Monday 26 May 2014

DJ's Who Thought Themselves Untouchable

There was a famous broadcaster who once boasted about having a sexual encounter with an under age girl.

At the time, in the mid-Sixties, he was working for a popular radio station in Dallas, Texas. 

He later recounted how teenagers used to queue to offer themselves to the DJs. One of his “regulars” was a 13-year-old, although he tried to justify his behaviour by insisting that she looked older.

Eventually the presenter married a 15-year-old Texan girl before the US authorities took a dim view of his predatory antics and he fled home to the UK to make his name on BBC radio.

Late BBC Radio DJ John Peel, who died in 2004, poses wearing a schoolgirl uniform in 1973

The late John Peel's descriptions of his early days in radio – given in  at least two interviews – perhaps help to explain how the late Sir Jimmy Savile was able get away with his behaviour for so long.

In the era of free love the DJs were almost as famous as the rock stars whose music they played. No questions asked, no-strings sex was on a plate as a perk of the job.

In most cases, although often distasteful, it was perfectly legal but it has become clear that in the early days of rock and roll radio a few overstepped the mark.

Peel once described how in the US his Liverpool accent was a magnet to young women who were fans of The Beatles. 

I was suddenly confronted by this succession of teenage girls who didn't want to know anything about me at all. All they wanted me to do was to abuse them sexually, which of course I was only too happy to do.

It was the glamour of the job. An enormous number of rather attractive young women were prepared to have some

kind of clumsy and depressing sexual experience with me.”

He married 15-year-old Shirley Anne Milburn then discovered that crossing some state lines would be a criminal offence as she was considered under age in some states.

Peel later told his second wife Sheila that he hadn't known the true age of his US bride.

The anything goes attitude at the time was typified by the launch of pirate station Radio Caroline which broadcast from a ship in the North Sea. 

A constant diet of rock and roll crackled over the airwaves and the young DJs became sensations.

Then former BBC disc jockey DLT – Dave Lee Travis – was accused of abusing his position to fondle young girls.

FORMER presenter Johnnie Walker has said: 

Fans would come out to visit the ship. This was the Sixties and people were just making love all over the place, no Aids or anything. So girls would come to the ship and we'd tie their boat alongside and we used to get the engineer to take their boyfriends to look round the transmitters and generators and we'd take them downstairs to the cabins.

The DJ also recalled that there was a similar laissez-faire attitude to drugs aboard Radio Caroline, which was the inspiration for the 2009 film The Boat That Rocked.

Walker revealed that if they needed fresh supplies he would broadcast a coded message that they had run out of tea. 

A few days later a package of spliffs would arrive from his girlfriend on land.

But it was the casual attitude to sex that's most shocking by today's standards. The groupie, a girl in her teens whose aim was to have sex with someone famous, was a product of the Sixties. 

They targeted bands but DJs had a similar allure.

Also by the late Sixties there were “baby groupies” who started going back stage at 14 and were adept at looking older than their years. 

The attitude prevailed that if they were up for it they were fair game.

Music journalist David Hepworth said this week: 

It wasn't seen as being as sinister as it is nowadays. You'd have huge rock names who had girlfriends who were 16, 17, or even younger and nobody would write about it. Nobody would particularly bother about it.

That approach permeated the new radio stations, including Radio 1 which first went on air in 1967. 

Several years later John Peel, who died eight years ago, was still running a Schoolgirl Of The Year competition on his show.

Simon Garfield, author of The Nation's Favourite: The True Adventures Of Radio 1, says: 

It's certainly true to say that in the Seventies DJs on the station were mobbed wherever they went. Once they got to present Top Of The Pops as well it happened more.There were as many groupies throwing themselves at them as there were for the pop stars.

Former Radio 1 DJ Tony Blackburn has also explained the culture that existed in the station's early years. 

