|Sir Jimmy Savile
Savile in 2006
|Born||James Wilson Vincent Savile
31 October 1926
Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, UK
|Died||29 October 2011
Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, UK
|Occupation||Disc jockey, television and radio personality, dance hall manager|
|Television||Top of the Pops, Jim'll Fix It|
Sir James Wilson Vincent Savile OBE KCSG (31 October 1926 – 29 October 2011), known professionally as Jimmy Savile, was an English DJ, television presenter, media personality and charity fundraiser. He hosted the BBC television show Jim'll Fix It, was the first and last presenter of the long-running BBC music chart show Top of the Pops, and raised an estimated £40 million for charities. After his death, hundreds of allegations of child sex abuse and rape became public, leading the police to believe that Savile was a predatory sex offender, and may have been one of Britain's most prolific sexual offenders.
Savile was conscripted to work in the coal mines as a Bevin Boy during the Second World War. He began a career playing records in, and later managing, dance halls. His media career started as a disc jockey at Radio Luxembourg in 1958 and on Tyne Tees Television in 1960, and he developed a reputation for eccentricity and his flamboyant character. At the BBC, he presented the first edition of Top of the Pops in 1964 and broadcast on BBC Radio 1 from 1968. Between 1975 and 1994 he presented Jim'll Fix It, a popular television programme in which he arranged for the wishes of viewers, mainly children, to come true. During his lifetime, he was noted for fundraising and supporting charities and hospitals, in particular Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire. He was described in The Guardian as a "prodigious philanthropist" and was honoured for his charity work. He was awarded the OBE in 1971 and was knighted in 1990.
In October 2012, almost a year after his death, an ITV documentary examining claims of sexual abuse against Savile led to broad media coverage and a substantial and rapidly growing body of witness statements and sexual abuse claims, including accusations against public bodies for covering up or failure of duty. Scotland Yard launched a criminal investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by Savile over six decades, describing him as a "predatory sex offender", and later stated that they were pursuing over 400 lines of inquiry based on the testimony of 300 potential victims via fourteen police forces across the UK. By late October 2012, the scandal had resulted in inquiries or reviews at the BBC, within the National Health Service, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the Department of Health. A joint report by the NSPCC and Metropolitan Police, "Giving Victims a Voice", stated that 450 people had made complaints against Savile, with the period of alleged abuse stretching from 1955 to 2009 and the ages of the complainants at the time of the assaults ranging from 8 to 47. The suspected victims included 28 children aged under 10, including 10 boys aged as young as 8. A further 63 were girls aged between 13 and 16 and nearly three-quarters of his victims were under 18. Some 214 criminal offences were recorded, with 34 rapes having been reported across 28 police forces.
Savile, born in Leeds, was the youngest of seven children (his elder siblings were Mary, Marjory, Vincent, John, Joan, and Christina) in a Roman Catholic family. His parents were Vincent Joseph Marie Savile (died 1953), a bookmaker's clerk and insurance agent, and his wife, Agnes Monica Savile (née Kelly; died 1973). Savile believed he owed his life to the intercession of the Venerable Margaret Sinclair, a Scottish nun, after he recovered quickly from illness, possibly pneumonia, at the age of two when his mother prayed at Leeds Cathedral after picking up a pamphlet about Sinclair. During the Second World War he was conscripted to work as a Bevin Boy at South Kirkby Colliery in West Yorkshire, where he suffered serious spinal injuries in an explosion and spent a long period recuperating.
Savile started playing records in dance halls in the early 1940s, and claimed to be the first ever DJ. According to his autobiography, he was the first to use two turntables and a microphone at the Grand Records Ball at the Guardbridge Hotel in 1947. It was billed as 'Jimmy Savile introducing Juke Box Doubles'. Savile is acknowledged as a pioneer of using twin turntables for continuous music playing, although his claim to have been the first is disputed (twin turntables were illustrated in the BBC Handbook in 1929 and advertised for sale in Gramophone magazine in 1931).
If you look at the athletics of it, I've done over 300 professional bike races, 212 marathons and 107 pro fights. [He proudly announces that he lost all of his first 35 fights.] 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.
