Review: ‘Exposure: The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile’


DJ and media personality Jimmy Savile has been dead for less than a year, but already a large number of people, mostly women, have crawled out of the woodwork to trash his reputation.

Jimmy Savile

Exposure: The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile is a documentary that was screened by ITV late on Wednesday night. Narrated and presented by former detective Mark Williams-Thomas, it presents a steady stream of largely female witnesses to alleged sexual abuse carried out by Savile from the 1960s.

Jimmy Savile was one of those great eccentrics these islands have produced in no small number, from William Abdullah Quilliam, the white convert to Islam who established a mosque at Liverpool in 1889 to the likes of Elton John and the Marquess of Bath.

The quantity of allegations made against Savile here is impressive, but the quality of most of them leaves much to be desired. Several of them were made anonymously. One woman, who testified openly, made quite explicit allegations about him actually abusing her in the BBC studio.

Five years ago, a woman made an historic allegation against Savile dating to the 1970s; this woman did not take part in this programme, and at the time the authorities declined to take any action for the usual reason of “insufficient evidence”.

Briefly: one woman from BBC Leeds claims to have caught Savile in flagrante delicto with an underage girl. She claims too to have told a colleague at the time, who laughed at her, and hints that the then 51 year old Savile checked her out or intimidated her later in the day.

A second witness, a man, claims it was known that in the early 60s Savile was into very young girls, including one who looked about 12 years old, and that later Savile admitted bedding her, in his hotel room. Everybody knew, he said. Or perhaps that should be everybody knew.

This witness was later convicted of credit card fraud. It remains to be seen how much credit his testimony here should be given, and how much of it is fraud.

Next, Williams-Thomas speaks to another reliable witness, a journalist contemporary of Savile’s from his clubbing days who tells a not quite believable story about an incident at his Leeds home.

Two of the anonymous witnesses claim to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease from Savile, the second woman claims to have had sexual relations with him as an underage girl from 1971.

Then there are reports of his allegedly abusing emotionally disturbed girls at a special school. There is more where this came from, including an unfortunate appearance of later convicted paedophile Gary Glitter on one of Savile’s programmes, but this is more than enough. What are we to make of these allegations?

Jimmy Savile never married, the usual allegation levelled at powerful or well known men who remain single is that they are homosexual. Indeed, that allegation has been levelled against him too, including the ludicrous claim that he supplied boys to Prime Minister Edward Heath, who like Savile never married and also like Savile was not homosexual although he appears to have had little interest in women, his great passions being politics, music and yachting, not necessarily in that order.

Saville himself was aware that he was the subject of scurrilous gossip, and once told Louis Theroux this on camera, adding that we live in a very funny world. He was also a very savvy character, and would surely not have put himself in compromising positions with underage girls under the circumstances that were claimed here. Would he really have turned up unannounced at a school for emotionally disturbed girls and taken them out unchaperoned in his Rolls? More to the point, would the staff have permitted him to?

Would he have been awarded an OBE and twenty years later a knighthood if there were any suggestion that he had done any of the things claimed here?

Would an accredited journalist have turned up at Savile’s home while he was bedding an underage girl and done nothing about it? Surely this would have been a big scoop for the tabloids, which throughout the 1960s and 70s were every bit as scurrilous as they are today.

The allegations do it is true have a certain consistency, but the big question is, are they consistently true as implied by the last person interviewed in this programme, the well-meaning but gullible Esther Rantzen? Were all these witnesses totally independent of each other, as in the Jonathan King case?

There is also a resemblance with that case that should be immediately obvious to anyone in the know. King really did drive around in his big car picking up underage boys and using his position to abuse them. There was concrete evidence against King, but what concrete evidence is there against Jimmy Savile?

Well, how about those two girls who claimed he gave them a sexually transmitted disease? Presumably they were treated at a clinic; if this evidence is adduced and matches up with Jimmy Savile, that would be far more impressive than all the twaddle that was produced in this programme.

One is reminded of the recent John Travolta case in which the star was accused of inappropriate behaviour by a male masseur and then another one jumped on the bandwagon, which fortunately in that case didn’t begin to roll.

Then there is Michael Jackson. Jackson was so eccentric, nay, weird, that he made Savile look bland. Jackson was accused of sexually abusing a young boy, bought off his accuser, then exhibiting crass stupidity and doubtless ignoring advice from family, friends and lawyers, put himself in the same position again, only this time to end up in a criminal court.

At the time, even after his acquittal, the case against Jackson seemed strong, but with the wisdom of hindsight, he was the victim of a smear and lie campaign by people who were motivated only partly by money.

It may be that rather than a consistent pattern of abuse what we are seeing here is the celebrity equivalent of a saucer flap. The one thing missing from this so-called investigation is any critical faculty.

Last night, the London Evening Standard reported that the Metropolitan Police had received another six abuse claims. Doubtless more are on the way; the plaque that adorned his former home has already been defaced and removed. Saville himself is fair game, because the dead cannot be libelled.

The documentary is currently on iplayer for those who can receive it, and for those who can’t, it will certainly find its way onto YouTube.

[The above review was first published October 5, 2012.]

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