By David Hennessy
“I felt so sorry for myself all the time,” says comedian Jim Davidson when he reflects on the darkest year of his life. In 2013, Davidson was arrested by officers of Operation Yewtree, the unit set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal, after being accused of historic sexual offences. After being named in the media, more accusers came forward. Despite Yewtree’s involvement, none of the accusers were underage at the time of the alleged offences. It was in August last year, that police announced that no further action would be taken due to lack of evidence. The comedian was able to enter the Celebrity Big Brother house this year, winning by its largest margin ever and to put a triumphant end to his nightmare. It was the nightmare year that Jim’s book and current tour, both called No Further Action, are based on.
On the scene since 1974, Jim Davidson was well known in the 1990s for presenting game shows like Big Break and The Generation Game. The comedian has found himself in controversy with many complaining he has been sexist, homophobic or racist.
“It’s that gallows sense of humour. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry your eyes out. I wrote the book as it was all happening. Immediately after I was questioned about something or I found a new piece of evidence, I sat at the thing and wrote it down. It was to try and remind myself we’re looking for the truth and not trying to work out why they were doing all this stuff and basically to make notes. If they accused me of doing something on a certain date, I would do everything I could to work out where I was on that date and it’s really tricky to remember what you were doing all those years ago. Most of the people I was hanging around with in those days are dead.”
No Further Action is a gripping read and you can’t help but share the author’s incredulity when he is asked about what he was doing on a certain date in 1988 and also shocking is the fact that Davidson had to put in some of his own detective work. This detective work included informing police that he never drove the type of car one accuser said he did and that the events one accuser spoke of could not have happened where she said they did. Perhaps even more troubling is that some of Davidson’s accusers could not narrow down the time of the alleged offences to even the correct year.
“You would think they would remember but they say passage of time is a two way thing so she knows it did happen but wasn’t sure when. I find it all odd. I only knew two of the women who accused me and the rest I had no idea of whatsoever and that was the scary bit because that was my only defence: I can’t remember doing any of that. But when I found out they said I had a certain car, I proved I didn’t. They said this, I proved it couldn’t happen. The risk I took was to give the police all the information in the hope not to be charged. I could have sat and waited to go to court and maybe got a result in court but the problem is if I had waited that long to go trial, I would have been skint and couldn’t have afforded to live. It cost me a fortune. No one wanted to book me, especially the people who didn’t like me anyway. They had an excuse then, didn’t they?”
Arrested on the day Davidson was supposed to enter the Big Brother house in 2013, his arrest cost Davidson the earnings he would have made on the show and put the comedian under much financial pressure until it had all been dealt with. On the topic of whether the accused in such cases should be named, he says: “It’s the media that named me, the police never named me at all. They said ‘60-year-old man from Stockbridge’ and of course there’s only one 60-year-old celebrity in Stockbridge and that’s me, so the press had a real good guess.
“I don’t know if the press speak to the police, they seem to have done with the Cliff Richard Situation but I don’t know, what can the police do? These accusations are made and they have got to do something about it. They can’t just ignore it. There just seem to be a lot of these accusations at the moment.
“They (police) did their job and they went about it the right way. All I do know is that they were very understaffed and overworked, there’s so many of these complaints that have to be dealt with. I think they were quite happy that I went and got all the evidence for them.”
The nightmare has not made the comedian wary of the press, despite the fact that for months, they were outside his house: “I think everybody was just doing their job. I have got no axe to grind. The press: Some papers like me, some papers don’t. If I was to change completely, the same papers would like me and the same papers wouldn’t. It’s just a political thing, that’s the way it goes.”
Has the experience changed Jim? “A little bit, a little bit more wary of strangers, certainly wary of ‘if I talk to this woman, what’s she going to say?’”
After avoiding court, was it a tough decision for Jim to lock himself up in the Celebrity Big Brother house? “It was the toss of a coin which was worse: Being in Celebrity Big Brother or being in a police cell. I think in the police cell, I got more rest.”
For the full interview, pick up the October 18 edition of The Irish World.
Jim Davidson plays Congress Theatre in Eastbourne on October 15, Plymouth Pavilions on October 16, Salisbury City Hall on October 17, Swan Theatre in High Wycombe on October 18, Cambridge Corn Exchange on October 19, Fairfield in Croydon on October 20 with many more dates around the country following. For more information, go to jimdavidson.org.uk.