Savile lived in Salford from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, the later period with Ray Teret, who became his support DJ, assistant and chauffeur. During this period, Savile referred to Teret as his son, while Teret referred to Savile as Dad. Savile managed the Plaza Ballroom on Oxford Road, Manchester, in the mid-1950s. When he lived in Great Clowes Street in Higher Broughton, Salford, he was often seen sitting on his front door steps. He managed the Mecca Locarno ballroom in Leeds in the late 1950s and early 1960s as well as the Mecca-owned Palais dance hall in Ilford, Essex, between 1955 and 1956. His Monday evening records-only dance sessions (admission one shilling) were popular with local teens.
Savile's radio career began as a DJ at Radio Luxembourg from 1958 to 1967. He ran the Teen and Twenty Disc Club (TTDC), membership for life, on Radio Luxembourg. For a small fee listeners received a certificate and bracelet with a disc inscribed with the show's name. On the BBC television series Inside Out, he said the title Teen and Twenty Disc Club had been rejected as too long in favour of Top of the Pops.
In 1968 he joined BBC Radio 1, where he presented Savile's Travels, a weekly programme broadcast on Sundays in which he travelled around the UK talking to members of the public. From 1969 to 1973 he fronted Speakeasy, a discussion programme for teenagers. On Radio 1 he presented the Sunday lunchtime show Jimmy Savile's Old Record Club, playing top tens from years gone by. It was the first show to feature old charts and Savile used a "points system" in an imaginary quiz with the audience to guess the names of the song and artist. It began in 1973 as The Double Top Ten Show, and ended in 1987 as The Triple Top Ten Show when he left Radio 1 after 19 years. He presented The Vintage Chart Show, playing top tens from 1957 to 1987, on the BBC World Service from March 1987 until October 1989.
From March 1989 to August 1997 he broadcast on various stations around the UK (mostly taking the Gold format, such as the West Midlands' Xtra AM and the Classic Gold network in Yorkshire) where he revived his Radio 1 shows. In 1994, satirist Chris Morris gave a fake obituary on BBC Radio 1 (as a joke), saying that Savile had collapsed and died, which allegedly drew threats of legal action from Savile and forced an apology from Morris. On 25 December 2005, and 1 January 2007, he presented shows on the Real Radio network. The Christmas 2005 show counted down the festive Top 10s of 10, 20 and 30 years previously, while the New Year 2007 show (also taken by Century Radio following its acquisition by GMG) featured Savile recounting anecdotes from his past and playing associated records, mostly from the 1960s and some from the 1970s.
Savile's first television role was as a presenter of Tyne Tees Television's music programme Young at Heart, which aired from May 1960. Although the show was broadcast in black and white, Savile dyed his hair a different colour every week.
On New Year's Day 1964 he presented the first edition of the BBC music chart television programme Top of the Pops from a television studio in a converted church in Dickenson Road, Rusholme, Manchester. On 30 July 2006, he co-hosted the final weekly edition, ending it with the words "It's number one, it's still Top of the Pops", before turning off the studio lights after the closing credits. When interviewed by the BBC on 20 November 2008 and asked about the revival of Top of the Pops for a Christmas comeback, he said he would welcome a "cameo role" in the programme.
In the early 1960s, Savile co-hosted (with Pete Murray) the televised New Musical Express Poll Winners' Concert, held annually at the Empire Pool in Wembley, with acts such as The Beatles, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Joe Brown and the Bruvvers, The Who, and many others. On 31 December 1969, he hosted the BBC/ZDF co-production Pop Go the Sixties, shown across Western Europe, celebrating the hits of the decade.
