Interviewing Jimmy Savile in 2001, JOE JACKSONasked him about allegations of child abuse and necrophilia. His replies were coolly dismissive
IN 2001 I ASKED Jimmy Savile how he felt about the possibility that, after he dies, rumours that he had been a psychopath, practised necrophilia and was into young girls might turn out to be true and form part of his legacy. “Bollocks to my legacy,” he replied. “If I’m gone that’s that . . . Whatever is said after I’m gone is irrelevant.”
Savile’s response was instinctual, unemotional and categorical. It also seemed savagely solipsistic, and it has remained with me ever since, particularly over the past few weeks. Last Sunday the quote resurfaced as a headline on a tabloid newspaper, accompanying a story about what was described as my “chilling” interview.
At 6.34pm on January 1st, 1964, I saw the first edition of Top of the Pops, which Savile hosted. He subsequently became my very own vinyl-spinning Wizard of Oz. In 1969 I proudly took part in Savile’s 12-mile charity walk to support the Central Remedial Clinic in Dublin and treasured the certification of completion. Back in those days everything about Savile seemed to be good, worthy and wonderful.
But Nietzche got it right when he said, “Take care a falling statue doesn’t strike you dead.” And Savile’s fall from grace, for me, started around November 2001. At that point newspapers were filled with horror stories about Jonathan King, who had received a seven-year jail sentence for sexually abusing boys. One article in a British tabloid suggested there was a paedophile ring in the pop-music industry and claimed that one of its members was a “nationally known DJ”.
Towards the end of my interview with Savile, in the Central Remedial Clinic, I pushed the media-savvy TV personality on these contentious issues, while not seriously expecting him to say, “Funny you should ask. Yes, I am into necrophilia.”
How did Savile respond to the allegation of necrophilia, which is now being investigated in terms of his time volunteering at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire?
He said, “An interviewer once asked what I did as part of my voluntary work [there] and I said, ‘Everything, from taking milk into the wards, to taking the lately deceased from the wards,’ and that suddenly became ‘he’s into’ necrophilia. But that doesn’t bother me at all.”
He hadn’t answered the question, so I asked him bluntly if it was true that he was into necrophilia. “No,” he replied again, matter-of-factly.
Earlier he’d boasted about how he’d “done it” – as in had sex – with “hundreds of girls” and gloated about how “being a fella of athletic power, when the girls are there, off you go!”
So I came back to it and asked if he was specifically into young girls.
“Anthony Clare asked me my feelings towards children, and I said, ‘I couldn’t eat a whole one . . . I hate them!’” he said, turning the subject of child abuse into a joke. “But that is because I want to shut up someone who’s trying to go down that dirty, sordid road with questions like that.”
I told him that I’d once interviewed one of his 1960s peers, a pop singer who claimed that he himself “gave” the 14- to 16-year-old “nymphs” to his minders and took the 12- to 14-year-old “nymphets” to bed himself, often in groups of six. Would that idea, I wondered, sicken Savile?
“Yes. I would never have time to excuse anything like adults being into children. In fact I’d rather not even opinionate on this. I’ll leave it to the Anthony Clares of this world to sort out the psychology of child abuse. But I will stand up and say this sort of thing is sickening, not part of my world at all.”