“I’ve Got a Cigar in Me Hand, It’s a Lovely Day”

Graham Kibble-White interviews Jimmy Savile

First published April 2007

On Thursday April 5, 2007, a TV legend returns. From 1975 to 1994, Jimmy Savile presented the seminal children’s programme Jim’ll Fix It. Now, following in the stead of Wogan: Now and Then, Jim’ll Fix It Strikes Again comes to UKTV Gold to reflect on former Fix Its, and dish out a couple of new ones. In the big chair, as ever, is Sir Jim himself. In March, I called him at home in Leeds to chat about the show, and – for the benefit of the magazine I work for – run past him a few questions about his TV-viewing habits. Here’s the transcript of that conversation, and it starts, as you might expect, with our man picking up the phone …


OTT: Hello, good morning. Is that Jimmy?

JIMMY SAVILE: Does he owe you any money?

OTT: No, he doesn’t.

JIMMY SAVILE: Then this could be he.

OTT: My name’s Graham.

JIMMY SAVILE: Now we all have problems, I don’t see why you shouldn’t have yours.

OTT: How are you?

JIMMY SAVILE: 10 out of 10.

OTT: I’m going to assume that this is Jimmy that I’m speaking to.

JIMMY SAVILE: Well, if he doesn’t owe any money, yes.

OTT: Fabulous. Erm, so, have you got a couple of minutes to talk to me about Jim’ll Fix It Strikes Again?

JIMMY SAVILE: Yes. Are you from the Psychic Times?

OTT: Er, no ….


OTT: Why did you agree to go back and do more Fix Its?

JIMMY SAVILE: Well because … because, I did 20 years of Top of the Pops and quit while it was at the top. I did 20 years of Fix Its and quit while it was at the top, because I actually own the Fix It system.

OTT: Do you?

JIMMY SAVILE: Yes, I own the logo and the programme. No-one can use Jim’ll Fix It because it’s mine. When it finished, it turned itself into more of a legendary programme than when it had been on. So they always had this idea that it would be nice to see some of the Fix It people we did over the 20 years. Now I said to UKTV Gold, “Tell you what, I’ll do the Fix, and we’ll get all the people we had before and see if they want to do it again, and if they don’t want to do it again, we’ll get them in the studio and see how they’ve fared after 20 years”. And they said, “Oh, what a cracking idea, yes,” and that’s what we’ve done.

Every show will have one new Fix It, because I’m forever getting requests, even though I’m not still on the programme. I’ve had Fix It letters ever since it finished anyway. And, so we’ve come up with some good Fix Its, like we’ve got the girl who wants to dance with the geezer who won Strictly Come Dancing. And that was, first class, you see.

OTT: I’ve just watched that one, actually [on preview disc].

JIMMY SAVILE: Have you really?

OTT: It was great.

JIMMY SAVILE: Good, isn’t it?

OTT: Yeah.

JIMMY SAVILE: Well they’re all terrific. But, the idea – my idea – of bringing them back and then including a new one made it a “yesterday and today” thing. And it’s a programme that you can watch with your six-year-old daughter and you don’t have to explain anything to her. There’s no nudge-nudge wink-wink or sexy bits or anything like that. And, of course, initially when I said to the BBC back in the ’70s, “Well, that’s the way it’s going to be,” they prophesied doom and gloom, because they couldn’t have a programme of such high moral content that was worth anything. Not in those days. Four-letter words were creeping in and you were terrific if you got away with swearing on TV. I said, “That’s out”. And my show only lasted for 20 years! It only got between 19 and 21 million every week! It pissed everybody off!

OTT: You say you own the format.


OTT: That must be unusual for a show created back then.

JIMMY SAVILE: Not really. It’s because, you see, what happened was, I was doing Top of the Pops at the time, walking down the corridor at Television Centre and one of the executives came towards me and said, “Jim,” he says, “you’ve been fixing things for people all your life. Why don’t we put some pictures to it?”. I said, “Yeah, alright then. We’ll call it Jim’ll Fix It“. He said, “What, Jimmy Will …?”. I said, “No, Jim apostrophe, double-L – Jim’ll Fix It“. He said, “Yeah, alright then”. So I said, “Give me a producer” – which they did – and one of the executives said, “Oh, I’m pleased you’re doing that programme, Jimmy because my children have always wanted to throw custard pies at their teacher”. I said, “That’s out”. And he said, “Oh, you’re not going to draw the line at custard pies, are you?”. I said, “We’re going to draw the line a long way before custard pies”. And he went, “Ooo, Jimmy’s got too moral, it won’t work”. It only ran for 20 years! We made decency not only popular, but wildly successful.