Savile presented a series of Public Information Films promoting road safety, notably "Clunk Click Every Trip", which promoted the use of seatbelts, the clunk representing the sound of the door and the click the sound of the seatbelt fastening. It led to Savile's Saturday-night chat/variety show from 1973 on BBC1 entitled Clunk, Click, which in 1974 featured the UK heats of the Eurovision Song Contest featuring Olivia Newton-John. After two series, Clunk, Click was replaced by Jim'll Fix It, which he presented from 1975 to 1994. Savile won an award from morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse's National Viewers' and Listeners' Association in 1977 for his "wholesome family entertainment". He fronted a long-running series of advertisements in the early 1980s for British Rail's InterCity 125, in which he declared "This is the age of the train". Savile was twice the subject of the Thames Television series This Is Your Life - in January 1970 with Eamonn Andrews and again in December 1990 with Michael Aspel.
In an interview by Dr Anthony Clare for the radio series In the Psychiatrist's Chair in 1991, Savile appeared to be "a man without feelings". Andrew Neil interviewed him for the TV series Is This Your Life? in 1995 (this can be seen here). In 1999 he appeared as a panellist in Have I Got News for You.
In April 2000, he was the subject of an in-depth documentary by Louis Theroux, in the When Louis Met... series, in which Theroux accompanied British celebrities going about their day-to-day business and interviewed them about their lives and experiences. In the documentary, Savile confided "that he used to beat people up and lock them in a basement during his career as a nightclub manager". When Louis Met...Jimmy was voted one of the top 50 documentaries of all time in a survey by Britain's Channel 4.
Savile visited the Celebrity Big Brother house on 14 and 15 January 2006 and "fixed it" for some housemates to have their wishes granted; Pete Burns received a message from his significant other and friend while Dennis Rodman traded Savile's offering for a supply of cigarettes for the other housemates. In 2007, Savile returned to television with Jim'll Fix It Strikes Again showing some of the most popular 'fixits', recreating them with the same people, and making new dreams come true.
Fundraising, sponsorship and voluntary work
Savile is estimated to have raised £40 million for charity. One cause for which he raised money was Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where he volunteered for many years as a porter. He raised money for the Spinal Unit, NSIC (National Spinal Injuries Centre), and St Francis Ward – a ward for children and teens with spinal cord injuries. Savile also volunteered at Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor Hospital. In August 1988, he was appointed by junior health minister Edwina Currie chair of an interim task force overseeing the management of Broadmoor Hospital, after its board members had been suspended. Savile had his own room at both Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor. In 1989, Savile started legal proceedings against News Group Newspapers after the News of the World published an article, in January 1988, suggesting he had been in a position to secure the release of patients from the Broadmoor Hospital who were considered "dangerous". Savile won on 11 July 1989; News Group paid his legal costs, and he received an apology from editors Kelvin MacKenzie and Patsy Chapman. In 2012, it was reported that Savile had sexually abused vulnerable patients at the hospitals. It was reported that the civil servant[who?] who proposed Savile's appointment at Broadmoor was investigated by police and prevented from working with children.
From 1974 to 1988, Savile was the honorary president of Phab (Physically Handicapped in the Able Bodied community). He sponsored medical students performing undergraduate research in the Leeds University Research Enterprise scholarship scheme, donating more than £60,000 every year. In 2010, the scheme was given a commitment of £500,000 over the following five years. Following Savile's death in October 2011, it was confirmed that a bequest had been made to allow continued support for the programme.
Savile was well known for running marathons (many for Phab, including its annual half marathon around Hyde Park, London). He also cycled from Land's End to John o'Groats in 10 days for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and ran in the Scottish People's Marathon. It was reported that he completed the London Marathon at the age of 79; rumours that he was driven round in a lead vehicle as an "observer", were denied by marathon officials.
Savile set up two charities, the Jimmy Savile Stoke Mandeville Hospital Trust in 1981, and the Leeds-based Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust in 1984. During the sexual abuse scandal in October 2012 the charities announced that they would distribute their funds, of £1.7m and £3.7m respectively, among other charities and then close down. He also raised money for several Jewish charities.
Public image and friendships
During his lifetime and at the time of his death, Savile was regarded as "an eccentric adornment to British public life.... an ubiquitous and distinctive face on television", who "relished being in the public eye" and was "a shrewd promoter of his own image". He was famous for his "bizarre yodel", and catchphrases which included "how's about that, then?", "now then, now then, now then", "goodness gracious", "as it 'appens" and "guys and gals". Savile was frequently spoofed for his distinctive appearance, which usually featured a track suit or shell suit and gold jewellery. A range of licensed fancy dress costumes was released with his consent in 2009.
