Rolf Harris, a beloved Australian children's TV entertainer resident in Britain since the 1950s, was sent down yesterday on sexual assault charges stemming from encounters dating back decades. His victims were as young as 7 years old. Artist Harris, for whom the Queen sat, faces the rest of his life in prison.
Two years ago, Sir Jimmy Savile was posthumously exposed as a sexual abuser of children, with more than 500 people reportedly victimized. Savile's high position within the BBC, and the protection it afforded the star entertainer, drew the corporation much criticism.
These men walked in the same circles, and to those of us who grew up with post-war Britain's light entertainment TV monoculture, their dethronings are amazing (If not unexpected in the case of Savile, left).
Which gets us to the outside-the-court interviews with some of Harris's light entertainment contemporaries following his conviction, embedded below. I don't quite know what to say about these interviews, except that they are strange.
The subjects are so nervous, but they babble on, shifting between performance, incredulity, and what they think is subtle cynicism.
When people should have spoken, they were quiet; now, when they would be wise to say nothing, they just can't stop themselves.
Ronnie Corbett, light entertainer
Interviewer #1: Rolf Harris was convicted today, what do you make of --
Corbett: Oh dear no, have ... fortunately, I haven't read the papers.
Interviewer #2: He's been convicted on twelve counts, what is your reaction to that?
Corbett: (having misheard) What, darling?
Interviewer #2: He's been convicted on all twelve counts of indecent assault.
Corbett: *sighs* Very upsetting. (walks away) Sorry to hear that.
Cilla Black, light entertainer
Black: I've never known Rolf any different from anybody else, um, he was lovely. And I'd rather not comment on it, really. I'm disappointed. Really disappointed.
Interviewer: is there a bit of a witchhunt on celebrities at the moment, from that era?
Black: Well I dont know! I don't know, you tell me. I don't know. I don't know. Ah. It's getting very political, this, isn't it?
Harvey Goldsmith, light entertainment promoter
Goldsmith: It's not very good, it's a mess and, post-the whole Savile thing, it's been a bit of a witch hunt. But if it's true, and he's been convicted, then he's been convicted, you know, what else is there to say?
Interviewer: Did you know him? Did you work with him?
Goldsmith: Yeah, I did. I did indeed. And it's not something you expect, to be honest, but if that's the case, it's the case. It's a bit of an odd case, reading though it. And, um. *shrugs*
Interviewer: Anything back then that you thought, you know, just wasn't quite right, or that you ever noticed when you worked with him?
Goldsmith: No, not really. Not at all. But you know, these things have been going on for years and years and years so, you know, who knows what comes out of the woodwork. It's just odd that it's taken so long anything to come out, you know. There's a whole slew of people. I'm sure there's going to be more as well.
Goldsmith: Maybe witch hunt's the wrong term, but obviously they've been rooting people out, and clearly a lot of people have suddenly come forward. I don't know where they've been all these years. It's a mess. But things in those, you know, the early days, uh, were completely different from what they are now. I mean. I don't think people had ever heard the word pedophile in the 70s or whatever. So it's a whole new regime today, and its very sad that all this is all coming out now, and its sadder that we've believed in all these people and heroes who've turned out to be not quite what we thought they were.