Tag Archives: scandal

Sachsgate & the Mail on Sunday – How people became offended second hand

Mark Boosey at Brunel University yesterday

Mark Boosey at Brunel University yesterday

Yesterday, I was at Brunel University in London, where their Centre For Comedy Studies Research had a panel discussion on Comedy, Class and Offence.

Mark Boosey, esteemed and eternally mysterious British Comedy Guide boss, brought up the 2008 ‘Sachsgate Affair’ in which vast offence was reported after a BBC Radio 2 edition of The Russell Brand Show.

On the show, Russell and guest co-presenter Jonathan Ross had phoned up actor Andrew Sachs (Manuel in Fawlty Towers) to invite him on as a guest. When he did not answer the phone, four messages were left mentioning that Russell had had sex with Sachs’ granddaughter, who was one of the performers in a ‘baroque dance group’ called Satanic Sluts.

Some extracts from the messages are below:

Sachsgate - BBC picture

MESSAGE ONE
Jonathan Ross: ”He fucked your granddaughter… “

MESSAGE TWO
Russell Brand: “I wore a condom.”

MESSAGE THREE
Jonathan Ross: “She was bent over the couch…”

This caused a furore. And Ofcom fined the BBC £150,000.

However, yesterday, Mark Boosey gave the timeline for the public’s outrage:

SATURDAY 18th OCTOBER 2008
The pre-recorded show was transmitted.

SUNDAY 19th OCTOBER
The BBC noted two complaints in its log of listeners’ views. One referred directly to the Andrew Sachs section.

Mail on Sunday - Sachsgate

The Mail on Sunday’s trigger for Sachsgate

SUNDAY 26th OCTOBER
Eight days after the broadcast, the Mail On Sunday ran a main story on the Andrew Sachs answerphone messages.

MONDAY 27th OCTOBER
The BBC received 1,585 complaints.

TUESDAY 28th OCTOBER
The total number of complaints rose to 4,772.

WEDNESDAY 29th OCTOBER
By 10.00am, the number of complaints had reached 18,000 and, at 11.30am, the BBC suspended Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. At 5.45pm, Russell Brand quit his show.

THURSDAY 30th OCTOBER
By 11.30am, the number of complaints had reached 30,500. At 5.50pm, BBC Controller of Radio 2 Lesley Barber resigned. At 6.21pm, with complaints now at 37,500, the BBC announced Jonathan Ross was being suspended without pay for 12 weeks.

FRIDAY 7th NOVEMBER
Radio 2’s Head of Compliance, David Barber, resigned.


Mark Boosey yesterday pointed out that only two people who heard the broadcast on transmission had been offended (perhaps only one) and it had taken eight days for 1,583 other people to have been offended second-hand.

What it all proves I do not know, but it must prove something. I personally thought what was broadcast (which I have listened to) was way-way-over-the-line into unacceptable offensiveness.

Yet, on 9th November 2008, Russell Brand told the Observer that what had been broadcast had been “toned down”: that “the worst bits” were cut out before the broadcast – presumably they believed the new version was not offensive.

I guess it also shows that, in a world of instant TV, radio and internet, newspapers still have a big effect. And it had a lasting effect even after it ‘ended’.

On Friday 21st November 2008, after publishing a report on the incident, the BBC Trust said that a list of “high-risk radio programmes” should be put together to prevent a repeat of what happened.

That is simultaneously sensible and unsettling and the BBC have, arguably, been running scared ever since.

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Edinburgh Fringe BBC News crisis comedy – and without Jimmy Savile!

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Sara Pascoe, Hal Cruttenden and Dan Starkey

Sara Pascoe, Hal Cruttenden & Dan Starkey in Making News

At the Edinburgh Fringe in August, there will be a play titled Making News about a newly-installed female Head of News at the BBC who has to handle a breaking story about the corporation itself, a TV reporter frustrated about a story she can no longer sit on and the fallout from the decisions taken that “threatens to bring down the BBC”.

For non-British readers of this blog:

In 2011, the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight conducted an investigation into DJ Jimmy Savile, a former Top Of The Pops and Jim’ll Fix It presenter. The investigation was never screened by the BBC. When allegations of paedophilia were subsequently broadcast on ITV, the BBC was accused of a cover-up and another Newsnight report wrongly implicated Conservative politician Lord McAlpine in the widening child abuse scandal.

