He was a savior for some, a conjuror for others. But most people considered him an enigma. He always had a veil in front of him, and nobody was allowed to get a sneak peek. “Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story” documents the most famous and controversial DJ of all time.
James Wilson Vincent Savile was a public property. He had dedicated his life to the people. He had no wife or children, but his family consisted of millions of people who adored him and respected him. Making this world a better place to live in was Jimmy’s mission, and he was a philanthropist of the highest order. Many people mentioned the oddity of his behavior, but then that’s what made Jimmy different from the rest. He had his own unique way of doing things. People had not witnessed anyone doing that much good. Jimmy’s fan list included Prince Charles and Margaret Thatcher. Prince Charles often wrote to him and took his advice on important matters.
Jimmy had ceased to be just a DJ; he was a man of influence. Thatcher was vehemently pushing the members of the royal family to bestow him with the title of Knighthood. And why wouldn’t you? Imagine a man belonging to such strata of society helping in carrying the patients who arrived at the Leeds General Infirmary from the ambulance to their respective wards. You had to believe that Jimmy was a godsend. People wanted to believe that he was a savior, and they were not ready to hear any other contrasting opinions.
Speaking against Jimmy meant committing blasphemy, and maybe that’s why the complaints of hundreds of women were ignored by the authorities and never taken seriously. Such was the reputation and aura of the man that the victims were forced to question themselves. Was there any truth in the rumors? Was Jimmy hiding something while masquerading as a messiah? The documentary tries to answer questions that are embedded in the ostentatious life of the most celebrated DJ in the United Kingdom. So let’s analyze how a story of hope and generosity became a horror story that haunted the very foundation of our civil society.
Why Did Jimmy Savile Become So Famous?
Jimmy was not your usual DJ. He was a beacon of hope and light. He was a Santa Claus who wore a tunic, just like the selfless man born in Bethlehem. Jimmy often ran across the country for charity. The crowds came out into the streets. They cheered for him.
If you didn’t know him, you would easily assume that he was royalty. People all across the nation considered him their family. Phil Tibenham, a well-known reporter, once asked him what he does when the camera is not on him, and was he trying to punish himself by doing something physical, like running a marathon all the time. Jimmy said that the only time he punishes himself is when he is with young women, because he is such a villain that instead of being kind to them, his impulse is to squeeze them. He had blatantly put it out there. But believe it or not, it was taken as humor at that time, because people were blindfolded, and it was impossible for them to see the truth lurking behind the shadows.
“Top of the Pops” was one of the first television music programs to be presented by Jimmy Savile. But Jimmy owed his reputation to a show that started in 1975 called “Jim’ll fix it.” The show became an instant hit, and Jimmy became more than a star overnight. The concept was very simple. The children sent in their requests, and Jimmy fulfilled them. Be it driving a plane or meeting your favorite personality, Jimmy could do it all for you. He became a childhood hero for an entire generation.
The concept of the show gave Jimmy the status of a good Samaritan, which extended into his real life too.
There was a school called Duncroft, in which female juvenile offenders used to study and stay. Jimmy used to visit that center quite often. He raised huge sums of money for the school.
Stoke Mandeville hospital was in dire need of funding to improve its infrastructure. It was the year 1980 when Jimmy arrived at the scene. He heard the story of the ceiling and the floor collapsing and decided to help them. Jimmy made an appeal to rebuild the National Spinal Injuries Center at Stoke Mandeville hospital. He raised a whopping sum in less than a week’s time. Jimmy wasn’t relying on the government to do the needful. He belonged to this small category of people who were not only in a position of power themselves but had the ear of the most influential people in Britain. He would just shake the capitalist set up a bit, and get the work done. He never disrupted the social and political environment to achieve his goals, so nobody ever went against him. He gave to the underprivileged and benefited the privileged at the same time. It was a win-win situation for everybody. Princess Diana often visited Jimmy in the Stokes Mandeville hospital, and Prince Charles valued his opinion more than any of his advisors. Jimmy was always on the ground, talking to people and helping them, whereas the royal family often didn’t have any clue about the ground reality. Jimmy acted as the link between the royals and the commoners.
Jimmy’s popularity continued even decades after his peak. He was not just a celebrity, but a guardian angel of the masses, who had no other intention than to do good and make the world a happier place to live in.
What Was Jimmy Savile Hiding Behind His Image Of A Philanthropist? Was He A Pedophile?