OTT: Was that always the plan from the start, to make it so moral?

JIMMY SAVILE: Oh, always from the very, very start. And when people used to come up to me and say, “Hey, why don’t you do that?”, I’d say, “Piss off, thank you. We do what we do and that’s all there is to it”.

OTT: Am I right in thinking it kind of grew out of Clunk-Click?

JIMMY SAVILE: No, no. Clunk-Click … You see, if you do things on TV, and anything even remotely successful, then of course, there’s so few successful people on TV that they’ll do everybody to death. I refused two television jobs yesterday. And I refuse probably three or four a month, because I don’t work like that. So, er, initially they said to me, “Will you do something other than Top of the Pops?”. Because, some well-known faces, they’ve got three or four programmes running, you know what I mean? You lift up the toilet seat and there’s all these well-known faces saying, “Hello! How are you?” So, I was doing the “Clunk-Click” adverts and they said, “Alright, we’ll do a programme called Clunk-Click. What will it be?”. I said, “I don’t know, but we’ll do something”. And I added, “I want some of the people I know, who I bump into all over the country, to come down and I’ll talk to them on TV”.

I frightened the programe-makers to death one day. We’d have a figure who would be sitting there through the programme and talking to me – it was like a guest artiste, but it was an ordinary person. For one edition we didn’t have anyone. So, of course, I went in and said, “I can get one out of the audience”. They said, “Do me a favour, what are you talking about?”. And I swear to you, true story, I walked down into the audience, and they were going, “10, nine, eight,” and I was looking around and I saw this girl. I said, “Come here”. “Five, four,” I sat her down. “Three, two, one”. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it’s Clunk-Click, Bob’s your uncle … Now then [to the girl], what’s your name?” This was a girl who was very attractive, and – what was she? – she was a welder working with 700 fellas! Can you believe that? And of course, everybody just went, “Hallelujah. He scared the shit out of us, we had nobody!”.

OTT: It’s probably fair to say your programmes were the first people shows.

JIMMY SAVILE: Yes, because I don’t think that anybody’s ordinary, you see. I think that everybody is … well, we’re all very different. On a lot of interview things, they don’t have guests, they have victims. The interviewer – with respect – secretly they’re the star. And so [the guests are the] victims. The whole thing, really, is sort of a points-scoring exercise, right? Well, I was never like that. I couldn’t be bothered with anything like that. There’s no future in anything like that. I’ve always been vastly interested in people. And, I suppose, I think of it as a hobby, really. I can put anybody in a chair and make them interesting on TV.

OTT: Really? So you’ve never crashed and burned by getting someone up in the chair, and they’ve never given you anything?

JIMMY SAVILE: Oh no! Never! Never. Never. Because, there’s an angle to everybody that’s interesting. And all you need is a bit of luck on top. And there we were, they were counting down, they get to five and I brought this girl up. She was a welder, which was the last thing that bleedin’ well she looked. She worked with 700 men. She was the only girl who worked with 700 fellas. Well, what a vital story that was!

OTT: It sounds to me as though you had a very strong idea about Jim’ll Fix It from the beginning.

JIMMY SAVILE: Yes, because if you invent something and you own it, that’s the way it is.

OTT: So did the team – it was Roger Ordish who was the producer – did they buy into that straight away?

JIMMY SAVILE: I’ll tell you what – first of all, the BBC were quite clever in their own way in leaving me Roger Ordish for 20 years. He was all the way through. I gave him the nickname, after a few weeks I think, Doctor Magic, because he could do magic things with letters and stuff like that. He could put something into a letter that wasn’t there. A kid wrote in, “My bedroom’s a bit bare. I would like some pictures of animals on my wall”. So Roger said, “We’ll have a go with this”. He said, “Okay, why don’t we send him to Africa to take the pictures?” Good idea! So we sent the kid to Africa. He actually took the pictures with a camera. And we gave him a park ranger and stuff like that. He took pictures of lions, elephants and giraffes. Then we blew them up to the size of the wall, so that he was actually sleeping in a clearing in the jungle. But he had taken all the pictures. And that was the magic touch that Roger brought.

OTT: Was it strange doing the new show without him?

JIMMY SAVILE: I insisted he was on it. He’s on it.

OTT: So he does work on it?

JIMMY SAVILE: Yes, if you look at the credits.

OTT: Oh, I didn’t realise.

