Some years ago (ten or more) a friend told me that Rolf Harris attempted some kind of (unspecified, public) sexual or at any rate sexualised act on her when she was (I think) around 10. It was not, for her, a dark moment or at least she did not present it as such. She certainly had a strong measure of contempt for Rolf.
When people tell me stories like that I believe them, in the main, certainly I believed this one without any reservation, but in this instance I had to develop a bit of a doublethink mentality (you know: 'he did that. But maybe there were extenuating circumstances - I wasn't there, what would I know?' which, in hindsight, was actually a pretty cowardly reaction, not that I could do anything about the story one way or another). But Rolf was an important part of my childhood. Not only did I enjoy his television programs in my very young years (particularly when it came to the exploits and hijinks of Coogee Bear) but I also found his records most amusing. In fact his Jake the Peg EP pictured above and left was the first record I ever bought, or at least, had bought for me. I recall going to Allans music in Collins Street with my mother and (I think) my aunt and listening to it in one of the booths. (To the right and up a bit is an unhelpful image from the SLV of the exterior of Allans Music in Collins Street in 1965, the same shop a few years before I went there, gives you no sense at all of what it was like inside). I enjoyed this record but the notion of Jake and his peg did always disturb me a bit, less because I thought it was sexualised at all, did anyone think that? Well, I suppose you did have to wonder if three legs meant excessive genitalia. But more because I didn't understand what it was meant to mean, if it was meant to mean anything. As well as this, the accent Rolf sang in for this song was just so bizarre. But maybe I'm digressing, yes, I think I probably am.
Unlike the good bloggers I'm not one for hard journalism unless you want to count the hot story of the dumped car in Moonee Ponds Creek earlier in the year, and I don't have too many op eds in me at the moment. The Jimmy Savile story is bizarre (Savile freaked me out as a child, thank god I never met him). The Hey Dad Robert Hughes story is sick (I may have mentioned here before about how I had a journalistic assignment to the Hey Dad set in probably 1989 or so, and it did have a weird vibe, but I wouldn't have considered that for a second). The Rolf story seems much sadder, but maybe it's just because of the personal connection I felt to him.
When you think about it, it's perhaps not surprising that - as per the stereotype priests and scoutmasters - there are incidences of pedophilia in the children's entertainment industry. If that's your predilection, you'd be drawn to a job where you had access. But maybe that's not even the point, and perhaps the point really is how much celebrities can get away with because of their celebrity... no, actually, perhaps the point is to be amazed at what they want to get away with.
I suppose most children have some kind of weird sexualised experience with men (why do I suppose that?).* They probably fall into two categories - where the kids knew what was happening, and where they didn't really, or only later on reflection (sometimes I fear that really I only ever know what is really happening later 'on reflection'). Actually, perhaps the thing that disturbs me the most is that there often seems to me to be an undercurrent, which fits with that common observation these days that men are so often regarded as predatory and never to be trusted around children, that it's not even weird that a man would want to molest a child, and most men would if they thought they could get away with it.
But then again, I'm not here to defend men, I've never liked them much as a cohort. I suppose the weirdest thing about these kinds of cases mentioned above is that there is a strong desire, at least I feel a strong desire and I think a lot of media people do too, to rationalise this away as an explicable phenomenon, rather than a particular outrage. I don't know. I have the white man's ailment of thinking I have the right to pronounce on everything. But to add to the ambience of writing about something so dirty and sleazy I will say I am in my workplace at the moment and curiously there has been an outbreak of fruit fly throughout the building (in midwinter no less). In fact, we had to evacuate last Friday because someone sprayed some insecticide inside and set off the fire alarm. I feel like a rotten banana.
*I think I had some narrow escapes; one really weird memory was being about 8 or 9 years old and in bed (asleep maybe?) when a man came into the room - not, I hasten to say, a celebrity or at least not one I recognised - who engaged me in a very strange story about his telephone collection and how boys liked to come and see it and maybe I would like to see that collection. I had never had a strong interest in telephones but I was polite about it, and then one of my parents came in and all but said what is going on here. This was one of the more benign experiences as a pre-teen in a range of odd encounters with men. Ugh.