Making News has been written by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky, who had a big success at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe with their political play Coalition about a fictional British coalition government. Britain currently has a coalition government.

Robert Khan studied law at university and is now a Labour councillor in Islington. Tom Salinsky studied mathematics and now runs training company The Spontaneity Shop. He also co-wrote The Improv Handbook with Deborah Frances-White.

I had a chat with Robert and Tom at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington last night.

Robert Khan (left) and Tom Salinsky last night

Robert Khan (left) and Tom Salinsky last night in Islington

“Mathematics… playwriting… improvisation?” I asked Tom. “They don’t go together.”

“I’ve always liked problem solving,” he replied, “and plotting a play involves quite a lot of problem solving.”

“You talk about careful plotting,” I said, “but you’ve written a book on improvisation and you run a training company called The Spontaneity Shop. So what’s an improvising-type person like you doing writing scripted plays?”

“Improvising,” explained Tom, “is like solving problems at 100mph. Improvisation’s really about making a series of choices and the delightful thing for the audience is they get to see the moment of inspiration – that moment of creativity – actually happen in front of them.

“The sometimes discouraging thing for the improviser is l’esprit de l’escalier – not thinking of the right thing to do until you’re on the bus on the way home. So, writing a scripted play, you don’t get the rush of instantaneous creativity, but you’re able to revise and improve.”

Making News has a cracking cast of comedians including Phill Jupitus,” I said. “Do you let them improvise?”

“Aahhhhh…..” said Tom and Robert in unison.

“We discourage it,” said Tom. “In rehearsals, anything goes…”

“Yes,” said Robert.

“… but once it’s on stage, it’s discouraged,” continued Tom.

“Heavily discouraged,” agreed Robert.

“Are you frustrated actors yourselves?”

“No,” laughed Robert.

“I am,” said Tom. “Incredibly frustrated as a writer backstage unable to influence events onstage.”

“And you’re both heavily into politics?” I asked.

“I think I’m politically aware,” answered Tom, “whereas Robert is politically active.”

“So why write two plays about politics?” I asked.

“I think it’s interesting to begin with…” started Robert.

Hal Cruttendon & Phill Jupitus in Making News

BBC crisis: Hal Cruttenden & Phill Jupitus with Sara Pascoe

“The new play isn’t party political,” Tom corrected me. “It’s current affairs, but it isn’t party political, whereas Coalition was.”

“We were interested,” explained Robert, “in how a large institution that has to report the news impartially reports bad news about itself.”

“And the strange thing is the BBC does,” I said.

“Oh yes,” said Robert. “I imagine the debates internally are quite difficult.”

“There’s a sort of Catholic guilt about it,” suggested Tom, “that they have to be particularly fearless when they have to report bad news about themselves.”

“Have either of you worked for the Beeb?” I asked.

“No,” said Robert.

“I’ve not been a salaried employee,” said Tom, “but, in my capacity as corporate trainer I’ve worked for all sorts of bits of the BBC – picture research, BBC Worldwide, current affairs… They hired my company for training.”

“Picture research?” I asked, surprised.

“One of their big problems,” explained Tom, “was that the people making the programmes wouldn’t co-operate with them. The conversation would go:

  • We want to take a picture of this big star
  • He’s not available…. 
  • Then we’ll have no pictures of him to give to the press… 
  • Well tough.

…so our job was to go in and help them build stronger relationships.”

“What was the logic,” I asked, “behind saying We’re not going to promote our own thing?

“Well,” explained Tom, “and it’s something we explore in the play… the BBC don’t see themselves as part of one big Corporation. They see themselves as a bunch of loosely-associated but basically independent units all looking out for themselves.”

“It’s true of all large organisations,” said Robert. “You break down into smaller units. It’s the only way human beings can operate… and you then become competitors.”

“So what’s your insight into BBC News?” I asked.

“Well,” said Tom, “we’ve certainly spoken to a few people.”

“But we can’t talk about that,” Robert told me.

“Some fairly senior people within News,” Tom added.

“Have you talked to any of the people you’re parodying?” I asked.

There was a long pause.

“As with Coalition,” said Tom, “we’re not parodying any particular individual. We’re looking at the roles. The hero of Coalition wasn’t based on Nick Clegg. It was an answer to the question What pressures would somebody IN THAT POSITION feel? Likewise, in Making News, we have a Director General, a Head of News, but they aren’t specifically based on any present or past people.”

“And we stress that very heavily,” said Robert, carefully.