JIMMY SAVILE: He’s some executive producer or something like that. I wouldn’t do it without him because, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Know what I mean? He and I worked well for 20 years, and he knew what I wanted and he knew what I wouldn’t stand for. All the new team at UKTV Gold had to learn about me being me. So if Roger was there, that was okay, because they referred to him continuously. The producers, they said, “We’ve got producers, we don’t need another one”. And I said, “He’s there. I’m there”. And that was it. And about a quarter of the way through the first programme, it suddenly tippled what it was all about, and they suddenly realised why Roger was there. And, of course, they all put their hands in the air and said, “Hallelujah!”.

The lovely thing about it was – we only did six this time, because that’s all I would do, six – and on the last programme the entire team of researchers and make-up girls and all that, they all came and buttonholed me and said, “Alright Jim, if you bring it back, will you make sure I get on the team again?”. And I say, “It’s not a team, it’s a family”. “Yeah, you’re right, you’re right. I’m a family member then!” “Yes, you are”. And that’s nice. That doesn’t happen in TV today. It’s just a job. People come in and do their job, and then go home.

OTT: So, do you think in some ways – in a good way – it’s an old fashioned show?

JIMMY SAVILE: I can only tell you what happens. The opinion of people, whether it’s old-fashioned or new-fashioned, whatever … All I know is that everything I’ve ever done in my life was an enjoyable thing. And it was at nobody else’s expense, I never put anyone down. I never shafted anyone. I never played practical tricks on anyone, or anything like that. And you run the risk of being boring, but I knew it wouldn’t be boring, you see. It proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it wasn’t boring at all.

OTT: There was an edge to the show. I think the way you spoke to the children was quite unusual.

JIMMY SAVILE: Well, you see, I’m not keen on kids. I’m a single fella, I’m not into kids at all. And they suddenly sussed this. So I’m not some yucky adult that talks to them … For instance, the kid that went and took all the pictures of the animals. I sort of leaned across to him and said, “Here, did you really take all that?”. And he said, “Oh, aye!”. “But, I mean, did you take a picture of that lion? Was it in the zoo?”. “No, no, Jim!”. They work hard to convince me. Me, I doubt them all the time. “You never did that! Wow! Wow, that’s something. Yeah!”. And of course, even though I’m not a kids’ person, very often they had to prise the bloody kids away from me with a crowbar! You know!

OTT: But I suppose they respond really well to that. They’re not really spoken to in that way, normally.

JIMMY SAVILE: Well, no. With respect, adults say to them, “Well, don’t you look nice today?” and all that shit! I say, “Now don’t tell me that you actually did that. You didn’t do that. You had somebody doing it for you!”. “Oh, no, no, Jim. I did it meself!”. “What, you did? No!”. They love all that business. They love it!

OTT: Did it feel like it was the same show when you were doing the new Fix Its?

JIMMY SAVILE: Yeah, but I was talking to adults, wasn’t I, this time. Cos what I said was, “We’ll do one new Fix It per show”. Because my idea was to bring it back after 20 years, it worked a dream. It’s most interesting. And I’ll tell you, I’ve got a copy here [of the show], because I leant it to some of my people at the hospital and they avidly showed it to their kids and they say they’ve gone mental, because there’s nothing like that on TV. And then they’re saying, “They want to know if they can come and meet you”. Oh! Careful!

OTT: It all starts again.

JIMMY SAVILE: Oh no! No bleeding kids for me. But, yes, it’s started all over again.

OTT: Did you ever worry it would live up to expectations?

JIMMY SAVILE: No, I didn’t have any expectations.

OTT: I don’t mean yours, I mean viewers.

JIMMY SAVILE: Listen, if you’ve been on television since 1958 – one, nine, five eight – then you know what works, and I knew this works. Now, the thing is, you have to convince the people who haven’t been in television that long – and they’ve all got degrees in media and stuff like that. They don’t know shit about nothing, right. I know what works. And I knew it would work. And they’re, “Oh, we could do …”. “No we can’t. No we can’t, thank you very much”. And then, all of a sudden, the people who work on this particular show have a tremendous learning curve, because they start to learn to trust their instincts before they trust what they learned in university.

OTT: Which Fix Its stay in your memory from the original run?

JIMMY SAVILE: All of them. We did about 14,000 Fix Its in the original run, and if you give me a clue, I can tell you about every single one.

OTT: Really?


OTT: The one I remember is Peter Cushing …

JIMMY SAVILE: That’s right. Now, Peter, we did a rose with Peter. And we called it after his wife, because his wife had died. That was very gentle, it was very lovely. And he so appreciated that, I can’t tell you. Because it was like a tribute to his dead wife. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

OTT: You must have felt quite privileged to have been part of something like that.


