Speak-not-so-Easy. Or how Jimmy Saville almost went Gay

01-197205XX 2We knew the programme was going to be about homosexuals again, but, like everyone else except Michael Butler of the Samaritans, who was, it seems, doing the inviting, we didn’t know when or where. I rang Rev. Roy Trevivian’s secretary, who made apologetic noises about the smallness of the room, and the ‘specially invited audience’, so I politely solicited such an invitation for four of us from the paper. She promised to check with the producer himself to are if there was room, and to phone us back the following day. Neither she nor anyone else at the B.B.C. had the courtesy to bother. The day after that I phoned again, only to get the same blurb from the same girl, but this time she added that they’d made up their audience list yesterday and we’d been left out as we weren’t really suitable, and she was terribly sorry. At no time was Roy Trevivian available in person, so we were told. They had come across us “in our researches”. So much for Gay News.

The next stage in the saga took place whilst we were having a collective meeting, and it came to light that one of the C.H.E. members of the collective had been invited to be part of that audience. He had first been telephoned and asked to keep Thursday evening free for “something rather secret”. Later that same week he had been phoned again and told it was another edition of Speakeasy on Homosexuality. Someone else had told him where and when it was to be recorded, but he was “officially” told, by phone, whilst we were sitting in our meeting on the very day it was to be recorded! It was becoming clear that only nice, safe, respectable homosexuals who would conform to the B.B.C.’s idea of the programme and of Gayness were going to get in. As to who decided the criteria for this we weren’t, and still aren’t, quite sure, but since the invitations we knew of had come from Rev. Michael Butler and all his angels, and since it also seemed that both he and the B.B.C. had assumed Gay News was a synonym for Gay Lib., he was the obvious man to contact.

The reasons for all the secrecy and exclusion about a programme supposedly concerned with free speech and letting the unedited words of ‘ordinary people’ out over the air waves was then made clear. I was told that every effort was being made to exclude GLF because the B.B.C. did not want them there, and had threatened to scrap the show if they did get on. I was told that GLF had “ruined” the last edition of Speakeasy on this subject, (all this meant was that one GLF member actually took 5 minutes to finish what he was saying, which the producer didn’t like anyway) forcing the B.B.C. to re-record part of the programme in order to cut out what they had said (!) and that in any case another organisation would be “represented in a roundabout way”. When asked if I was in GLF I replied that I was, but that I wished to be present on the programme as Gay News. The reply was to the effect that what was really wanted was people as people, not as organisations, (though on the programme itself it was clear that everyone there was from some organisation, and, like me, determined to plug it. That’s all very well. but without GLF or Gay News it would have been a depressingly one-sided picture). But Michael Butler did at last relent, bless his heart, and said it was O.K., I could come along, he was sorry to be so cagey about it, and I could bring one other person if I could “guarantee them”, whatever that meant. So the three of us who went from Gay News were placed in the unfortunate position of trying to make the distinction between GLF and Gay News clear, whilst all being members of both. Though GLF did come to know of when and when it was, no-one could be bothered to come although several apparently promised to, largely because no-one at the B.B.C. bothered to correct their impression that it was being recorded, as it usually is, on Friday, when it was,i n fact, done on Thursday.

So, who an we to believe in this welter of secrecy and intrigue from the public broadcasting body and its ‘friends’? Roy Trevivian, along with his secretary, his researcher, and Jimmy Saville, who all, when asked, spread their thin little story about limited space (and why not in the Paris Studio on Friday? Oh, because Jimmy’s going away on Friday. So why not do it another week?) and invited audience amongst whom there was ample space for twenty more at least; or are we to believe the man they seem to have put in charge of the inviting? The whole setup was an open invitation to GLF to disrupt, and they would have been more than justified in doing so. And who told them Gay News was GLF? Why didn’t they bother to do their research properly? Who else did they miss out, and why?

It seemed very ironic to be asked in the course of the programme if we felt that gay people got a fair deal from the media. The point is that we very largely get no deal whatsoever, unless it is either patronising, derogatory, or just plain ignorant, and this bunch, apart from taking comfort from the unctuous phrases of the Albany Trust and the Samaritans, went all three. Their hypocrisy as regards their public image of the programme is self evident. Like most other broadcasts, the people they invite are not there to show how they feel to the general public, and thus present the truth, but to conform to what the producer wants them to look and sound like so as to enhance what he is going to say. Why else is almost everything on radio or television pre-recorded – to render it safe. So why do they wish to exclude the most open and vocal sections of the gay community from the media, when they open to the gay community at all? Because they are not going to be manipulated, as gay people always are, to suit somebody else’s concept of us, and thus be party to even the most liberal and well-meaning lie, such as Speakeasy is.

Doug Pollard

Doug Pollard

Writer at The Stirrer
Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UK's pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972), and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.
Doug Pollard

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Author: Doug Pollard

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UK’s pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972), and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years.

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