Last nights telly viewing was built around two deceased disc jockeys, Kenny Everett and Jimmy Savile, the former in a docudrama ( biopic) on his life and the latter exploring allegations into his private life.
The Everett biopic was sandwiched between compilations of his TV sketches. They are a reminder as to what an innovator Everett was, how far ahead of his time he was and indeed how much he understood a new medium for him in order to take his comedy to another level. His work rarely appears these days sadly and so this timely showcase of sketches perfectly helped frame the main subject of the evening, the biopic entitled “The Best Possible Taste”.
I haven’t always enjoyed the biopic format in the past – some are sensitive to their subject whilst others are over dramatised focusing on a single facet of the character or indeed events are completely made up for effect. I am happy to report that The Best Possible Taste fell into the former category. The drama was beautifully acted, well made but more importantly it embraced the full character of Everett. He had many demons to conquer in his life, many prejudices but ultimately he faced up to them.
The Best Possible Taste was set predominantly around his radio days, revealing the hours he spent alone perfecting his jingles, his sounds and his zany style. It emphasised how different he was to his contemporaries in the BBC and what a fusty organisation it was at the time! The main element of the piece, however, was the relationship between Ev and Lee, his wife, living in a reality that they had constructed for themselves but was being constantly shaken by the awkwardness of a man coming to terms with his homosexuality in a straight marriage. Ultimately it showed Everett’s own vulnerability and even if you weren’t a fan of his surely you would admire him or even love him after this portrayal. Everyone seemed to in reality.
One memorable scene from the drama was the doorstepping by the press of Everett where he came out as openly gay. He had been building up to this moment for some time, an emotional roller coaster for him certainly as this was a period in which the tabloids were taking an exceptionally close interest in the sexuality of celebrities. My attitude at the time is unchanged today – live and let live, if this is how they lead their life in private and are doing so legally why the fuss? It clearly took courage to come out openly in those days and all due respect to the makers of the show for depicting this struggle so well. It was refreshing to see that the drama didn’t start moralizing over the issue and I am relieved that his long and painful death was not dwelt upon given that his homosexuality and promiscuity led to Everett contracting AIDS. The drama merely concluded with a line in text referring to the courage in which he faced up to his illness prior to his untimely death.
And so to Savile.
The allegations made against him were of sexual abuse and rape of under age girls.
The investigation was a difficult watch for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, my utter abhorrence for the topic of child abuse. Secondly, I was feeling emotional after watching The Best Possible Taste, but in a good sense. Thirdly, at the time of writing, there is a young girl missing from her family and the whole country is praying for her safe return. However, perhaps against my better judgement, maybe to confront my distaste for the subject, I decided to stick with the show “Exposure” due in part to the publicity it has received in the media in recent days.
Even as a young boy I had mixed feelings about Jimmy Savile. His radio show on a Sunday was a fixture in my family for a number of years, we watched Jim’ll Fix It (my letter never was answered) and I admired his enormous fund raising efforts for the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. But there was always something of the “creepy uncle” about him and suspicions about him were never far away. Jimmy had cultivated an image of an eccentric loner and I guess that was his smoke screen. He lived the image but kept his private life very much to himself, only allowing the public glimpses of his quirky nature on his own terms. He was well connected and a very powerful media figure of his era. In fact, the phrase “National Treasure” was often used.
Certainly it was very brave of the women who came forward to speak of their experiences. My heart goes out to them, I hope that they find a degree of comfort and closure from speaking so publicly. I can’t pretend to understand their feelings, the years of hurt and injustice they have suffered, I guess no one can unless you have shared the same experiences. I won’t comment further on individual cases – collectively they make a powerful case against Savile.
And there in lies the issue of the programme – there isn’t a case for the defence. The interviews are powerful and moving and indeed the same descriptions were used by more than one subject – I couldn’t help but feeling that were they planted there cleverly by the interviewer at times – but the defendant is no longer around to answer questions. Some of ladies only felt brave enough to talk about the subject after Savile’s death given the hold he had over them from such a young age. The only defence as such was snippits of Savile denying any paedophilia to Louis Theroux in his incisive documentary made a few years ago. A police investigation into Savile’s assaults was launched in 2007 but was closed through lack of evidence. Other stories have come to light in advance of the broadcast including the threat made by Savile to a journalist that exposing his proclivities would effectively dry up the funds for his various charities, especially Stoke Mandeville, and no one would want to be responsible for that.
Exposure left you in no doubt that Savile was a nasty bully, a manipulating and devious man and his charitable efforts were a front to the grooming of vulnerable children on an industrial scale On the evidence presented I have no reason to doubt this point of view. The most satisfying conclusion to the documentary is that there is now a new police investigation into Savile’s affairs. This is only right and proper and I hope that would provide further comfort to his victims. I am much more comfortable with the new police inquiry than I was watching trial by media. Perhaps back in the 80’s any journalist with suspicions about Savile should have gone to the police in the first place. However, the press felt we were all far too worried as to whether other celebrities were gay, weren’t they Kenny?