The first time I met Stuart Hall – at the BBC in Manchester – I got a big open mouth kiss and a quick squeeze in the wrong place.
He was like your best friend’s creepy uncle. The one to avoid at parties. In your face and in your space.
It was ‘just his way’, a colleague of his assured me. I was relieved when a female co-presenter stuck around in the dressing room.
Some time later he was asked to judge a competition running in our junior section.
Oh, the irony of that now. I even interviewed Jimmy Savile for that section, Mr Punch in human guise. Made my flesh crawl.
You have to remember this was an age when fame or power brought flash cars, flamboyant clothes, dolly birds, spoils of success to flaunt.
But the real spoiler was it also bought silence.
The canteen culture could be found within big business, broadcasting, politics, showbiz, football, the police force.
It wasn’t just a man’s world but an abusive man’s world.
For every Hall or Savile exposed countless more run scared of past sins catching up with them. Super sized egos cut down to size.
There’s a world of a difference between banter, flirtation, an office romance – and an unprovoked unwanted assault.
Many years ago I quit a career in broadcasting when one man didn’t just overstep the line but rip it up – and me with it.
Instead of report him I judged myself.
I was young and lacking in judgement.
I was even younger when I got caught up in an incident involving Stuart Hall which hit the front pages of several tabloids in the 1970s.
The bumptious broadcaster had told me to meet him at his hotel – as he had no time to judge our contest earlier.
It was late but I knew a PR girl would be there and a male colleague of mine arriving later.
In the event my colleague got misdirected to another hotel.
When he arrived he found us being plied with drinks and anecdotes.
I was relieved to see him.
He had a drink, and excused himself to go to the loo, passing through Hall’s bedroom off the lounge.
Hall later went to the bathroom and emerged furious.
Toiletries had been poured over his bed and suits – in “apple pie bed” fashion.
My colleague scarpered, Hall threw a punch and gave chase, a punch up occurring in the lobby where delegates were decamped, drinking, debating which national newspaper to call first.
I piled my colleague into the cab and faced the wrath of the then-editor after tabloids ran “it’s a KO” headlines and bills came in for replacing very expensive hair tonic “restorer” (which evidently didn’t work).
Hall sported a shiner when he read the news.
Years later our paths crossed on a press trip to Ypres with war veterans.
Hall hailed me unabashed with the words “I’d know those legs anywhere.”
Just his way...
What I didn’t know but only recently found out was that earlier – at that very event in Blackpool – he assaulted a 17-year-old girl.
She is now 55. I’m 56.
She blew the whistle on him recently. She was on telly the other day explaining how what happened profoundly affected her, physically and emotionally.
She told viewers she later worked in child protection. Buried her own feelings out of deference to those of others. Just as I do each time I interview a woman who’s been raped.
You can’t apply a sliding scale to sex crimes. We each cope in a different way. But we now live in a society where it is easier to speak out.
And we should – if only to spare others.
It took the unadulterated awfulness of Savile’s crimes to prompt the first victim to speak out against Stuart Hall.
She realised he may have assaulted others.
And so it proved. Guilty to 13 charges of indecent assault on girls from nine years old to 17 between 1968 and 1986.
Hall was hoist by his own petard. His over weaning arrogance in blustering on national TV about “pernicious and spurious” allegations.
Because others came forward – to unmask yet another paedophile in public life.
Let’s hope the Attorney General agrees that 15 months isn’t sufficient recompense for those crimes.
A kindly judge concluded the veteran broadcaster, at the age of 81, would find a custodial sentence “particularly difficult”.
I’d have thought that was the whole point.
Or should we just stick him in a hotel and provide him with room service?