My great escape from Savile’s clutches


In light of the Weinstein affair, it’s not only actresses and wannabes who had encounters they would rather have not had. JEANETTE BISHOP, pictured right, who from 1980-96 worked on Hickey, recalls an Oriental experience with the late and unlamented Jimmy Savile.

 WHEN I worked at The People I got to know Jimmy Savile who had a pop column and came in every Friday with his copy. He would hang around all afternoon being annoying but seemed harmless enough. 

One afternoon he overheard me saying that I had yet to sample the delights of Chinese food and he insisted I join him that evening for supper. Savile simply wouldn’t take No for an answer. He then contrived to have me meet him at his place so that we could go to the restaurant in Baker Street together. Take a cab, he instructed and scribbled his address. I left in a bit of tizz and when I arrived at his flat realised I had left my purse behind. So back to the office in Long Acre, get the taxi to wait, retrieve my wallet and return – three taxi rides and the best part of a week’s wages lost.

 Once back there Savile buzzed me in to a shabby studio room where I found him stretched out on a double bed and no other discernible place to sit. He gestured to the space alongside him and told me to get on the bed as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I tried sitting on the side but he was having none of it and, in his faux jokey way, made me feel I was being precious and stuffy by not making myself “comfortable”.

 No sooner was I on it than he threw himself on top of me, pushed his tongue down my throat and – how can I put this – I could tell he was pleased to see me.

Almost everyone I know from those days had similar experiences and we just took it in our stride almost as the norm

 I struggled out from under and lied that I had a long-term boyfriend who would kill me (and by implication him) if he knew. He backed off immediately. Maybe he was afraid I would tell Editor Bob Edwards or, as cynical friends have suggested, maybe I got off so lightly because, at 21, I was way too old for him anyway.

 So why on earth did I then let him persuade me to go to dinner with him as planned? I think I was trying to pretend I was too sophisticated to be offended and, in truth, just as big a shock was that he wasn’t gay as I’d always assumed. His behaviour was commonplace; almost everyone I know from those days had similar experiences and we just took it in our stride almost as the norm.

 We head to the restaurant and he orders. All I remember about the food is the finger bowl which appeared along with the ribs and other starters. Savile explained what this was for but I didn’t believe him and decided he was trying to have a joke at my expense. Even when he dipped his own fingers I wasn’t convinced. I left the ribs.

Several BBC bods came to the table to have a chat including Bill Cotton who at the time was Head of Variety. There was lots of gossip particularly about Simon Dee who all agreed was a ridiculous prima donna and making a total tit of himself. I’m ashamed to say that I quite enjoyed the gossip and the stir he caused in the restaurant. It was quite nice to be the centre of attention albeit with someone ridiculous.

 All in all, a salutary experience and one which I should have handled very differently. Looking back I cannot quite believe that what upset me most was the money wasted on taxis and worrying about the finger bowl.

© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre