To the public, Jimmy Savile was a cultural icon on British TV screens for nearly half a century, an unwavering humanitian for charity, and a former professional wrestler. But behind his public demeanor was a sinister secret. There is no shortage of scandals in professional wrestling and the entertainment world. But Savile’s story may be the worst of them all.
Jimmy Savile: Life Before Wrestling
Jimmy Savile was born in Leeds, England, on October 31st, 1926.
The working-class Savile had a rough upbringing. After surviving childhood pneumonia, a friend, Howard Silverman, described how Jimmy was known as “Mr. Hand-Down.” As the youngest of seven kids during the Great Depression, he received clothes his siblings had outgrown.
Simply put, they had nothing.
In 1939, WWII broke out, and a teenage Jimmy was sent down to work in the mines. In the documentary As It Happened, his nephew recalls a roof falling on Jimmy during a mining accident, requiring him to walk on crutches.
Savile ended up running several nightclubs in the north. Ex-nightclub employee Dennis Lemmon states, “When Jimmy Savile first came to Leeds, no one knew him, and after a month, everybody in Leeds knew him or heard of him.”
Radio Luxembourg picked him up as a prominent voice on their program. As a result, the pirate radio station was vastly popular in Britain and Ireland, rivaling the BBC.
With this fame, Jimmy Savile dove into the world of wrestling.
Entering the Ropes
Jimmy Savile already had an association with some wrestlers, commonly hiring them to serve as bouncers at his nightclub.
One such wrestler and promoter, “Man Mountain” Bill Benny, was the man who got Savile involved when he asked the northern celebrity to referee a match.
Jimmy refused; he wanted to wrestle.
After six weeks of training under Les Kelllett, Savile debuted against British Welterweight champion “Gentleman” Jim Louis.
Savile was keen and game to do anything in the ring and brought some name value, which made him a promotor’s favorite.
But the veterans did not like being made to look foolish by a non-wrestler; they legitimately beat Jimmy for trying to use his fame and status to break into the business.
His toe was broken in his very first match. After one bout, he visited the hospital after his testicles had been kicked up into his body.
Savile claimed he lost all 35 of his first 35 matches. From the late ’50s to the early ’70s, Savile claimed to have had over 100 professional wrestling bouts.
Savile used his time in the ring to cultivate a “tough guy” image. He would put his training to use, even admitting to tying up troublesome clubgoers and forcing them to beg him to stop if they stepped slightly out of line. Unknowingly recorded, he chuckled he had “zero tolerance,” commenting he “never got nicked” (arrested).
Savile, reflecting on his time in the business, conveyed, “If I arrive at the gates of Heaven and Saint Peter says, ‘You’ve been a very tricky man, you can’t come in here.’ I’ll break his thumbs because I’m qualified to do that because I’ve earned a living being a wrestler, and I’ve not had a problem yet with anyone whose thumbs I’ve broken.”
Taken to Town by Adrian Street
Jimmy Savile continued to fight despite regular beatings until entering the ring with Adrian Street.
Best known under his “Exotic” persona, Street was a flamboyant and flashy character, not too far removed from Goldust in the WWE. However, despite Street’s showy moniker, the wrestler beneath the make-up and face paint was a tough-as-nails bruiser who could be vicious when he wanted to.
On the Wrestling Shoot Interviews YouTube channel, Street shared the story of a time he was told by a wrestling promoter that he would face Savile. Street was about to have a large blow-off with rival George Kidd, which he described as the “match of the century.” After being told the match with Savile would end in a draw, Street commented, “You’ve got to be bloody joking.”
Street was also annoyed that the promotor and Savile had double-crossed him about who would be making their entrance first. Furthermore, Savile had deliberately mimicked Street’s character, wearing multiple gowns. Street’s wife Linda later described it as watching “a hungry fox going after a frightened chicken.”
The match between the two was highly lopsided. For multiple rounds, Street bashed the radio presenter around the ring. He describes that he even ended up with clumps of Savile’s hair in his hands, which he had pulled out. In addition, a dropkick was so powerful Savile landed right on his head before applying a near-back-breaking submission.
“Exotic,” Adrian added, “I drew it out as long as I could because I was enjoying myself.”
In a separate interview, Street describes beating Savile “black and blue,” beating him to such a pulp Savile never entered a wrestling ring again.
Jimmy Savile claims to have wrestled 107 matches in his career, 106 of which were sell-outs. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper in 2000, Savile commented, “No wrestler wanted to go back home and say a long-haired disc jockey had put him down. So from start to finish, I got a good hiding. I’ve broken every bone in my body. I loved it.”
Even here, Savile’s activity was more than dubious, with Street saying Savile boasted about the girls lining up for him, to which he would say, “I’ll take you, you, and you. The rest of you, come back another time; you might get lucky.”
In 2013, Street admitted that had he known the full extent of Savile’s abuse, he would have given him “an even bigger hiding – were that physically possible.”
