Friday, 4 November 2011

Jim fixed it so none of us knew him - but we all knew his work

It is said that everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that Princess Diana had died. In fact, I suspect that all of you who are reading this, just had that image flash into your mind. And depending on your musical taste and age, I imagine the same could be said for some about hearing of the demise of John Lennon, Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. Some deaths, especially when they’re cruelly premature, are as defining a memory as that person’s life.

In years to come, however, I suspect not everyone will be able to instantly recall the moment they heard that Sir Jimmy Savile had passed away. I was in the car heading to Bath and although I immediately stopped and rang my partner to tell her, I didn’t give it too much more thought at the time.

Strangely, however, as a I read various tributes over the ensuing days, I started to think more about Mr Savile because I realised that he was one of those very rare creatures that we all thought we knew but none of us really did. At all.

The legendary DJ was a remarkable self-publicist and for many decades his face and his catch phrases were engrained on the public’s consciousness. We all thought we knew exactly what ‘good old Jim’ was like but the reality is none of us really had a clue.

And that’s what makes him such an intriguing personality – in death as well as in life.

As I read some of the things he did during his 84 years, it reminded me a lot of my favourite character in my favourite film – George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life. In that movie George is given a chance to see what life would have been like if he had never been born and it was truly astonishing for him to realise (and for us to realise in our own lives through him) just how many people we touch during our relatively brief time on earth.

Jimmy Savile’s life touched thousands of people. Yes, he ‘fixed it’ for lots of youngsters to meet their heroes in his long-running show and yes, we will always remember his Top Of The Pops appearances and his radio work but his real ‘work’ will surely be that through his actions he helped to raise an estimated £40 million for Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

He used the fame he knew he had to publicise the causes he supported and to raise as much money as possible. And if it meant at times that his bizarre behaviour and outlandish look made us all secretly mock him, he didn’t mind as long as we were still putting our hands in our pockets as we did so.

Jimmy Savile was a genuine one-off, a genuine British eccentric. A man who did so much caring work yet claimed to have no emotions and no close friends and someone who kept all his mother’s clothes after she died and had them dry cleaned annually. He was an odd character in every sense of the phrase but a character he was nevertheless and if you ever doubt that he deserves to be remembered, I suggest you pay a visit to Stoke Mandeville Hospital and see what one eccentric can actually achieve.

Oh and can I ask people not to make Jimmy Savile jokes now? That means you and you and you.

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