“We are looking,” said Tom, “at What does being in that position do to you? When you come under these pressures, how might you react?

“I don’t think we need to do a pastiche of real characters,” said Robert.

“We create our own characters to inhabit those roles,” agreed Tom.

“It could be a tragedy rather than a comedy,” I said.

“Well, the difference is very small,” said Tom. “There’s a quote in the play that Labour governments resent what they see as the BBC’s lofty patrician heritage and try to cut the Licence Fee and Conservative governments think the BBC is a seething bed of Leftie hotheads and try to cut the Licence Fee.”

“If you have a state broadcaster that’s independent,” said Robert, “it’s always going to sooner or later rub-up the elected government the wrong way. And long may that continue.”

Phill Jupitus as the BBC Director General

Phill Jupitus as the BBC’s DG

“I felt sorry for the extraordinarily inept Director General George Entwhistle,” I said, “because he got crucified for saying I didn’t feel it was my position to ask any questions – but that’s the DG’s cleft stick at the BBC. If he interferes in producers’ independence, he’s wrong; if he doesn’t interfere in producers’ actions, he’s wrong.”

“It’s a very, very difficult job,” agreed Robert.

“When did you start writing Making News?” I asked.

“During the Edinburgh run of Coalition last August,” said Tom.

“So before George Entwhistle became DG?” I said.

“Yes,” said Robert. “Way before the Jimmy Savile scandal.”

Operation Yewtree,” added Tom, “cast a slightly distasteful shadow over the idea. We don’t go near any of that sex stuff in Making News. It would have been difficult to make that funny and it wasn’t what we wanted to write about.”

“The stakes are very high for the BBC,” said Robert. “Three Director Generals in the last 20 years have had to resign – essentially been sacked – Alasdair Milne, Greg Dyke, George Entwhistle. That’s quite a dramatic organisation to work for.”

“For a long time,” said Tom, “we were going to cast the Director General as the central figure. By this time, Entwhistle was DG. We thought we’d do A Year in The Life of a DG, ending in ignominy… and then he resigns after 54 days… We’d been trumped by reality! We had to more-or-less start again from scratch at that point.”

“Do you envisage a TV version of Making News?” I asked.

“I don’t think it would be on the BBC!” laughed Robert.

“Why not?” I asked. “They’d be dramatising themselves honestly and fairly.”

“Self-flagellation can only go so far,” Robert said. “Scotland on Sunday asked them about our play and the BBC issued a statement saying: This is not something we would comment on.”

“In Edinburgh last year,” said Tom, “we had both The Culture Show and Late Review come to see Coalition… It will be interesting to see if they turn up for Making News. They may feel completely happy to review it impartially or they may get the hump.”

“In the end,” said Robert, “this is more affectionate than Coalition was. We do hold the BBC in huge respect and affection.”

And so do I.

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Ignore the new Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, this is how the Profumo political sex scandal really happened

John Profumo, the UK’s Minister for War

John Profumo, the UK’s disgraced Secretary of State for War

A couple of days ago in my blog, there was a discussion between one of my Facebook Friends and writer Harry Rogers about whether people accused of sex crimes should be named in the press before they are prosecuted.

There is another interesting angle to this which Harry Rogers knows a bit about. Not a sex crime but a sex scandal… The Profumo sex scandal of 1963 which ultimately brought down Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government.

But this blog is really about Johnny Edgecombe, whom I think I probably met at Malcolm Hardee’s Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich in the 1990s. By then, he was known as Johnny Edge. I have a vague recollection that Malcolm introduced me to Johnny Edge once; but I can’t be certain.

What interests me about Johnny is how small incidents in apparently insignificant individuals’ lives can change history.

For those too young to remember, the Profumo Affair involved ‘good-time party girl’ Christine Keeler having sex with John Profumo, the UK’s Secretary of State for War. This was not good, given that he was married to actress Valerie Hobson. Worse though, given that Profumo knew Britain’s entire defence secrets and this was the height of the Cold War, was that Christine Keeler was also having sex with Yevgeni Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in London. All military attachés are assumed to be spies.

In October 1962, the United States and the USSR almost stumbled into a nuclear war over the Cuban Missile Crisis.

At the same time, in London, Johnny Edgecombe was Christine Keeler’s boyfriend and allegedly her pimp. Before that, Keeler’s boyfriend had been drug dealer ‘Lucky’ Gordon. When she split from Gordon, he attacked her with an axe and held her hostage for two days. She then became Johnny Edgecombe’s girlfriend.