I was one of a handful who became at least as famous as the pop stars whose records we were playing. At that time we were the nation's jukebox and I was notching up audiences of around 20 million for my breakfast show.The opportunities to let this go to your head were manifold. There was an endless stream of record pluggers eager to wine and dine you, invitations galore, flattery from all sides and a generous supply of women ready to throw themselves at you. I seemed to be a magnet for an extraordinary cross-section of women from desperate housewives to drop dead gorgeous Playboy bunnies. I was earning fabulous money, starting at £500 a week in the late Sixties, and had a succession of glamorous girls on my arm.

It should be pointed out that there is no suggestion that the young women Walker or Blackburn described were under age. 

BUT what is true is that back then there were no mobile telephones with cameras, no text messages or emails. 

What happened away from the microphone was much less likely to become public. And if the line was crossed during that era people were much more likely to look the other way. 

It wasn't until many years later that Esther Rantzen and her Child- Line charity helped to reveal cases of alleged sexual abuse of children.

However there was one notable case in 1974 when Chris Denning, one of Radio 1's launch team, was convicted of gross indecency. 

It was the first of many convictions here and in Eastern Europe for abusing boys.

Some of the allegations involving Jimmy Savile and underage girls focus on his time at Radio 1 in the Seventies.

They include claims surrounding a programme called Savile's Travels, which involved him going around the country in a caravan.

In his 1976 autobiography Love Is An Uphill Thing Savile boasted of his encounters with groupies. He described asking organisers of a charity event to choose girls to spend the night camping with him after a disco.

He wrote: 

Six girls were selected and all of them were given matching mini-skirts and white boots. They looked good enough to eat.
The first thing was that the father of one of the girls arrived and hauled her off home. She protested loudly but dad would have none of this preposterous situation.

Savile also told of being caught naked in his caravan with more groupies.

The heat of the albeit innocent night had caused the girls to shed the majority of their dayclothes. In some cases all. We all resembled some great human octopus.

Just as telling is that Savile apparently had no concerns that he would face censure, or investigation, by committing details of his sleazy deeds to print. 

No doubt he regarded it as harmless fun, even stating that the 11th commandment was “not to get found out”. In the culture that existed in those days, when attitudes to sex were more ambivalent, he could write about his actions with impunity.

Jimmy Savile thought he was untouchable – but times change.

DURING the Sixties pirate radio was broadcasting's equivalent of rock and roll. Acts such as Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones had burst on to the music scene but, other than by buying expensive records, there was little opportunity for teenagers to hear their music.

At the time the BBC was serving up mainly a diet of cookery and gardening tips, political speeches and educational programmes.

Its choice of music was very conservative and focused on classical concerts.

From abroad there was Radio Luxembourg playing pop but the authorities here tried to prevent newspapers from printing its schedules.

Radio Caroline, named after the daughter of John F Kennedy, was the brainchild of Ronan O'Rahilly, an Irishman who had briefly managed the Rolling Stones.

From the moment it launched on Easter Sunday 1964 with a track by the Stones, Caroline was edgy and brash. 

Despite the poor sound quality it gave the nation's teenagers what they craved.

It operated offshore because no British licence had been granted.

Harold Wilson's government worried that it was subversive and within three years there were more than 21 pirate stations around the UK, broadcasting to an audience of up to 15 million.

The days of many of the pirate stations were ended in 1967 by the Marine Offences Act which outlawed unlicensed offshore broadcasting and sparked riots by teenagers in London. 

However Caroline carried on broadcasting, obtaining supplies from the Netherlands and relying on foreign advertisers to sidestep the new law.

The BBC finally responded by launching Radio 1 and the heyday of pirate radio ended.

However, many of the DJs who went on to become household names began their careers on pirate stations, including John Peel, who started at Radio London. 

Kenny Everett, a presenter known for his excessive behaviour, was also a DJ there.

But perhaps because of the “pseudo rock star” status they enjoyed a few among the new breed of DJs thought that they could continue in their wild ways and not be challenged.

Warning, this links is a French Political Party which campaigns, in the most, on Child Protection and the elimination of paedophiles.
To highlight their issues, they do show some images which have now been reported, although not directly on the linked page.

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