thankfully, it doesn’t take serious criminality to expose this and reinforce it. If there’s one thing mass media, celebrity culture, paparazzi shots and general internet fluff can be thanked for, it’s helping to debunk this deification of celebrities, politicians and anyone else in the public eye.

You worship the royal family? Here’s Harry in the buff. Here’s Kate’s tits. I don’t agree with breaches of privacy, whether that’s royalty or someone sleeping in an underpass; but nor do I agree with veneration of public figures who provide little benefit to society.

Your heroes and heroines? Here they are drunk. Here they are without their make-up on. Here they are going down to the shops in their joggies. These images can be unpleasant, spiteful, invasive. But they are not controlled. Not airbrushed. Not staged. Not manipulative. For god’s sake, they just play music! They strum a guitar, they wallop inanimate objects, they have haircuts. They open their mouths. What does their life and habits mean, really, apart from helping to fill your spare time and dead air with sound? They drive a fancy car, they go to swish nightclubs, they pet tiny dogs and get divorced… So what?

In some photos of Jimmy Savile taken by young girls who shared his company, he’s rigged out in Lycra and flowing kaftans. He looks like an evil wizard in a 1970s Hammer Horror Film. God only knows what these people thought when they met him in the flesh.

Someone like that would never get away with such behaviour for long, these days. You’d hope.

Let’s get out of the habit of treating human beings like gods. Maybe that’ll stop some of them getting away with being monsters.


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