OTT: It clearly meant so much to him.

JIMMY SAVILE: The whole thing was something that was totally special, you see. And there were many of them and, as I say, I’ve got a photoelectric memory – it saves me being clever.

OTT: Why did the show stop in 1994?

JIMMY SAVILE: Because I said it. I walked in one day, and said to Roger, “Fetch the man from upstairs”. He came down. He got this executive producer who I’d never seen before, and I said, “Last series”. He nearly had a heart-attack, and he said, “Why, who’s poached you?”. And I said, “Nobody’s poached me. That’s it”. And he said, “Well, have we done something wrong?” I said, “No, no, no. I’ve done 20 years, and that’s it”. Quit while you’re ahead.

OTT: Did you feel there was no more to be done?

JIMMY SAVILE: No, no, instinct. I’d done 20 years. I walked in, said, “Fetch the man”, and that was it.

OTT: So it was quite an easy decision?

JIMMY SAVILE: Yes. It’s instinctive. Anybody who’s been doing anything for a while, they get an instinct for it. And I’ve been with the public for all my life, and you get an instinct for the public. “Right, that’s it, good morning”. There’s no reason for it at all, apart from instinct.

OTT: It’s one of these shows where, as soon as it’s stopped, people want it back again.

JIMMY SAVILE: Oh, they’ve driven me mad for 15 years!

OTT: So why now?

JIMMY SAVILE: Because I thought that this format, it would be interesting to see if today’s modern television people could make it work, right? And I knew that the format of bringing these people back was a real winner – a real winner. So that’s why I took a flyer and did six programmes. I’m making a rod for my own back, really, because every bleedin’ network in the world … When it was on first, every television company around the world saw it. In Australia, there’s a channel out there called Channel 9. And they put out a programme called Nine Will Fix It. So I think, the executive was a guy called Kerry Packer, who owned Australian television at the time, and he watched the first one, and he said, “If you can’t get the Limey to come out from England, we don’t run the show”, cos he’d seen it, and instinct told him that Fix It was for real, and Nine Will Fix It didn’t mean shit. So they only did one. Everybody’s tried from time to time, but it doesn’t work, because they haven’t got the right philosophy. They want a complicated philosophy, but I’ve got a simple one.

OTT: Will you do some more?

JIMMY SAVILE: I don’t know. I’m sitting here, I’ve got a cigar in me hand, it’s a lovely day, I’ve been pumping a bit of iron this morning so my conscience is clear. I’ll go out for a bit of a speed-walk later on, and all I know is that it’s Thursday. It’s simple! I can afford to be simple because I’m a simple person.

OTT: I want to ask you some general questions about what you watch on telly, is that alright?


OTT: Fab. Are you an avid telly watcher?

JIMMY SAVILE: I’m a telly watcher of convenience. When I’m here, talking to you, I’ve got what I call audio wallpaper on the TV, which is this thing called Music Choice, and you’ve got 40 channels of music. Now then, that for me is very good, because if I sit here and I’m not on the phone, I can actually … This is all kinds of music right round the world, it’s really good. It’s only a fiver a month. I can then trawl through 40 channels of music, right round the world, from reggae to rock, and that gives me today’s knowledge of what goes on in the music world, as opposed to going to a concert and getting one type of music. I’m getting 40 types of music in 15 minutes.

OTT: Is it still important for you, to be in touch in this way?

JIMMY SAVILE: Not so much important, as something that interests me, because I like to know what’s happening. You’ve got over 500 channels, haven’t you, English-speaking channels. I surf them all. Instead of watching a particular programme, I click this, I click that, and it’s amazing because you see people cooking, and I don’t even have an oven in my place. And you see people selling things, and that’s vastly fascinating. And then there’s my favourite, things like Globe Trekker and all those programmes on UKTV Gold, like Yes, Minister, Yes, Prime Minister and things like When the Boat Comes In, which was a great series. And so, that’s the sort of things I do. I’ve no set rules.

OTT: Is there any particular show that you avidly follow?

JIMMY SAVILE: No, because I’ve never lived a regular life. So I don’t have regular shows. So, for instance, if you watch a soap, you can only watch a soap for that particular day, because the next time it’s on, you won’t be in. Most people in life are normal, and I was always odd. Right from day one, I was always odd. So if you don’t live a regular life, you can’t watch a regular programme. And so, it’s better really, if you don’t get hooked on something.