Just before Christmas 1962, she split from Johnny Edgecombe. What happened then resulted in a court case in which John Profumo’s name was mentioned in open court and the whole Profumo scandal became public knowledge.

Johnny Edgecombe went to prison for what happened in the mews.

I had a drink with Harry Rogers last night.

Harry Rogers in Greenwich last night

Harry Rogers remembers Johnny in Greenwich last night

“I met Johnny Edge just after he came out of prison,” Harry told me. “I think the intelligence services knew very well what was going on with Christine Keeler: that she was having an affair with Profumo and was also seeing Ivanov.”

“What had Johnny done before the Profumo thing?” I asked.

“He’d been friends with lots of jazz musicians in London,” Harry told me. “And he’d worked for Peter Rachman.”

“The dodgy slum landlord?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Rachman bought a lot of properties up and, when he had trouble getting people out of a property, he would get Johnny Edge and a couple of others to go and take over the basement in the building and set up a shebeen. A shebeen is an illegal drinking establishment with lots of loud music pumping all night. So Johnny’s role was to set up the shebeen and get musicians to come in there and party. They had a great time and the people got so fed up with the noise they left. It was like constructive dismissal – constructive eviction, really.”

“But eventually,” I said, “he met Christine Keeler, she left him and that triggered off the whole thing.”

“Yes,” said Harry. “When Christine Keeler left him – he was kind of pimping her in a way; he was living off her earnings, anyway – he wanted money and he needed money and also Johnny was in competition with Lucky Gordon, who was out to get Johnny. He saw him as the person who had taken ‘his Christine’ away from him – cos he’d been pimping her too.

“Lucky Gordon had caught up with Johnny in the Flamingo club in Wardour Street in Soho and there had been a big running fight through the club. They were chasing each other about all over he place. Lucky Gordon was going to beat up Johnny, but Johnny pulled a knife and ‘striped’ his face.

“After that, Lucky Gordon was really, really angry and so he got a machete and he was threatening to cut Johnny Edge’s head off. And that’s why Johnny got a gun. And the gun that he got was Christine Keeler’s. She had a Luger pistol.”

“Why did she have a gun?” I asked.

“I think for protection,” Harry replied. “Anyway, Johnny took her gun and he was carrying it because he knew that, if Lucky Gordon did catch up with him – if he wasn’t protected – Lucky was going to kill him.

1964 book on the scandal

A 1964 book on the Profumo Scandal

“When Christine left Johnny and went to Stephen Ward in the mews, Johnny got a taxi to the house. Christine was there but wouldn’t come to the window. Mandy Rice-Davies came to the window and told Johnny Christine doesn’t want to speak to you – Here’s some money – Go away! – and threw a handful of fivers out the window.

“That made Johnny angry, so then he decided he was going to go in and talk to Christine. So he tried to do what they do in the movies. He tried to shoot the door open by blowing the lock off the door with the gun.

“That didn’t work, so then he got back into the taxi…”

“The taxi driver,” I asked, “had just been sitting there twiddling his thumbs through all this?”

“Yes,” said Harry. “The cab driver was still waiting. Johnny got back in the cab. And they drove off.

“Meanwhile, the police had been phoned. They caught up with Johnny and arrested him and charged him with attempted murder. They said he’d actually tried to shoot Christine Keeler from the street through the window. He never did that. But they needed a court case to break open the whole thing so they could officially look into everything that was going on. And, from that point onwards it all came out.

“What Johnny told me was that not only was Stephen Ward supplying various members of the Establishment with women… There were a number of them: Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, Rona Ricardo and two or three other girls were involved in this circle, this kind of call girl ring that he was running… They would all go down to Lord Astor’s place (Clivedon in Buckinghamshire) and have the swimming pool, the weekend orgies, all the rest of it… not only was Stephen Ward doing that, but he was also supplying lots of Members of Parliament and the aristocracy with marijuana.”

“Which would be a big thing then,” I said.

“Which was a big thing then,” Harry agreed. “And which Johnny Edge was supplying to Stephen Ward.”

“How did the Russian get involved?” I asked.

