Jimmy was unfathomable and unknown to the end

EVASIVE Sir Jimmy Savile
EVASIVE Sir Jimmy Savile

COMMENT: Bandstand event is a victim of its own success

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When you’ve been in this job a few years you begin to realise just how many celebrities you have rubbed shoulders with.

To be strictly accurate, it’s not so much shoulder-rubbing as mutual back-scratching. They’ve usually got a show or a book to plug and you’ve always got a lot of column inches to fill.

Barbara Windsor, her career in the doldrums, was once reduced to trudging from newspaper office to newspaper office (including mine) to promote one of her autobiographies.

As she click-clacked through the accounts department, past the advertising hub and into the newsroom, no-one gave her a second glance.

A couple of years later – after EastEnders had restored her fame and fortune – she could not poke her nose outside the front door without being ambushed by burly blokes with coruscating cameras and twittering matrons brandishing autograph books.

Another intriguing operator I encountered was a national newspaper journalist who was doing his best to push a worthy but uninspired novel.

As he left I asked about his next project.

“I can’t tell you anything about it at this stage, but if it comes off it will make me a millionaire,” he replied with a smile.

His name was Andrew Morton, his next book was the definitive version of the splintered relationship between Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Yet the most memorable character I ever met was Jimmy Savile.

The encounter happened more than 40 years ago and he spoke for the best part of 45 minutes. And the more he talked the less I got to know him.

He peered out at the world from behind a self-generated force-field of blustering evasion which was impossible to penetrate.

I have since witnessed everyone from media psychiatrist Professor Anthony Clare to Louis Theroux try every trick in the book to uncover the ‘real’ Savile – and they would have had more luck trying to staple smoke.

He left this life as he had lived it – unknown and unfathomable – which for a man who spent most of it in the public eye is quite remarkable.