Yesterday, children’s entertainer Rolf Harris was found guilty of twelve sexual assault charges dating back to the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, including an attack on a child of seven.
“He always had the reputation,” I said to a chum this morning, “of being a groper. And, I mean, feeling the breasts of 22 year-old secretaries is obviously bad, but this is a different level. Now, I suppose, we won’t see him in clips of any old programmes, just like the BBC now removes Jimmy Savile from any old Top of the Pops re-screenings.”
“It’s as if all my childhood memories are being trashed,” my chum said. “First of all it was Gary Glitter and Do You Wanna Be in My Gang? and I Love You Love and now it’s Rolf and Two Little Boys and Jake The Peg mit his extra leg.”
“Well,” I said, “I loved the Spice Girls movie Spice World and that had a big sequence in it with Gary Glitter in Do You Wanna Be in My Gang? and they had to cut it out at the last moment before release because he got arrested and most of the Spice Girls’ fan base were pre-pubescent and only-just pubescent girls.”
“My friends in Germany used to come over every year to see Garry Glitter perform,” said my chum. “It was their big annual thing, like going to the Glastonbury Festival.”
“How old were they?” I asked.
“In their twenties, I guess. And there was a poster about reduced railway tickets for students. I asked at the railway station, got two of those and sent one to Germany. Obviously, I don’t have it up on the wall now and I haven’t played my Gary Glitter records since: I’ve got one of his LPs.”
“Why don’t you play the record?” I asked.
“Because all you’re aware of is that this person singing is this very unpleasant person who wants to use and abuse people, that sex is so trashed, debased turned into a nasty abusive thing.”
“But,” I said, “the music is still the same. If it was good before, it’s still good now, even if you know the guy was a nasty sexual predator. Just because you’re a mass murderer doesn’t mean you can’t produce a good piece of music or a great novel or a movie.”
“You’ve said that about Roman Polanski before,” my chum told me.
“Yes,” I said. “I think he should have his bollocks cut off and be thrown in a pit of vipers for the rest of his life. But it doesn’t change the fact Macbeth and Dance of The Vampires are great films and they should not suddenly be un-screened.”
“It’s irrelevant whether it’s good or not,” said my chum. “It’s a reminder of something nasty that has ruined that work of art. With Roman Polanski, he (normally) is not actually starring in the films and most people aren’t aware who directed a film. It’s not like Gary Glitter or Rolf Harris or Jimmy Savile who are up there performing in front of you as themselves. Once you know something about someone, it changes your perception and you can’t un-know it.
“The thing is my experience of… It’s not a heavy one like other people you know… But, on the beach when I was nine or ten, we were all by the chewing gum machines and it was dark and late and the parents were off in the house chatting. And there was this man – he might have been only a teenager himself, but he seemed a grown man to me – he was putting change in the chewing gum machine.
“I was walking on the beach about twenty yards away from the other kids, somehow. And he said Hold my finger and I realised it wasn’t his finger, cos it was without a bone in it. It was squidgy.
“I was only a kid and all I knew was there was something alarming about it. Something unpleasant and you realised Oh! a bit like the ice cracking underneath you if you were on ice. Or Oh shit! The road’s falling away. Oh dear! Trouble! Nasty! It’s like you’re treading on ordinary ground and then Oh, no! This is wrong! This isn’t right! How do I save myself from this?
“It was nothing that I even understood. You don’t really understand anything at nine or ten. This adult is intending to do something. You hadn’t wanted to hold someone’s finger. They’ve even lied to you to get you to do something. Your mind is with all the other kids like Let’s run round in circles and then run round in the other direction! You’re on that level and suddenly… It is a nasty thing and in one’s consciousness your brain is suddenly aware of Alarm! Danger! – What’s this?”
“And,” I suggested, “you don’t quite know what the danger is?”
“Yes. You’re completely in your own little world as a kid. You just know something is not good. Nothing hurt. He wasn’t nasty to me. He didn’t say nasty things… You never forget it happened. If something worse had happened, it must be like…”
“Did you tell your parents?” I asked.
“No. Why didn’t I tell them? There’s a feeling that someone’s done something wrong. Something’s gone wrong. If a dog had come and bit me or even just frightened me, I’d have told them Oh! That dog’s frightening me! but, for some reason… It’s as if you don’t know if maybe you have done something wrong yourself. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. But it was like you are in a complete sleep and you suddenly wake up and find yourself in a slight nightmare of Oh! What’s this? Oh no! This isn’t right! I just turned round and walked away. I realised it wasn’t his finger. I think that’s what woke me up to the danger.”
The deleted Spice World sequence featuring Gary Glitter is on YouTube.