The Daily Mirror reports Profumo’s resignation

Profumo resigned because he lied to MPs

“Well,” explained Harry, “Stephen Ward would host parties which diplomats and all sorts of people would attend – He was just a military attaché. I don’t think there was any attempt to screw information out of Profumo. There’s no way that Christine Keeler was pumping Profumo for information to give to Ivanov, who she called her ‘Russian teddy bear’. It was all just sex and drugs, really. But spooks, being what they are, often read a lot more into the situation than is there.

“Profumo was a pretty honourable man. He just liked screwing.”

“You’ve heard about the new Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical that’s being written about Stephen Ward?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Johnny Edge told me Stephen Ward was a great guy and it was terrible the way he was vilified out. Really, he was just serving a need.”

“And was driven to suicide,” I said.

“And,” said Harry, “Johnny was sent to prison. He spent about six years inside. The Labour Party – Bessie Braddock in particular – said, as soon as they got into power, they would ensure he was released. But, of course, what happened when the Wilson government came in? They left him there to rot. He kept writing to them from prison trying to get them to honour what they had said they were going to do, but they left him there.

“He’d been sent to Dartmoor! For a while he shared a cell with Frank Mitchell.”

“The Mad Axeman?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Harry. “Everybody was really frightened of Frank in there. Not just the prisoners, but all the Screws. He was like an animal. But he took a liking to Johnny so, consequently, life was easy for Johnny inside because he had total protection. In those days, it wouldn’t have been easy being a black West Indian like Johnny in prison.’”

“And you met him soon after he got out?” I asked.

“When he first came out of prison,” explained Harry, “he didn’t go back to Notting Hill, he moved to a flat in Blackheath, then later he moved to a flat on a council estate by what’s now the Up The Creek comedy club.

“His aim was, if he could ever make enough money, to go out to the West Indies and buy a boat like his dad had had. Of course, it never happened.

“He would wake up in the morning and smoke a joint. Then he would get washed and dressed. Smoke another joint. Have breakfast. Smoke another joint. Then he was set up to go out for the day. He was always stoned. Always.

Johnny Edge in later life

Johnny Edgecombe in later life + one of his cigarettes

“He decided he was going to make money from selling chess sets. He met somebody who had access to a whole load of reproduction fancy chess sets: the Lewis chess set, the Reynard The Fox one, a Mexican carved crystal one and an erotic chess set – pornographic, basically – the bishops had little boys sucking them off. They weren’t cheap. He made a good mark-up on them.

“Also, if you wanted to buy half a pound or a pound of dope, Johnny knew where to go. In 1971, you could probably get a pound of dope for £500 and he’d charge you £550. He wasn’t a big dope importer or anything, but he was big mates with Howard Marks, who was.

“After the chess sets, he got into buying VW camper vans in Amsterdam and filling them up with Second World War leather jackets and overcoats he bought in a warehouse near where he bought the VWs. They looked like Nazi overcoats but weren’t – most were actually Dutch motorcycle police coats, but they looked the business.

“So Johnny would fill the camper vans with these coats, bring them back to Britain and sell them. The rock singer Chris Farlowe used to run a Nazi militaria shop and Johnny Edge used to sell him these Dutch police overcoats as genuine Nazi wartime overcoats at a massive mark-up.

“Needs must when the Devil drives. There was no way he was ever going to get employed in a straight job; he was so stoned all the time.

“He was a very likeable guy. He was a great guy.”

“And he died just over two years ago,” I said. “What did he die of?”

“Lung cancer,” said Harry.

So it goes.

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Jimmy Savile, Gary Glitter and Roman Polanski. Comparing artists and arses.

(This was also published by the Huffington Post)

Spice World released with scum removed

Roman Polanski?” someone said to me yesterday afternoon. “Well, he’s not as bad as Jimmy Savile, is he?”

That is like a red rag to a bull.

Was Jack The Ripper not as bad as Adolf Hitler because he did not kill as many people? You could even argue Adolf Hitler was a morally better person than the Jack The Ripper because, as far as I am aware, Hitler did not personally kill anyone during the Second World War.

It is a pointless argument.

Jimmy Savile had-it-off with more under-age girls than Roman Polanski and was apparently at-it for 50 years. Roman Polanski was only prosecuted over one girl.

But the truth is you cannot compare evil.

Most things are grey. But some things are black and white and incomparable.

I had a conversation with two other men a couple of days ago and which I started to write a blog about the next day but which I aborted because it was too dangerous…

One man was involved in the comedy business. The other had been involved in the music business. We had got talking about Gary Glitter.