Jimmy was odd, and everybody noticed it. There was something that the flagbearer of righteousness was hiding. At times, his behavior and the things he said were beyond abnormal, but everybody adjourned it with a chuckle, because it was Jimmy. In a newspaper called “The Sun,” Jimmy gave an interview that was very contrasting to his image. He called himself a godfather and said that people who mess with him face repercussions for their actions. The surprise element was that nobody else was writing about him; he was only saying such things about himself. Why would a person who had such a noble image defame himself by revealing such things? Selina Scott, a TV anchor who once hosted Jimmy Savile on her show, feels awkward revisiting the cringe-worthy footage of the interview. She now sees it in plain sight and finds it extremely excruciating, but back then, she took it as light entertainment and even encouraged it like everybody else. Jimmy proudly boasted of the fact that women besieged him wherever he went. He didn’t shy off from accepting more than once that he loved little girls. He would say something objectionable, but people would react to it in a positive manner. They called him a practical joker. His cheeky remarks that objectified women and gave us a hint about his intentions were shoved under the high regard that society, in general, had for him.
The interviews, the newspaper articles, and every oddity that came to light were carefully curated by Jimmy Savile. It was an orchestrated distraction. He gave the amount of information that made him look human, yet not so much that incriminated him in the eyes of the law. People saw that even their beloved Jimmy was fallible. It made him look more humane. As a result, he was adored even more, as he was not shy about accepting his flaws. It was a masterstroke, and nobody realized that they had fallen prey to it.
Between 1955 to 2009, Jimmy committed hundreds of sexual offenses. He didn’t even spare the convicts living in the Broadmoor Asylum which was a facility for criminals who were mentally unstable.
A majority of the victims were minors under 18 years of age. Jimmy called himself a monster, a villain, but the world thought that it was just his idiosyncratic way of being humble about what he had been able to accomplish through his charitable work.
Was Jimmy Savile Ever Convicted By Law?
Meirion Jones, a BBC journalist, started investigating Jimmy Savile. He had a connection with Jimmy from the past. His aunt ran the same Duncroft Youth Detention Center, for which Jimmy had raised a lot of money. Jimmy kept revisiting the institute, and there were rumors that multiple girls from the center were molested by him. Jimmy was never able to find any witnesses to the rumors about him being a pedophile.
In 1995, the U.K formed its first police unit to cater to the crimes related to sexual abuse of children. There were a huge number of complaints that were registered, and that’s when people came to know that child abuse was not only prevalent but rampant. Mike Hames, who was a part of the anti-child abuse squad, tells us that his former colleague received an anonymous letter which revealed things about Jimmy Savile that nobody would believe. The anonymous writer was a victim too, and accused Jimmy of being a “deeply committed pedophile.”
The victims, till the early nineties, didn’t have anywhere to go if they were not supported by the mainstream media. But the internet changed that dysfunctionality for good. On gossip sites, people started speaking about their horrific experiences with the most loved and respected DJ of all time. In a radio interview with Newstalk, Jimmy contested those accusations and called them ludicrous.
Sam Brown, a victim, described how she was molested by Savile on the premises of her neighborhood church. In 2007, Surrey Police contacted a woman who witnessed an incident at Duncroft School 30 years ago and also found three others to back up her testimony. Jimmy was questioned by the authorities and again denied every accusation. People started speaking up on Friends Reunited, a popular social media network back in the day. A female named Karin Ward, had stated in detail what exactly had happened to her, on her social media account. Meirion had a story now which was not only convincing but also intricately dealt with.
On October 29th, 2011, Jimmy Savile died a natural death, and all the negative stories were suppressed by the media houses. The BBC didn’t publish Meirion’s report, which forced him to give all his data to a rival television channel, ITV.
Meirion Jones was baffled by the inaction of the BBC, as the crimes committed by Savile had happened during his tenure at the BBC. Eventually, by 2016, more than 400 people had come forward and accused Jimmy Savile of sexual misconduct.
Jimmy was never convicted legally by the law till he was alive. It is important to mention here that Jimmy was a staunch Catholic. Religion had a huge role to play in his life. People who knew him speculate that he maintained a balance sheet of sins and virtues. The charity work he did was to somehow compensate for the sins he committed. He knew that somewhere he would be punished for his actions. He was quite superstitious like that, and maybe that’s why when they found his body, his fingers were crossed, because he feared going to hell.
Jimmy Savile lived a dual life. He always hinted towards the possibility of a demonic side existing, but we as a society were too overwhelmed by his noble initiatives and swayed by his personality. Amidst all the chatter that he did on his shows, the voices of those few who suffered were lost in the oblivion. We failed them as a society. They never felt that their truth would be validated by us. They felt that the society will not believe them and counter question their intentions. It was our cumulative actions that dissuaded them.
The media houses buried their voices, the police and other authorities, instead of facilitating, acted as a barrier, and we all stood there applauding the person we believed to be our hero.
“Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story” is a 2022 Crime Documentary series streaming on Netflix.