Friday, May 03, 2013

Who's next to get dragged out of Pandora's Box?

For those in the know, it came as little surprise; for those who’d suspected it, it still came as a shock; and for those who simply didn’t have a clue, a little slice of childhood evaporated in a fizzing, toxic acid bath as the revelations about Jimmy Savile kept coming, and kept coming, last autumn.

As we now know, Savile’s actions over the course of, possibly, his entire adulthood were beyond abhorrence  A sexual predator of unlimited guile and resource, who applied his own Jedi mind trick to fool the naïve, the compliant and the incompetent, and inventive menace to get what he wanted, when he wanted and where he wanted it.

The Savile revelations – and the subsequent police investigation, Operation Yewtree – have led to British light entertainment’s very own Pandora’s Box being opened up, and its allegedly sordid contents spilling out all over the place.

With alarming regularity, we read of new arrests, names withheld under the laws of sub-judice, but the merest clue as to the identity: "An 83-year-old man from Wilmslow, Cheshire, was arrested today in connection with the ongoing enquiry into sexual abuse by celebrities", is enough to set the Wikipedia-literate off in search of a Wilmslow-dwelling entertainer born in 1929.

That, then, turned out to be Stuart Hall, he of the infectious cackle while hosting It’s A Knockout in the 1970s and, since, one of the best football commentators you will ever hear. This week he admitted 14 charges of indecently assaulting girls – one as young as nine – between 1967 and 1985.

In the same week, Coronation Street actor Bill Roache – its longest-serving and therefore record-breaking star – was arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault in 1967. Just two weeks ago, we learned that the apparently saintly Rolf Harris had been arrested by police as part of Operation Yewtree. With investigations taking place against DJ Dave Lee Travis, "comic" Jim Davidson and PR man Max Clifford – all involving allegations from the past - you’d be understandably tempted to think that an epidemic of abuse took place in and around the British entertainment industry in the 1960s and 1970s.

Britain isn't alone in the restrospective scandal department. Belgium was torn apart by revelations about its Catholic priests, revelations that inevitably spilled into other parts of the Catholic world. And just yesterday it emerged that the late German actor Horst Tappert - famous in many countries for the playing baggy-eyed detective Derrick - was a member of the SS, serving on the Eastern Front in 1943 as a member of the Totenkopf panzer division. German, Dutch and other national broadcasters have subsequently dropped repeats of Derrick.

Back in Britain, it is highly disconcerting to see stars of childhood teatime television falling like ninepins in the way they have. But without condoning their behavior – as far from my intention as it is possible to be – it does make you wonder how long it will be before Inspector Knacker turns his attention to the music industry.

For there, sexual depravity was not so much near the surface as floating on a dayglo-coloured lilo, drinking a large pink cocktail with an enormous umbrella poking out of it screaming “look at me and what I’m doing to this groupie”.

Read the biographies and autobiographies of Led Zeppelin, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Eric Clapton – even The Beatles, especially in their Hamburg apprenticeship – and there is enough reported evidence of sexual and narcotic misbehavior to bring an end to the liberty of many of those who survived that era. Remember, Almost Famous wasn't far off being a documentary.

How old was Mandy Smith when Bill Wyman first met her? And how old was Bill Wyman? The answer to the first question is 13, and the second, 48. According to Wyman, the police aren't interested. So, when a rock star deflowers an under-age groupie, it’s high-spirited, rock’n’roll high jinks, but when a household entertainer does much the same, he faces jail sentence for what's left of his natural life.

Inevitably, there has been some misplaced sympathy towards those accused. Historical affection for someone who was, once, a welcome visitor to the living room will do that. Fame and affection shouldn't, however, be the get-out-of-jail card that exonerates. There can be no defence of more innocent times, more liberal times or simply more tolerant times. There is no defence at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment