The huge and justifiable furore over the late Jimmy Savile’s preying on vulnerable young girls highlights the much more pervasive behaviour of all manner of men in the entertainment industry in the 60s and 70s.
Savile was hardly alone in what he did, as is only too clear. The sexual revolution of the 60s seemed to open the gates to the belief that it was okay to do whatever you wanted to whomever you wanted to do it to. It didn’t help that some precocious teenage girls – who often looked and behaved older than emotionally they were – threw themselves at pop stars and deejays, so that those men thought any young girl was fair game.
I realised this with blinding clarity when I researched my Zeppelin book and talked to a number of girls who’d become groupies in LA. Speaking with them made me understand that Roman Polanski had been singled out and scapegoated for behaviour that many of his peers were engaging in.
“Roman Polanski got caught,” Morgana Welch, author of The Hollywood Diaries, told me, “but there were all these 40-year-old men who were seeing young girls on the Strip. It went both ways: there was a notch in your belt as a girl if you went with a famous guy. And it was going on all the time. There would be parties after the Rainbow closed, just big sex parties. People got loaded, put good music on, and everybody was with everybody. And most of the guys were much older.”
Exactly when and how this behaviour changed – if it really did – is an interesting thing to explore.