Posted on May 11, 2019
It has been a sad week for lovers of British comedy with the tragic news that Freddie Starr, in his day one of the most popular entertainers in Britain, had passed away at his home in Spain at the age of 76, writes Gary Cartwright.
Anarchic, unpredictable, and totally irreverent, Starr strutted through the 70s, 80s and 90s either dressed as a parody of Adolf Hitler or throwing himself gymnastically through the air during his wonderful impersonations of Mick Jagger. He was indeed a great impressionist, and also a highly talented singer. A great admirer of Elvis Presley - who he played to a tee - Starr was to perform on stage with Presley’s backing group, The Jordanaires, to great acclaim.
It was music that gave the young Frederick Fowell, as he was born, his first taste of the limelight. In the early 1960s he fronted a band, The Midniters, a part of the evolving Merseybeat scene that was to be dominated by The Beatles, who he was well acquainted with. John Lennon is in fact rumoured to have offered young Freddie a place in the band initially known as The Silver Beatles.
Not much remains of The Midniters, just a few crackly recordings to confirm Freddie Starr’s role in the emergence of one of the most successful and influential genres in pop music history.
Sadly, the story of Freddie Starr did not end well. The great entertainer was to die alone, in debt, on the floor of his home, his body being discovered by his cleaner some hours later.
Starr had been on the receiving end of allegations of sexual impropriety concerning his appearance on a BBC tv show in 1974 during which it was claimed that he inappropriately touched a 15 year old girl, who also alleges that she had been assaulted by Jimmy Saville, the late tv and radio personality.
The case against Starr did not proceed: however during the course of their investigation the police arrested him no less than four times. These events broke him. "I don’t know where to turn, most of my old showbusiness friends have forsaken me. I need help. I have no money left and I’m too ill to work. I don’t see a very pleasant future ahead of me." he said.
The veteran entertainer did not enjoy good health, and given his advancing years and unhealthy life style it is not possible to say with any certainty that the allegations made against him, or the behaviour of a publicity hungry police force, contributed to his lonely death from heart failure on the afternoon of May 9th.
Unlike his contemporary Sir Cliff Richard, he did not have the resources to overcome the expensive legal battles that resulted from the allegations. Sir Cliff had also been on the receiving end of such allegations, and here again the behaviour of the police, who tipped off the BBC prior to a raid on his home, seemingly to ensure good media coverage for their bosses, must be called into serious question.
However, it is worth noting that after being completely absolved by the courts, Sir Cliff who although he was questioned by detectives was never arrested or charged, spoke openly about the intense pressure the case had on him. Others wrongly accused of sex crimes including the DJ Paul Gambaccini and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor have spoken in similar terms.
It took the police almost two years to admit there was not enough evidence to prosecute Sir Cliff over the claims made against him, his legal costs are reported to run to £3.4 million.
Freddie Starr is not the only comedian to have made news this week. BBC Radio presenter Danny Baker hit the headlines when he tweeted a commented concerning Britain’s newest royal, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, leaving hospital alongside a picture of a chimpanzee, possibly not an indicator of good judgement on the part of the veteran broadcaster.
The tweet was quickly deleted when it was suggested to Baker that it could be perceived as having racist overtones, and he apologised profusely. This however did not prevent the BBC from dispensing with his services in a telephone call. It is interesting to note that the pundits from the world of politics and media who are quick to condemn Baker are equally quick to reproduce the image on their own social media accounts.
Baker, a popular broadcaster renown for his quick wit and affable character could be described as “off the wall” or “irreverent”, but certainly never “racist”.
However, to nobody’s surprise, the police are now investigating the incident. “An allegation has been received by the Metropolitan police service on Thursday 9 May in relation to a tweet published on 8 May. As is routine, the allegation will be reviewed and assessed by specialist officers.”
“Routine”? This is the same police force that has stopped “routinely” investigating household burglaries and other criminal offences that blight people’s lives every day. The same police force that appears totally impotent in the face of a major epidemic of knife crime in London which has led to the current record high murder rate in the capital.
These are the crimes that the public wants to see investigated. We are not massively interested in an inappropriate joke by an otherwise hugely entertaining broadcaster.
Another major problem in London is that of street muggings being carried out by youths on mopeds.
Stand forward one Police Constable Edwin Sutton, 49, and with 30 years of untainted service as a police officer who, acting on his suspicions that a moped rider had stolen a handbag, used his vehicle to block the person concerned, fully in line with current operational procedures.
The suspect fell off his moped and suffered a minor injury to his leg. The handbag, which PC Sutton had seen hanging from the bike’s handlebars quickly disappeared, whisked away by one of the group of moped riders seen accompanying the suspect.
For his quick thinking, and his courage in taking on single-handed a suspect in the company of possible accomplices, who, if his instincts were correct would have likely been carrying weapons, PC Sutton has been pilloried, being moved to “desk duties”. Since the incident in May 2017 he has lived under the threat of losing his job (and pension) waiting for his case to be heard. His health has suffered badly during this time. Finally, this week, he has been cleared.
If PC Sutton were a criminal, a two year wait before appearing in front of a court in order to clear his name would be deemed an “abuse of process”.
In each of the cases described above the police can be seen to have acted incorrectly and unfairly. Only PC Sutton comes out of this well. If more police officers followed his lead by taking on the criminals who blight our lives, instead of chasing celebrities in the hope of getting themselves on tv, or stressing about Danny Baker’s pictures of a chimpanzee in a funny suit, they might earn a little more respect from a public that sees them as becoming ever more distant from the society they are paid to serve.
Read also: Is Great Britain on the verge of collapse?
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