When the Spice Girls’ movie Spice World was made, it included a big musical routine involving Gary Glitter. Very shortly before the film’s release, he was arrested on sex charges. He was cut out of the film because (quite rightly) it was thought to be dodgy given the movie’s target audience.

But now, in many places, several years later, his music is, in effect, banned from being played because the act of playing it – and saying his very name in the introduction – is thought to be in bad taste.

The conversation I had with the other two men revolved around Art v Scum.

Just because someone is scum does not mean they cannot create Art.

Just because they have been rightly arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for an act of evil does not lessen the level of any Art they may have created.

I am sure all sorts of artists over the centuries have committed all sorts of morally and criminally heinous acts. But that does not mean we should not appreciate their art.

You may see where this is going and why I abandoned writing this particular blog a couple of days ago. Just by discussing it I might seem to be lessening my dislike of what the scum did. Which is not the case. But it is a danger.

Just because Gary Glitter is scum does not mean he did not create some very good pop music. Perhaps it was not high art. But it was good pop music. The fact that he was imprisoned for having pornographic images of children in Britain and committing sex crimes in Vietnam does not mean his records should be banned.

There is the fact that, if you buy his records, he will receive royalties. That is a problem, but does not affect the theoretical discussion.

Clearer examples are actors Wilfred Brambell and Leslie Grantham.

Homosexuality was stupidly illegal in the UK until 1967. In 1962, Wilfred Brambell (old man Steptoe in the BBC TV comedy series Steptoe and Son) was arrested in a Shepherd’s Bush toilet for “persistently importuning”, though he got a conditional discharge. Ooh missus. He died in 1985. In 2012, he was accused of abusing two boys aged aged 12-13 backstage at the Jersey Opera House in the 1970s. One of the boys was from the Haut de la Garenne children’s home, which is now surrounded by very seedy claims of child abuse, murder and torture (and which Jimmy Savile visited, though this is strangely under-played in newspaper reports).

Actor Leslie Grantham – who famously played ‘Dirty Den’ in BBC TV’s EastEnders – is a convicted murderer. In 1966, he shot and killed a German taxi driver in Osnabrück. He was convicted of murder, sentenced to life imprisonment and served ten years in jail.

Wilfred Brambell’s presumed sexual sleaziness and Leslie Grantham’s actual imprisonment for killing someone does not mean the BBC should never repeat Steptoe and Son nor old episodes of EastEnders, nor that it would be morally reprehensible to watch the Beatles’ movie A Hard Day’s Night because Wilfred Brambell plays a prominent role in it.

It does not mean that Wilfred Brambell and Leslie Grantham’s undoubtedly high acting skills should not be appreciated.

A chum of mine was recently compiling a history of glam rock for a BBC programme and was told he could not include Gary Glitter. That is a bit like not including the Rolling Stones in a history of 1960s British rock music or not including Jimmy Savile in a history of BBC disc jockeys.

Which brings us to Roman Polanski.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I think he is scum and (figuratively speaking) his balls should be cut off and he should be thrown into a bottomless pit of dung for eternity.

He drugged, raped and buggered a 13-year-old girl.

End of.

The defence “She was not that innocent” is no defence.

In January next year, the British Film Institute starts a two-month “tribute” to Roman Polanski at the National Film Theatre in London.

I have no problem with that. I might even go to some of the movie screenings.

Dance of the Vampires, Rosemary’s Baby and Macbeth are brilliant films. Chinatown and Tess are very good – although I have also had the misfortune to sit through the unspeakably awful Pirates.

As a film-maker, Roman Polanski deserves a tribute. As a criminal on the run from justice, he deserves to be arrested and imprisoned.

Art is often created by people who are scum.

Here is the deleted scene from Spice World:

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Filed under Censorship, Movies, Sex, Television

Sex scandals spread at the BBC… ten years ago…

Today’s Daily Mirror front page

I have been getting (for me) abnormally high hits on one particular old blog of mine. Normally my blogs get hits on the day of posting and a couple of days after, then tail off to nothing except for a few occasional random hits.

This particular blog – now 27-days-old – has been getting steady hits since it was posted. Yesterday, it had 2,897 hits. That’s a lot for an almost one-month old blog of mine. It describes the background to the infamous hoax Have I Got News For You transcript about Jimmy Savile.

The front of today’s i newspaper

Yesterday, Gary Glitter was arrested in connection with the police enquiries into Jimmy Savile’s paedophile attacks. Today, the newspapers are full of the story.