I got hooked on Kojak and I used to do all sorts of things. I once went to gig in Dublin and I had two lords and a prime minister there. 9pm, I had to go, because of Kojak. I’ll tell you one of the most amazing things, about getting hooked on things, one time on Fix It we had the then Poet Laureate – I forget his name just now – and he would only come on Fix It if we put a television set in his dressing room and leave him alone while he watched Coronation Street.

OTT: Was that Betjeman?


OTT: John Betjeman.

JIMMY SAVILE: Whoever it is is dead now, because there’s a new one. And that, for me, was a super thing. I thought, “Good for him, he knows what he wants”. But then I thought, “Hang on, that’s bit restrictive, because when you get hooked on something you can change your lifestyle”, you see. So, I’m a surfer.

OTT: What sort of shows make you switch off?

JIMMY SAVILE: Well, I don’t really switch off, because I don’t really watch anything. I watch re-runs of Fawlty Towers, which is terrific. Re-runs of Yes, Minister, Yes, Prime Minister – because I’m involved with the civil service – but it’s always interesting to see excellently-written things. But my favourite to sit down and watch will be something like Globe Trekker, because you see people go right round the world. And the presenters on Globe Trekker are sensational. I mean, the young guys and gals, they’re just something else. They don’t even look like presenters, they don’t act like presenters – they’ve got no smarmy ways of going on, like a professional television person. They’re terrific. So all those things I find very interesting. And you get all the Discovery channels and all the history channels and stuff like that. They’re good, especially if you’ve lived through those times.

OTT: What current telly really doesn’t interest you?

JIMMY SAVILE: I was surprised to learn some time ago that there’s about 40 of those semi-porn channel things. I find them inextricably boring. I can’t watch them. I mean, who on Earth those people think they are, I don’t know. You know, I’ve been on dance floors and nightclubs all my bleedin’ life, and I’ve got a healthy regard for girls. But I can’t bear to watch that stuff for about two minutes. And I have huge sympathy for all those girls who have to stroke themselves and rub themselves and all the rest of it. And I think to myself, “Holy shite! Do they have to do that to earn a living? The poor bastards!”. Dear, oh dear, oh dear!

OTT: You were on Big Brother, weren’t you?

JIMMY SAVILE: I was, I was, I was.

OTT: So you don’t have a problem with those kind of shows.

JIMMY SAVILE: No. Yes. The first Big Brother – I was on the celebrity edition before this – was terrific. You know, you’ve got Chantelle who was larger than life. You’ve got George Galloway who was … almost shouldn’t have been there, but was a star. You’ve got all those marvellous … You’ve got Michael Barrymore with all his problems, this that and the other. So I was very proud to be part of it. But, again, like these Fix Its, I went in on that Big Brother on my terms. Do a Fix It, come out, Big Brother does the Fix It, jump back in, do another Fix It, and it worked a total dream. Now, of course, they phoned me every week of this one, but instinct told me not to.

OTT: Well, you were right, weren’t you?

JIMMY SAVILE: Instinct told me not to. I’ve a great fondness for the team that ran it, they were lovely people, but when I was watching it, I thought, “Not really, not really”.

OTT: Just so we can get an idea what you’d be like in the evening if you were relaxing in front of the box, would you have your dinner off your lap?

JIMMY SAVILE: Oh, yeah, yeah. Course I would. I stay in, like, one night a fortnight.

OTT: What would you be eating?


OTT: Could you be more specific?

JIMMY SAVILE: Yeah. All my life I’ve tried to avoid putting anything into my mouth that’s supposed to do me good. I eat shit. Pork pies. Crisps. Er, what have I got around? Pork pies. A lot of … It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a bit old … What have I got? I don’t know. Chocolates, cakes, biscuits …

OTT: Finally, and it’s a really obvious question, if someone could fix something for you, is there anything you’d like done?

JIMMY SAVILE: Well, I actually got asked that question earlier on today, so I had to think about it. But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea, because if you ask an eight-year-old about a Fix It, you get one answer, if you ask an 80-year-old you’ll get another answer. Naturally! And my thing, for me personally, it would be marvellous if you had a telephone in Heaven. You know, all my pals – there’s Elvis, there’s John Lennon, all my pals over the years. Buddy Holly. It would be marvellous to pick up the phone and see how they are.

OTT: It’s been lovely to talk to you, Jim.

JIMMY SAVILE: An honour and a pleasure.

OTT: And all the best with the show.

JIMMY SAVILE: Thank you very much.