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LRB: Light Entertainment

October 29th, 2012 (06:25 pm)

A very good preliminary exploration of the culture which allowed Jimmy Savile to prosper, in the online edition of the London Review of Books. I don't agree with everything, and some of the contextual details are wrong which skews Andrew O'Hagan's argument. 1963 is the age of Carry On Jack or Carry On Spying rather than Carry On Camping, and there is lots to be drawn from the contrast. I'm not sure that Savile was ever loved - bewitchingly possessed of some energy late twentieth-century Britain found preternatural, perhaps. Revealing interviews with Joan Bakewell and Nicholas Parsons, and just as revealing bewilderment from David Attenborough, frame historical cameos from people now mainly remembered as people who paid their visits to Roy Plomley to reveal their Desert Island Discs.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/553782.html.

Comments

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: October 29th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
Sid James

Like you say, good article. It's difficult to comment further without having been there, and most of the people who were there are probably dead now.

One thing does concern me though. Remember that girl who was murdered in Bristol a while back? It was seemingly taken for granted that the weird guy who lived in the same apartment block was the chief suspect - because weird guys are exactly the sort of guys who murder young girls. And then it turned out that he was entirely innocent, but was just a bit weird (for a given value of "weird").

Now we have a situation where someone who was famously weird turns out (allegedly) to have been a paedophile. And so by extension, other people who were working in the entertainment industry at the time, and who were a bit weird, get casually accused of appalling crimes.

From the O'Hagan article:
"Those of us who grew up on it liked its oddness without quite understanding how creepy it was. I mean, Benny Hill? And then we wake up one day, in 2012, and wonder why so many of them turned out to be deviants and weirdos."
Unless I've missed it (and I admit I haven't followed this story that closely), has there been any evidence linking Hill to this sort of activity? Or is it just that a) he was weird b) he was in light entertainment at the same time as Savile c) he's too dead to sue for libel?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 01:02 am (UTC)

You are very right about the assumptions which stalk the article; they are themselves culturally specific and deserve questioning. The introduction of Benny Hill was indeed gratuitous.

Posted by: inamac (inamac)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 06:55 am (UTC)
TV

I'm not sure that the mention of Benny Hill is gratuitous - certainly there were young female dancers who avoided working on his show because of the sort of culture there and at TotP that the article is talking about.

The mention of Lena Zavaroni is possibly more gratuitous - she was young enough to have had a chaperone on her appearances, what was done to her - and what she was persuaded to do to herself - was part of a different (but no less pernicious) 'showbusiness' culture.

Good article - thanks for the link.

Posted by: philmophlegm (philmophlegm)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 10:18 am (UTC)
Conway Stewart

Yes, but by "young" do you mean "fifteen and under"? Because if not, then we're talking about very different activities.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)

Of course - I'd forgotten the article Deborah Orr wrote about working in a pub near Teddington where she was propositioned by television engineers. She thought they were working on Top of the Pops, but after everyone pointed out that Teddington was a Thames rather than a BBC studio, she realised she couldn't be. The Benny Hill Show was made at Teddington.

I think Andrew O'Hagan mentions Lena Zavaroni because he sees the way she was treated, chaperones and all, as part of a continuum relating to the objectification of children, sexualised or not. It's possibly an overextension of the argument, though, and needs more work to tie it in.

Posted by: inamac (inamac)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 03:47 pm (UTC)
TV

I do feel that the ITV companies have come out of this lightly (mainly because of the various franchise changes since the 70s) - it was definitely an industry-wide culture. And I do recall the furore about an ITV 'talent' show for under 16s that was pulled after two episodes after complaints about sexualisation of the children involved - the fact that it had made it to production says a lot about the culture.

(I do have industry connections, and knew those close enough to Zavaroni, Bonnie Langford and (regrettably) Glitter/Gad to be unsurprised by these revelations).

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 03:59 pm (UTC)

I don't remember the talent show, but I do remember the outcry after the Minipops series began on Channel 4 in 1983 or 1984, with quite young children in sexualised roles; the series didn't last long. The Minipops had previously been forced off TV-am's children's output (pre-Roland Rat) for being uninteresting for the target audience.

ITV had many more television programmes than the BBC involving children on screen, often with no adult participation, in the 1970s, many of them coming from Thames (the various variety series from The Tomorrow People's Roger Price included) but not exclusively so...

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: October 29th, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
Marxist

A BBC cover-up to hide its misdeeds and maintain its public image - who'd have thought it?! Only anyone who's heard of the Balen Report...

Posted by: The Two Trees (arda_unmarred)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 11:21 am (UTC)
Telperion

doubt that it's much different to most large institutions in that respect - see Hillsbourough

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: October 30th, 2012 03:20 pm (UTC)

A summary of the Balen Report should have been published, at least. Cover-ups of this nature aren't just to maintain a public image, they are also important to internal morale.