Bill Ralston: Jake the sleaze

by The Listener / 08 July, 2014
Rolf Harris and co make today’s misbehaving celebs seem wholesome.
"He grabbed my right breast as we walked into the studio,” she said nonchalantly, taking a small sip of her wine. We were catching up at a birthday party, having a chat and somehow the subject of the vile Rolf Harris came up. Harris was still in the dock of Southwark Crown Court at the time but my friend, rightly, had him convicted already.

“Do you have these in extra medium?”
“Do you have these in extra medium?”

At the time she described she was a young woman merely escorting the entertainer from the Green Room to the show he was due to appear on. It was the first time she’d met him, but like many of us she had grown up watching him on telly. She thought he was a star but Jake the Peg with the extra leg was just a sleaze who thought his “fame” gave him licence to do whatever he wanted. She was stunned and appalled by his grab but, of course, said nothing. He was a star, after all.

At the time of writing, Harris still hadn’t been sentenced but the judge warned him jail time was likely. Frankly, I’d give him an extra 10 years for murdering Stairway to Heaven. If Led Zeppelin had wanted a wobble board in it they would have used one in the original.

What is it with all these UK celebrities and the claims of historical sexual abuse? As we know it all started with horrendous revelations about the evil Jimmy Savile, who died before the truth about his life of sexual exploitation and depravity came out. Having ignored claims of sexual abuse against stars for decades, the police did a U-turn and suddenly launched a widespread inquiry that netted a weird variety of ageing stars. Ken Barlow and Kevin from Coronation Street ended up in the dock and revealed, much to my amazement, they had been licentious sex symbols back in the day but not child rapists. They were both acquitted. Celebrity publicist Max Clifford was convicted of historical sexual assault of girls and young women and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Former Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins is serving 35 years for child offences, a police watchdog saying his celebrity may have delayed his arrest.

The sad thing in all these cases is the women involved had to wait many years to have their grievances aired in court. Those who had laid complaints at the time were either laughed at or ignored by police. An inquiry into the BBC, which employed some of the stars, found it had also ignored their behaviour.

You can blame the stars for their arrogance and lack of humanity – I do – but it is the wilful lack of action by those in authority that lies at the core of this issue. Police inaction and the indifference of employers allowed celebrities to effectively avoid prosecution.

I am aware that celebrities attract rumour and gossip, much of it untrue and often falsely involving gerbils, but that really isn’t much of an excuse not to investigate when a crime alleged.

Of course, the celebrities tried in the UK were of a much older generation. Today’s celebs seem somewhat milder in their predilections.

I note the slightly troubled actress Lindsay Lohan was in a spot of bother recently in London for dashing naked through Selfridges.

She is about as bad as celebrities seem to get these days. The occasional drug offence, recidivist rehab visits, serial shagging and appearing in dreadful B-grade movies is about as awful as it gets with young Lindsay. Which will be a relief to London, as she seems to have moved there after claiming the US was out to get her.

One thing Lindsay has done is compile and then have leaked a long list of lovers she managed to accumulate in her short 27 years, which may be why she’s fled the States.

Somehow, compared to the loathsome Harris, it almost seems wholesome.

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