Nige ponders the horror that is Jimmy Savile:
One of the things that strikes me about the Savile business is that it so graphically illustrates how we (collectively) seem to have lost the useful art of spotting a wrong ‘un. It’s hard to imagine a wrong ‘un much more obviously wrong than Savile, a creepy weirdo and self-confessed psychopath: when interviewed by Anthony Clare for In The Psychiatrist’s Chair, he cheerfully admitted to having no feelings, though he did confess to a strong dislike of children, and his deeply weird worship of his mother, ‘The Duchess’ (yuk), was well known. And yet this man achieved huge fame, popularity and prestige, and moved through the world admired and unsuspected.
Here is a picture of the man in question, now known to be a paedophile rapist protected by the BBC:
Savile was a popular, vulgar TV personality back in the 80s. He was an all-round media buffoon and charity worker, applauded for ostentatiously helping crippled children and so on. Now it turns out he raped and molested the crippled children in private while the BBC discreetly looked the other way.
i was always creeped out by Savile’s brazen chav persona, but that was more because i associated this kind of caricatural working class act with my mother’s totally uneducated, uncultured, coarse, stupid, idle, criminal, dolescum white trash relatives, who all spoke a particularly vile Rotherham accent and reeked of cigarettes and piss.
My friend Bonehead wrote: “I met Jimmy Saville once and I knew within seconds he was a filthy old git. How did anyone not see through that man’s tissue-thin veil of deceit?” Perhaps this is because Bonehead is from a multicultural ghetto and his black mother warned him about paedos, going into unforgettable detail as to their proclivities & intentions.
i think with Savile the TV is partly to blame – television does not merely represent our ordinary reality; it caricatures, it distorts and falsifies. So Peter Hitchens somewhere talks about how some people (e.g. Princess Diana) look magical on celluloid but seem quite ordinary and retarded in the flesh.
We call them kings and give them golden hats, or popes, or Prime Ministers, or put them on TV. And they seem extraordinary. It’s part of the natural human imagination and one cannot (and should not) strive for an untinted reality. But it’s also good to be wary of such colourings, fables as they are. Something happens in the act of representation. A word cannot simply be taken back – which is why i feel wrong-footed by computers, with their spurious Undo button. As soon as you represent, describe, something, you have taken a step.
Perhaps those who met Savile dismissed his weirdness as natural to celebrity. As a media person, he was of course not like you and me, and so ordinary judgements could not apply. We don’t expect media people to be normal. TV, then. i knew “famous” people in other lives and while most of them were a bit odd, offhand i can only think of one who was Jimmy-Savile-weird; the rest were merely driven egomaniacs; and the weirdo was an expert performer on what media there was, back then. Performing seemed to encourage his weirdness, and the weirder he became, the greater his performance. i knew him in my teens, then met him once again when we were both about 50: as a teen he wasn’t too weird but in the later meeting he had become a performer even in private, even where there was no need to impress, nothing to gain. On this later occasion, i had an odd feeling that he was always watching himself perform, that he had, as it were, a mirror only he could see, in which he observed himself, for which he performed. i didn’t feel he was really very aware of me; he seemed, rather, to be performing for himself, with me as the catalyst or pretext. While some would have regarded him as demonic, he seemed spectral, albeit animatedly so – a vivid, jerky ghost, something trapped in a film reel.
i believe part of the transformation, from loud boy to loud spectre, was to do with representations: he represented himself (falsely), over and over again. In this act he corrupted himself; he didn’t become his own representation but nor was he exactly real – he was somewhere in the middle, no longer having any real, private self, only his falsehoods. He relied so heavily on being able to perform, both for material gain and for emotional gratification, that there was nothing left – like Laurence Olivier’s entertainer: