Bug-eyed and mock-fiendish, leering at you like he’s just out of Bedlam.
In any number of archive photographs, the FAB Geezer famed for his crazed expression, enormous cigar and court jester hairdo, is cackling and calling to the guys’n’gals: don’t leave your disabled daughter/mother/sister alone with me.
Pantomime villain pantomimes villainy. Except in the case of Jimmy Savile, it was no panto. Unlike Glastonbury, allegedly, here there was less miming than meets the eye.
Hindsight proffers a more pertinent p-word. How perverted he was, it’s doubtful we’ll ever know precisely. You might say some of the latest reports could have been made up – porn-scenes in the mortuary, for example; but it’s difficult to imagine anyone simply imagining them.
Similarly, at first sight the depth of Savile’s private depravity seems impossibly distant from his public role: by appointment to viewers and listeners, purveyor of bite-sized, tea-time packages of zany antics and charitable work; counter culture processed as comfort food and compressed into that characteristic half-laugh, half-yodel.
Howzabout that, then?, Savile would conclude – a magician asking his audience to acknowledge his trickery. But was it a trick, with Savile dressed outlandishly to disguise the real freak underneath? Or did he dress like a freak because that’s what he was, and that’s what he wanted us to see.
Savile groomed the nation, said the police officer in charge of investigating his crimes, as if we were all victims of Sir Jimmy’s secret design. But Savile presented himself tothe whole world as a cartoon fiend. Short of phoning the police to confess, how could he have been more revealing?
(He even described the time spent shut up with the body of his late mother as ‘the best five days of my life.’)
Perhaps Savile’s official self-denial (his favourite meal reportedly consisted of baked beans microwaved in the mug he used for rinsing his hair), was also perversely consistent with him denying his own humanity – as well as that of his victims – in a grossly distended sequence of sexual distortion.
Seen in this light, we can afford to ignore the supposed lesson of Savile: beware the hidden malice inside every image of kindness. Instead, let’s rejoice in the perfectly normal discrepancy between public persona and private personality.
And heave a sigh of relief that this freak was consistently unique.