Jimmy Savile: Life After Wrestling
After hanging up his boots and even during it, Jimmy Savile became a growing commodity.
In 1964, he became the first host of the long-standing British musical program Top Of The Pops, even hosting the final episode in 2006. He also had a lengthy tenure hosting on BBC Radio 1.
Savile perhaps became best-known to British audiences through the breakfast children’s show Jim’ll Fix It from the mid-’70s to mid-’90s.
In this show, children would write in their dreams in the hopes presenter Savile could make them true, gifting kids experiences ranging from learning how the blue bits in cheese are made to dancing with cheesy Eurovision winners Buck’s Fizz, earning badges reading: “Jim fixed it for me.”
Savile, throughout his life, was a charitable figure, often seen running marathons as a “prodigious philanthropist,” as the newspaper The Guardian described him.
The total of Savile’s philanthropic efforts is estimated to be around £40 million, a leading factor in his 1971 OBE and subsequent 1990 knighthood, which has not been revoked to this day.
A trusted public figure, Savile even filmed public service announcements, including a car safety advert called Clunk, Click, Every Trip.
It is probably not an over-exaggeration that Savile was one of Britain’s most famous media personalities in his lifetime.
To the public, Savile was an indefatigable Samaritan for charity who had provided nostalgia for millions of Brits. But behind his public demeanor was a sinister secret.
Living a storied and celebrated life, Savile died in 2011, aged 84.
There were allegations of child abuse going back to the early 1960s.
Even during his lifetime, Jimmy Savile was not impervious to scrutiny over his personal life, and more than a few comedians and celebs commented on his creepiness.
In a telling 1978 interview, Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon raged, “I’d like to kill Jimmy Savile; I think he’s a hypocrite. I bet he’s into all kinds of seediness that we all know about but are not allowed to talk about. I know some rumors.”
Furthermore, John added, “I bet none of this will be allowed out.”
Lydon was proven correct; the clip was not aired.
Savile’s comments only exacerbated such suspicions.
On the show Is This Your Life? in 1995, Savile was quizzed by host Andrew Neil on his past relationships, with the knight of the realm dodging many questions while eating a banana to divert attention away from the televised interrogation.
More famous is Savile’s claims in a documentary made by Louis Theroux, When Louis Met Jimmy, such as, “It’s easier for me, as a single man, to say ‘I don’t like children because that puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt.”
Savile even joked on an episode of Jim’ll Fix It in response to a letter asking not to be tickled, “I’m not in the habit of tickling young men, but if you have a sister… who knows?”
Savile even quipped that he was “feared in every girl’s school in this country.”
Exposure of a Predator
Over the years, news sources heard the allegations.
The tabloid paper The Sun planned to print victims’ testimony while a Newsnight documentary exposing the scandal was delayed transmission.
At the BBC, the truth was reportedly an ‘open secret,’ with several reportedly having physically seen or been involved with Savile’s horrific exploits but essentially staying silent.
Almost a year after Savile’s death, an October 2012 documentary aired, exposing the many allegations lobbied in Jimmy’s direction.
The show was titled Exposure: The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile and was hosted by private investigator Mark Williams-Thomas, who was the leading figure in pursuing the story.
Immediately, inquiries and investigations ensued, including the need to use fourteen police forces across the UK.
Moreover, incidents occurred at twenty-eight NHS (National Health Service) hospitals, including the one most associated with Jimmy, Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire.
Savile was effectively allowed free reign of the hospital, where he committed various sexual acts, including accusations of his engaging in necrophilia.
The number of victims was thought to be about 450, thus making him one of the most prolific sex offenders in British history.
The name given to this investigation was Operation Yewtree – which also served to expose other famous figures such as Rolf Harris and Gary Glitter.
Other media estimated the victims could number in the thousands.
How could Jimmy Savile get away with it?
Jimmy Savile was at the top of the totem pole of popularity, with close friends in high places, and was a close ally of prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
In addition, Savile was a close friend of royals, aiding then Prince Charles’s speech-making. The Pope even gave him a Papal knighthood.
This includes an age range from 5-75, with at least twenty-eight children under ten years old, three-quarters of all victims under 18 (with 80% of all victims children or young people), and over 30 rape instances. Again, both boys and girls were earmarked, although 82% of victims were female.
Unfortunately, Savile was never brought to justice.
There was no trial, no prosecution, no prison time – no justice.
The statistics are harrowing.
Jimmy Savile In Retrospect
While Jimmy Savile’s time in the professional wrestling ring was a mere footnote, he knew how to exploit his fame even then.
Few have fallen so dramatically from a beloved and trusted figure in the eyes of a once-adoring public.
These stories may also interest you:
- Deviants: 4 Wrestlers Jailed for Abuse
- Adrian Street: The British Brawler Who Wore Sequins
- Rockin’ Rebel – The Shocking Case of Wrestling’s Unspoken Murder
- Sam Sheppard – How a Murder Inspired a Wrestling Career
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