Sunday, November 06, 2011

Now then, now then

If I weren't so busy, I'd be very tempted to hop on a train to Leeds and pay my respects to Sir James Savile OBE KCSG at the Queen's Hotel. He was a fascinating figure and a shrewd old buzzard, as this previously-unpublished excerpt of the interview I did with Jim'll Fix It producer Roger 'Doctor Magic' Ordish for my book Turned Out Nice Again proves:

"I didn’t have big agent struggles, particularly when Jimmy Savile didn’t have an agent, really. Bunny Lewis was nominally his agent, and sometimes he’d want him to deal with something. Jim would say things like 'I don’t want to up my fee for two reasons: I’d pay to be on in the first place, and if you’re on a low fee, you’re not beholden to anyone'. For instance, sailing close to the wind, I remember he came onto a Juke Box Jury that I did, '79 or whatever it was, he wore a t-shirt that said, what does it say on hoardings? 'This space available.' Something like that. 'Your name here.' Not surprisingly we were always doing things with the railways [on Jim'll Fix It, and] we had the [British Rail] chairman Peter Parker on, and then he and Peter Parker had a serious conversation. The next year, Jimmy Savile was doing those ads – 'the age of the train' for years and years. He said, 'That’s the money I want. I don’t want the Beeb fiddling around whether they’re going to pay me another £50 or not. I want millions of pounds from British Rail. That’s the means to the end'. As they used to say at the time ‘Why is this train late, Guard?’ ‘It’s the age of the train, sir’."

Roger is a very clever chap, and it might have been easy for him to look down on the show that he oversaw for its entire 19 years on BBC television. He never did. "I really think that when I started there, most people thought 'What I make is good, and I’m not going to make it if I don’t think it’s good'. I loved that about Jim’ll Fix It. Very lowbrow, very simple programme, but we always wanted it to be good. The attitude, I feel, now is 'This is the sort of crap that they like, so this is what we’ll make'. But they’re saying this is crap. It may have been so, but we never made anything with the idea that it was going to be crap because that’s what the common people want. It’s very arrogant."


Boggenstrovia Van Borgwick said...

Jimmy was a savvy fella, that British Rail deal would be worth so much more today and imagine a company saying that they would pay for someone's service for such a big fee. Either way it was worth its weight in Jimmy's personality or some would say his gold for British Rail.

Catholic Taste (Walt) said...

Hi, Louis. Walt here.

The more I've read in the wake of Savile's passing, the more I realise just how much of a unique character he was. There really don't seem to have been any sides to him at all - he was like that all the time. When I was growing up I never found him odd or unsettling in any way. That only came about as I grew into adulthood, when I was told by others that his behaviour seemed a bit odd, a bit strange. He was an eccentric, sure. In that unforced way that only genuine eccentrics can be - the ones who try to put it on fail miserably. He was just like that, because he was just like that. So to speak. When I was young he enthralled me for half an hour every saturday night on Jim'll Fix It. I wasn't alone, and that's not a bad legacy to leave, apart from everything else.

Now that he's gone, I find myself thinking of him with genuine affection. He could be irascible, I'm sure. The schtick became an easy stick (oh-ho-ho) to beat him with. But...He made a lot of people happy, he was genuinely interested in helping others, and he left the world just a little better than when he arrived. Not a bad life at all.

Jonathan King said...

Jimmy was a genuinely decent, kind and tolerant man and also a very shrewd and clever one. I knew him, saw him in various situations and can vouch for his integrity and honesty. One of the greats. Jonathan King