As the thing I was going to blog about this morning fell through, I looked in my electronic diary for this day ten years ago – Tuesday 29th October 2002.

Guess what.

It was the day the BBC sacked presenter Angus Deayton from Have I Got News For You because newspaper stories about his sex life had become a subject of the programme and therefore, it was said, he could not be a detached presenter. Panelists Paul Merton and Ian Hislop had gone for his throat again on the show the previous Friday. The next show (recorded on Thursday night for a Friday transmission) was going to be presented by Paul Merton while the producers looked for another full-time presenter.

The tabloids on that morning ten years ago were also claiming that there were now 29 separate allegations of rape against former Blue Peter presenter John Leslie. I had not really been following the unfolding story, but reportedly presenter Ulrika Jonsson had been in hospital for three days after her alleged rape.

Meanwhile, real life went on. A friend of mine sent me an e-mail about her small son:

He looks very peaky and white with big black rings under his eyes. The only thing that helps is apparently a double dose of Toy Story every day. It is driving me nuts, I sit there mouthing the words to all the characters. 

Her husband was ill too:

He is still coughing his guts up and I am in the best shape of all but even I am still taking cortisone pills to clear the catarrh.

Also on that day, someone I worked with gave me some advice: “Never do deals with people whose names begin or end with the letter O”

That basically covered the Irish and Nigerians.

So there we have it ten years ago.

Sex scandals at the BBC, disease and racism.

Life.

So it goes.

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Jimmy Savile was knighted to save money on Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Call him Sir Jimmy Savile

My chum mad inventor John Ward tells me:

“While doing a talking head bit yonks ago on early morning BBC Radio 4, discussion afterwards in the Green Room got round to Jimmy Savile.

“One very posh-talking government minister-type person pointed out to one of the production crew that Her Majesty’s Government thought it a good idea to bung Jimmy Savile a knighthood as they cost nothing and it worked out cheaper than the NHS having to spend millions to rebuild Stoke Mandeville Hospital when Jim would fix it and get all the peasants rallied to do the job because they would do anything for the God-like person in the track suit.

“And, as it ‘appens, that is wot happened.”

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Dead paedophile Jimmy Savile, sexism at the BBC and rapes in 31 US states

(This piece was also published by the Huffington Post)

The Sun newspaper’s headline today

Last night, a female friend and I watched (on BBC TV) the special Panorama investigation Jimmy Savile: What the BBC Knew – a programme not just about the Savile scandal but about why, last year, a detailed Newsnight programme exposing Savile’s crimes had been shelved.

Afterwards, my friend asked me: “What do you think?”

“Well,” I replied, “the Jim’ll Fix It! producer said the radio people had never told him any of the stories about Savile but, then, they wouldn’t. Radio and TV are separate people in different  parts of London. Paul Gambaccini said, quite rightly, that people on the 3rd floor of Broadcasting House would not hear gossip happening on the 2nd floor.”

“But,” said my friend, “the editor of Newsnight said there wasn’t anything they had uncovered that the police did not already know – and that wasn’t true.”

“I don’t know why he said that. It’s bizarre,” I agreed. “A lot of the problems are because the BBC is a… Well, you have a situation where the BBC has now commissioned and transmitted a programme exposing something the BBC doesn’t really want to talk about… but it’s the BBC themselves who have made and transmitted the programme they don’t want to be made and transmitted.

“The BBC is not a large thinking, downwardly-controlled entity. Everyone is trying not to control from above. It’s managed day-to-day from below by the producers and the individual bureaucrats. If they think something is dodgy, they refer it up one level… in the case of programmes, to the editor who, if he is uncertain, may refer it up to the executive producer, who… Well, it’s this multi-layered beast with no-one trying to impose or interfere too much on the lower layers because the big thing is editorial independence.

“They said in the programme – quite rightly – that the Director General is in a lose-lose situation. If he did anything, then people will accuse him of controlling things in a Machiavellian way. If he did not do anything, then they’ll say he should have done.”

“It’s not that uncontrolled,” said my  friend, “ because there was a number of times when women were being replaced because they were too old.”

Front page of today’s Daily Mail

“But the people at the very top did not do that,” I said. “That was the hands-on producers or editors or executive producers. The BBC did not sit down and decide as a single corporate entity, as a matter of policy to do it.”

“Well why did they do it?” my  friend asked. “They replaced women because they were too old. It was never men who were replaced.”