Savile smoked very expensive Cuban cigars. He was a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and drove a Rolls-Royce. He was a member of Mensa. He was made a life member of the British Gypsy Council in 1975, becoming the first "outsider" to be made a member. He was chieftain of the Lochaber Highland Games for many years, and owned a house in Glen Coe. His appearance on the final edition of Top of the Pops in 2006 was pre-recorded as it clashed with the games.
Through his support of charities, Savile became a friend of Margaret Thatcher, who in 1981, described his work as "marvellous". He reportedly spent eleven consecutive New Year's Eves at Chequers with Thatcher and her family. Letters released in December 2012 by the National Archives under the thirty year rule confirm the close friendship between Savile and Thatcher. Some of the correspondence was heavily redacted before publication, using exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act.
In 1984, he was accepted as a member of the Athenaeum, a gentlemen's club in London's Pall Mall, after being proposed by Cardinal Basil Hume. He met Prince Charles through mutual charity interests, and Charles reportedly sent him gifts on his 80th birthday and a note reading: "Nobody will ever know what you have done for this country, Jimmy. This is to go some way in thanking you for that."
A lifelong bachelor, Savile lived with his mother (whom he referred to as "The Duchess") and kept her bedroom and wardrobe exactly as it was when she died. Every year he had her clothes dry cleaned. Savile's personal relationships were rarely the subject of media report or comment in his lifetime. In his autobiography he claimed he had had many sexual relations with women, and that "there have been trains and, with apologies to the hit parade, boats and planes (I am a member of the 40,000 ft club) and bushes and fields, corridors, doorways, floors, chairs, slag heaps, desks and probably everything except the celebrated chandelier and ironing board."
Health and death
On 9 August 1997, Savile underwent a three-hour quadruple heart-bypass operation at Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds, having known he needed the surgery for at least four years after attending regular check-ups. He arranged for a bench in Scarborough, North Yorkshire to be dedicated to his memory, with a plaque saying 'Jimmy Savile – but not just yet!'
His closed satin gold coffin was displayed at the Queens Hotel in Leeds, with the last cigar he smoked and his two This Is Your Life books. Around 4,000 people visited to pay tribute. His funeral took place at Leeds Cathedral on 9 November 2011, and he was buried at Woodlands Cemetery in Scarborough. As specified in his will, his coffin was inclined at 45 degrees to fulfil his wish to "see the sea". The coffin was encased in concrete "as a security measure".
An auction of Savile's possessions was conducted at the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds on 30 July 2012, with the proceeds going to charity. His silver Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible was sold for £130,000 to an internet bidder. The vehicle's number plate, JS 247, featured the original medium wave wavelength used by BBC Radio 1 (247 metres).
Allegations of sexual abuse
During his lifetime
During Savile's lifetime, sporadic allegations of child abuse were made against him dating back to 1964, but only became widely publicised after his death. Savile claimed the key to his success on Jim'll Fix It had been that he disliked children, although he later admitted to saying this to deflect scrutiny of his personal life. He did not own a computer as he did not want anybody to think he was downloading child pornography.
In a 1990 interview for The Independent on Sunday, Lynn Barber asked him about rumours that he liked "little girls". Savile's reply was that, as he worked in the pop music business, "...the young girls in question don't gather round me because of me – it's because I know the people they love, the stars... I am of no interest to them." In April 2000, in a documentary by Louis Theroux, When Louis Met... Jimmy, Savile acknowledged "salacious tabloid people" had raised rumours about whether he was a paedophile, and said, "I know I'm not."
In 2007, Savile was interviewed under caution by police investigating an allegation of indecent assault in the 1970s at the now-closed Duncroft Approved School for Girls near Staines, Surrey, where he was a regular visitor. The Crown Prosecution Service advised there was insufficient evidence to take any further action and no charges were brought. In March 2008, Savile started legal proceedings against The Sun newspaper, which had linked him in several articles to child abuse at the Jersey children's home Haut de la Garenne. He denied visiting Haut de la Garenne, but later admitted he had done so following the publication of a photograph showing him at the home surrounded by children. The States of Jersey Police said that in 2008 an allegation of an indecent assault by Savile at the home in the 1970s had been investigated, but there had been insufficient evidence to proceed. In 2009, Savile publicly defended convicted pop star Gary Glitter, saying, "he just watched a few 'dodgy films' and was only vilified because he was a celebrity... It were for his own gratification. Whether it was right or wrong is up to him as a person. But they didn't do anything wrong."
In 2012, Sir Roger Jones, former BBC governor for Wales and chairman of BBC charity Children in Need, disclosed that more than a decade before Savile's death he had banned Savile from involvement in the charity, because he felt Savile's behaviour was "strange" and "suspicious", and had heard unsubstantiated rumours about his activities. Former Royal Family press secretary Dickie Arbiter said Savile's behaviour had raised "concern and suspicion" when Savile acted as an informal marriage counsellor between Prince Charles and Princess Diana in the late 1980s, although no reports had been made.
After his death
On 28 September 2012, almost a year after his death, ITV said it would broadcast a documentary, Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, with claims by up to 10 women, including one aged under 14 at the time, that they had been sexually molested or raped by Savile during the 1960s and 1970s. The announcement attracted national attention, and more reports and claims of abuse against him accumulated. The documentary was broadcast on 3 October 2012. The next day, the Metropolitan Police said the Child Abuse Investigation Command would assess the allegations.
By 19 October 2012, police were pursuing 400 lines of inquiry based on testimony from 200 witnesses via 14 police forces across the UK. They described the alleged abuse as "on an unprecedented scale", and the number of potential victims as "staggering". Investigations, codenamed Operation Yewtree, were opened to identify criminal conduct related to Savile's activities by the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service into why a prosecution had been dropped as unlikely to succeed in 2009. By 25 October, police reported the number of possible victims was approaching 300.
On 12 November 2012, the Metropolitan Police announced the scale of sexual allegations reported against Savile was "unprecedented" in Britain: a total of 450 alleged victims had contacted the police in the ten weeks since the investigation was launched. Officers have recorded 199 crimes in 17 police force areas in which Savile was a suspect, among them 31 allegations of rape in seven force areas. Analysis of the report showed 82% of those who came forward to report abuse were female and 80% were children or young people at the time of the incidents.
The developing scandal led to inquiries into practices at the BBC and the National Health Service. It was alleged that rumours of Savile's activities had circulated at the BBC in the 1960s and 1970s, but no action had been taken. Savile was trusted with keys and unsupervised access to patients including the mentally and physically disabled at some hospitals. The Director-General of the BBC, George Entwistle, apologised for what had happened, and on 16 October 2012 appointed former High Court judge Dame Janet Smith to review the culture and practices of the BBC during the time Savile worked there, and Nick Pollard, a former Sky News executive, was appointed to look at why the Newsnight investigation into Savile's activities was dropped shortly before transmission in December 2011.
On 22 October 2012, the BBC programme Panorama broadcast an investigation into Newsnight and found evidence suggesting "senior manager" pressure; on the same day Newsnight editor Peter Rippon "stepped down" with immediate effect. The Department of Health appointed former barrister Kate Lampard to chair and oversee its investigations into Savile's activities at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Leeds General Infirmary, Broadmoor Hospital and other hospitals and facilities in England.
Exposure Update: The Jimmy Savile Investigation, was shown on ITV on 21 November 2012.
Within a month of the child abuse scandal breaking, many places and organisations named after or connected to Savile were renamed or had his name removed. A memorial plaque on the wall of Savile's former home in Scarborough was removed in early October 2012 after it was defaced with graffiti. A wooden statue of Savile at Scotstoun Leisure Centre in Glasgow was also removed around the same time. A sign on a footpath in Scarborough bearing Savile's surname was removed. Savile's Hall, the conference centre at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, was renamed New Dock Hall. Two registered charities founded in his name to fight "poverty and sickness and other charitable purposes" announced they were too closely tied to his name to be sustainable and would close and distribute their funds to other charities, so as to avoid harm to beneficiaries from future media attention. On 28 October it was reported that Savile's cottage in Glen Coe had been vandalised with spray-paint and the door damaged. The cottage was marketed for sale in May 2013.
On 9 October 2012, relatives said the headstone of Savile's grave would be removed, destroyed and sent to landfill. The Savile family expressed their sorrow for the "anguish" of the victims and "respect [for] public opinion".
Savile's estate, believed to be worth about £4 million, was frozen by its executors, the NatWest bank, in view of the possibility that those alleging that they had been assaulted by Savile could make claims for damages.
An authorised biography, How's About That Then?, by Alison Bellamy, was published in June 2012. After the claims made against him were published, the author said that, in the light of the allegations, she felt "let down and betrayed" by Savile.
Honours and awards
- In the 1972 New Year Honours, Savile was appointed Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), which he appended to his signature.
- In the 1990 Queen's Birthday Honours he was made a Knight Bachelor "for charitable services". Following the allegations of sexual abuse, British Prime Minister David Cameron indicated in October 2012 that it would be possible for Savile's honours to be rescinded by the Honours Forfeiture Committee.
- Savile was honoured with a Papal knighthood by being made a Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Gregory the Great (KCSG) by Pope John Paul II in 1990. After the scandal broke, the Catholic Church in England and Wales asked the Holy See to consider stripping Savile of the honour. In October 2012, Father Federico Lombardi told BBC News:
[The Holy See] firmly condemns the horrible crimes of sexual abuse of minors, [and the honour] in the light of recent information should certainly not have been bestowed ... As there does not exist any permanent official list of persons who have received papal honours in the past, it is not possible to strike anyone off a list that does not exist. The names of recipients of papal honours do not appear in the Pontifical Year Book and the honour expires with the death of the individual.
- He held an honorary doctorate of law (LLD) from the University of Leeds.
- He was an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists (FRCR).
- He had the Cross of Merit of the Order pro merito Melitensi.
- In the 1970s he was awarded an honorary green beret by the Royal Marines for completing the Royal Marine Commando speed march, 30 miles (48 km) across Dartmoor carrying 30 pounds (14 kg) of kit. Following the allegations of child abuse, the Royal Marines have "erased" the award.
- Madame Tussauds London unveiled a waxwork likeness of him in 1986. It was retired in the 1990s, and melted down in October 2012.
- He had been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Bedfordshire in 2009, which was posthumously rescinded in October 2012.
- He was a Freeman of the Borough of Scarborough. This honour was removed in November 2012.
Books, recordings and other works
- Savile, Jimmy. As it happens, ISBN 0-214-20056-6, Barrie & Jenkins 1974 (autobiography)
- Savile, Jimmy. Love is an Uphill Thing, ISBN 0-340-19925-3, Coronet 1976 (softback edition of As it Happens)
- Savile, Jimmy. God'll Fix It, ISBN 0-264-66457-4, Mowbray, Oxford 1979
- Savile, Jimmy (1979). God'll Fix it. Mowbray. ISBN 978-0264664576.
- depicted as such on images of his former gravestone
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- "Savile BBC scandal shocks UK". NBC Nightly News. 25 October 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2012. "Police believe former TV star Jimmy Savile, a national icon, may have been one of Britain's worst pedophile offenders. Some of Savile's alleged 300 victims had appeared on his TV shows."
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Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer is to review decisions ... not to prosecute Jimmy Savile in 2009... because the alleged victims' unwillingness to support police inquiries made a conviction unlikely"
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Jimmy Savile|
- BBC News obituary
- Jimmy Savile at the Internet Movie Database
- Jimmy Savile Biography and Radio 1 audio clips at Radio Rewind
- BBC article about the "Clunk Click Every Trip" safety belt advert
- Jimmy Savile at Find a Grave
- Andrew Neil TV interview from "Is This Your Life?" (1995)