If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Jimmy $avi£e, top man

I am very sorry, although not surprised, to hear that Jimmy Savile has died. To be honest, he has looked like an elderly groover for so long that, if you had asked me yesterday, I would have told you he died long ago.
Now then now then.
I was brought up in the same part of Leeds that Jimmy lived in, and my Mum lived there until she passed away a few years ago, so I have a strong connection with the area. And yet I couldn't tell you where he lived - his private life was kept very quiet. We knew he lived with his Mum, posibly in a caravan and possibly a mansion, and favoured tight trousers and a lot of jewellery, so as kids we all assumed he was gay. Not that it made any difference, although I think we shall see a lot of skirting-round of the issue in the obits. But however cheesy his public persona was, everyone knew that he was also a tireless and committed fund-raiser for charities - proper ones - and put in a great deal of his own time as a volunteer hospital porter.
Guys and gals.
My first paid job was as a hospital porter, and that is how I came to hear of his work. I was working at St James's, whereas Savile volunteered at Leeds General Infirmary. But there was a fair amount of cross-pollination between the two, and several times I was pushing an elderly patient down the corridor only to have to swerve violently to avoid a silver-haired tornado pushing a wheelchair at high speed in the opposite direction, exchanging banter with the patient and nurses and anyone else within earshot.
As it 'appens.
One thing I can tell you from that experience is that, although he lent his considerable fame to supporting various causes, his actual physical work helping hospital patients was entirely genuine. He put the hours in, he talked to ther terminally-ill and the terminally-confused, the young and the very old, the patient and the relative, the doctor and the nurse. His energy was phenomenal, and his commitment was total. No-one who worked there and saw him in operation was cynical about a 'celebrity' doing a bit of 'good work' - his contribution was respected by the people who did the same work, day in and day out. That says a lot.
Goodness gracious.
I was back home one weekend helping my Dad plan for Mum's 70th birthday. We had decided to get her a special cake with a picture of the arch at Guisborough Priory which featured in all their wedding photographs, painted into the icing. A local cake shop did the work, and one Saturday morning we went to collect it. We were in the middle of paying when the shop door burst open, and a man and woman rushed in - Jimmy Savile and a very pretty, leggy blonde dressed in not very much. "Now then now then," he said. "Whose 70th birthday is it?" We said it was my Mum, and he asked, no, ordered the girl to pop down the road and get a card. When she returned, he asked my Mum's name and then wrote a message in the card and signed it. I can't remember the message (something like 'who's the birthday girl then?') but the signature was unmistakeable, with the dollar sign for the 'S' and a pound sign for the 'L' in 'Savile'. Before we could say thank you, he was off, with the girl trying to stay in his slipstream.
*Strange ululating stunt with the vocal cords*
He was weird, he was a bit cheesy, and his hairstyles were a crime. But he also gave us 'Top Of The Pops' for good or ill, and he made the idea of celebrity charity work more than just writing a few cheques and opening garden parties. Those who worked alongside him respected him, and that is all you need to know. Every time I see that photograph of the People's Princess's smokey eyes peeping out soulfully over the theatre mask, I think of Jimmy Savile, sleeves rolled up and puffing away at a large cigar, having a natter with an old biddy on the Geri ward.

That wouldn't be allowed nowadays.
How's about that, then?

1 comment:

  1. A true character, probably a pain if you knew him personally.
    Respect, Jimmy.


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