“But the BBC as a corporate monolithic thing was not doing that,” I said. “The producers and editors as independent individuals were doing that. The BBC is not some great Machiavellian organisation. It rarely decides anything at a programme level. The individual people who make the individual programmes take the decisions.”

“Isn’t it just an institution that’s mostly male, though?” she asked.

“Well, that’s an entirely different argument,” I said, “though, in this case – shelving the Newsnight programme –  the Big Boss – Helen Boaden – is a woman.”

“Isn’t that how Savile got away with it, though?” my  friend asked me. “A load of young girls were regularly going back to Jimmy Savile’s dressing room and a few guys – it wasn’t just him and Gary Glitter… Some people must have known these young girls were being taken into the dressing room and abused and people were getting away with it because it was Ooh! It’s just guys being guys!”

“But that wasn’t the BBC itself deciding that it was going to be allowed,” I said. “That’s individuals’ failings. The BBC didn’t have meetings at the top or the middle ranks or anywhere and say Oh, we’re going to allow Jimmy Savile to feel-up and rape under-age girls in his dressing room. It’s something that happened without anyone deciding it was going to be allowed to happen. And the people who were not involved but who saw it happen did not report it.

“The people at the sixth floor management level of Television Centre – and they’re the only people you could sort of call ‘The BBC’ – did not know what was happening in the basement dressing rooms of the building. The Director General, the Head of Entertainment and even – the way he tells it – the producer of Jim’ll Fix It!did not know that Savile was abusing people in the dressing room and there was no evidence presented to anyone at the time that he was.

“What I don’t understand is why Paul Gambaccini at Radio 1 who’s now going on as if he knew all about it and how appalling it was at the time, didn’t report it.”

“But,” said my friend, “wasn’t the attitude that Guys will be guys! They’re having a bit of a lark! It’s the Swinging Sixties and Swinging Seventies!

“Well, I said, “that’s not what Gambaccini seems to be saying. He is saying now that he thought it was appalling and disgusting at the time.

The Independent newspaper today

“I mean,” I continued, “some of it happened when David Attenborough was Controller BBC2. He would not have known anything about it. The BBC is this vast organisation. It’s a vast collection of little separated villages of different programmes and offices in different departments on different floors of different buildings. Lots of little cliques.

“One set of programme makers barely knows the vague outline of what other programmes are doing in the same department let alone what happens in dressing rooms with the doors closed. I know AAA BBB. He worked on Jim’ll Fix It! He says he never even met Jimmy Savile because Savile only came in on the day of the recording. He worked on the production team of the show and he never even met Jimmy Savile! The BBC organising some vast corporate conspiracy is something beyond practicalities.

“I mean, tonight’s show was made by Panorama about Newsnight. I suspect the people working on the two shows are mortal enemies and there’s an element of sticking the knife in. The BBC is like The Balkans: lots of little separate entities sometimes sniping at each other. It’s not really fully under control. It’s nothing to do with men v women.”

“I think it is,” said my friend.

“The BBC didn’t think having sex with under-age girls was acceptable,” I said. “They didn’t approve it on the sixth floor. They didn’t know it was happening. They didn’t say This is acceptable and we’re going to allow Jimmy Savile to do it on BBC premises.

“Well,” said my friend, “he was completely arrogant and he was a man in a man’s world on top of the pile.”

“So what was the BBC supposed to do about something they didn’t know was happening?” I asked.

“It’s the attitude of society,” said my  friend. “Guys think they can use women. The BBC is part of what society is. All those quiz shows that are happening! You don’t get any women on them!”

“So what could the BBC have done about Jimmy Savile?” I asked.

“It’s Nudge nudge Wink wink,” my  friend said, “Guys cover up for other guys.”

“But the BBC didn’t decide to cover it up,” I said, “The BBC did not decide it was acceptable. The BBC did not know.”

“It’s men’s attitude that they have a right to sex,” said my friend. “They can buy it if they can’t find a woman to do it with. They can get it where they want.”

There was another sixteen minutes of this (I recorded it). My friend tends to get het up about the inherent sexism in society and how men make all the rules in their favour. I think she exaggerates.

This morning, when I woke up, a Twitter follower drew my attention to a CNN report a couple of months ago.

The report mentioned in passing that, in 31 US states, rapists have the same custody and visitation rights to any resulting children as other fathers.

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Filed under Radio, Rape, Sex, Television