WHEN LOUIS MET JIMMY. (2000) A TV SPECIAL DIRECTED BY WILL YAPP. WRITTEN BY LOUIS THEROUX. FEATURING LOUIS THEROUX AND JIMMY SAVILE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Louis Theroux spends a week with the eccentric broadcaster and charity fundraiser Sir Jimmy Savile and attempts to get behind the public persona.’
I recently watched and reviewed LOUIS THEROUX: SAVILE. As it referenced WHEN LOUIS MET JIMMY several times, and as the later film was a kind of reaction by the documentary-maker Theroux to the flood of accusations of sexual abuse that emerged after Savile’s death in 2011, I decided that I needed to watch the 2000 film also. Now, they seem to fit together perfectly as a sort of Louis Theroux’s before-and-after take on the Jimmy Savile story, so watch them together if you can.
As the blurb says, the talented young film-maker Louis Theroux spends a week in Savile’s company as the now-disgraced TV star Jimmy Savile supposedly goes about his everyday business.
This includes going to the launch of a charity cruise aboard the ship CARONIA, going to a restaurant where everybody knows Savile and visiting Savile’s holiday home in the Scottish Highlands, where the former DJ accidentally breaks an ankle during a spot of mountaineering.
More interesting than the changing locations- though the Scottish Highlands are gorgeous- is the dynamic between the young film-maker and the crabbed old TV star who was well on his way to being all washed-up in the year 2000. I wonder if he was aware of this, or if he actually still thought he was da bomb.
We were right on the cusp of the reality TV/Big Brother/Pop Idols and X Factor/social media era back then, and the kids only wanted to see young, attractive-looking people on their screens, people like Cheryl Cole, Davina McCall, Rihanna, Beyonce, Shayne Ward and Nicole Sherzinger, not a withered old has-been with an abrasive manner and a mother fixation to rival Norman Bates’s.
(Did Louis look remotely comfortable about sleeping alone in ‘the Duchess’s’ neatly preserved bed? Did ‘e ‘eck as like, as Vera Duckworth might have said. (The actress Liz Dawn is seen briefly attending the launch of the charity cruise.) I wouldn’t sleep in it myself, that’s for sure. Not that I’m ever likely to be invited.)
What’s extraordinary about this film is the horrible manner Savile displays towards Louis and his questions. Jimmy was using his patter to deflect my questions, the broadcaster says at one point, and he’s right.
Savile is always ‘on,’ always talking shite at top speed, always bullshitting, always cracking bad jokes, showing off or dispensing useless pieces of ‘homespun wisdom’ on how Louis might ‘improve’ his interview technique.
There’s nothing wrong with Louis Theroux’s interview technique. It’s Savile’s inherent inability to answer a straight question with a straight answer that’s the problem here. He’s impossible to pin down.
He bites Louis’ head off for questioning a cache of booze he finds in the supposed teetotaller’s flat. He constantly evades the question of romance by saying that women give him ‘brain damage,’ and that’s why he never married or had a steady girlfriend, allegedly.
When he hurts his foot in the Scottish Highlands, he phones the local papers to film him having his plaster put on in the local hospital. What a narcissist. Louis points out that, when a normal person has an accident, they phone for friends or family to come. Jimmy Savile phones the media.
Obviously, he was desperate to keep his face and name in the papers. Maybe he was aware after all that his star, luminescent for so many years in the world of TV and radio, not to mention his charity fundraising, was finally beginning to lose its glow.
I can get anything, me, Savile tells Louis mysteriously at one point, when Louis wonders aloud how his ex-directory address and phone number have ended up in Savile’s address book. It’s because I didn’t know who you were, so it’s just in case I had to send any Sicilian gentlemen around to have a little chat with you, Savile adds, or words to that general effect.
Savile is caught unawares at one point, telling the cameraman after Louis has gone to bed all about how he used to treat messers at his clubs, back when he used to run nightclubs in Leeds in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
There’s talk of tying guys up in the club basements till the club was shut, and, even though Savile doesn’t mention giving them a few digs before sending them on their way, I personally feel like it might be implied.
When Louis later quizzes him about this, Savile backtracks and says it was all ‘only a figure of speech,’ like when you say to someone, I’ll kill you for doing that! Figure of speech my ass.
I invented zero tolerance, me, boasts the white-haired former celebrity at one point. Sadly, his victims were usually too young and vulnerable to implement the ‘zero tolerance’ policy against Savile himself, who would have needed it applied against him more than most.
Theroux manages to squeeze in a couple of questions about the all-important paedophilia issue. Is he or is he not a paedophile? He might be or he might not be, how would anyone ever know, Savile says in reply. He knows he’s not, and that’s all that counts.
But he tells the press that he ‘hates children,’ he confides next, and that’s how you put the more ‘salacious’ members of the press ‘off the scent,’ you see. Well, that doesn’t sound dodgy at all, does it, folks? Then Savile yawns a huge fake yawn as if to say, subject closed…
Here are some words I’d use to describe Savile’s personality after watching this film. Prickly. Hostile. Aggressive. Passive-aggressive. Arrogant. Secretive. Evasive. Entitled. Privileged. An abuser of his power. A nasty piece of work. Defensive. Obnoxious. Volatile. Odious. Creepy. Someone who could turn nasty in a flash. Show-off. Show-boater. Grand-stander. Menacing. Threatening. A boaster. A bully. Always ‘on.’ Over-confident. Considers himself ‘untouchable.’ They’re not nice words, are they?
If even a grown man like Louis Theroux could feel a bit on edge around this man, and sense the aura of power and privilege that still emanates from him, and Louis is a big powerful-looking bloke, then how rail-roaded into having sexual relations with Savile must those innocent youngsters he abused have felt? It hardly bears thinking about.
I have only one further observation. Watching this documentary made me feel uncomfortable, not only because of what we now know about Savile, but also because the two men don’t really seem to be the friends they claim they were after this film was made.
Louis himself admits he found Savile ‘irritating,’ which I can fully understand, and Savile seems to completely resent the intrusion into his private life, even though he gave his consent for the film to be made. Try to watch this fascinating documentary if you can. If you’re a psychologist, even just an armchair one, or an interpreter of body language, you’ll have a bloody field day.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: