Veteran British broadcaster Jimmy Savile dies

29th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Jimmy Savile, a veteran British broadcaster and DJ famed for his jangling jewellery, garish tracksuits and huge cigars, died on Saturday aged 84, his family said.

Platinum-haired Savile was one of the biggest names on British television from the 1960s to the 1980s and also raised millions of pounds (euros, dollars) for charity, while preserving an enigmatic private life.

He died at his home in Leeds, northern England, two of his nephews told reporters outside Savile's flat. His death came after he spent a spell in hospital earlier this month with suspected pneumonia.

"It is with deep sadness that I can tell you that our uncle Sir Jimmy Savile passed away quietly in his sleep during the night," said Roger Foster, who was accompanied by his couisin Ian McKenna.

"Jimmy was a wonderful man, his public face is well known but we knew him as much more than an uncle, he was a very good friend. Jimmy will be sadly missed by very many people."

Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla led tributes to Savile.

Savile started out as a coal miner in Yorkshire, where he was born in 1926, the youngest of seven children. But injuries sustained during an underground explosion forced him out of mining and he went on to work as a club and radio DJ.

In 1964 he became the first presenter of "Top of the Pops", Britain's top television chart show. Savile presented the prime-time programme throughout the 1960s and 1970s and returned for the programme's final edition in 2006.

Many Britons will also remember him fondly for his long-running television show "Jim'll Fix It", where he made the modest dreams of young viewers come true each week before presenting them with a big red badge.

In one classic clip Savile arranged for a group of Boy Scouts to eat a packed lunch of sandwiches and juice on board a roller-coaster, with predictably messy results.

The show ran on the BBC from 1975 to 1994.

His catchphrases including "Now then, now then boys and girls" and "how's about that then" were recited across playgrounds in Britain at the time.

In his later years, the eccentric bachelor committed himself to charity, running 200 marathons and raising a reported £40 million for good causes, including a large amount for a hospital for spinal injury patients.

He was knighted for his charitable work in 1990.

But in a series of interviews in later life he revealed a somewhat lonely lifestyle, living in a flat with suede-lined walls that had been preserved as a shrine to his late mother, completed with a wardrobe of all her clothes.

He also claimed he had never been in love.

In a radio interview with a psychologist he said when asked about his feelings: "I haven't got any emotions.... Feelings aren't logic."

But he struck up a rapport with Britain's royal family and was reportedly used as an intermediary during the troubled marriage of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.

A spokesman for Clarence House, the office of Prince Charles and his second wife Camilla, said they were "saddened to hear of Jimmy Savile's death and their thoughts are with his family at this time."

BBC director general Mark Thompson also paid tribute.

"From Top Of The Pops to Jim'll Fix It, Jimmy's unique style entertained generations of BBC audiences. Like millions of viewers and listeners we shall miss him greatly," Thompson said.

© 2011 AFP

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