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As many of you will know Britain lost a legend yesterday when Jimmy Savile passed to the great shell suit in the sky. Here we reproduce a story of Savile’s bravery and competitive spirit that has been long forgotten. Only by painstaking research and making lots of bits up can we reveal the other side of Jimmy Savile. The polar explorer and racer. 

Bon Voyage Jimbo – “Ows about that then guys and gals…..” 

Larry Grayson v Jimmy Savile – A Race To The Pole – A Race To The Death

It is 11.30 am on November 11th 1974. In Buckingham Palace, Englandshire, a Footman attired in brocaded splendour, carries on a silver salver a telegram addressed to Her Majesty, Queenie Elizabeth.  He is bade to enter the drawing room by the Lord Privy Tombola. The Footman approaches The Queen, bows to his sovereign and kneels. He offers the salver up to the Keeper of the Lumps who in turn approaches the Lord High Noon. In keeping with centuries of tradition, High Noon sniffs the envelope before passing it to the Queen.

The footman bows once more and walks backwards to the drawing room door. It is a skill, that unknown to him at this moment,  will make him a hero in a year’s time when dressed as a giant chicken he will win the Fil Rouge for his home town of Ely and propel them into Jeux Sans Frontieres grand finale in Brussels.

After reading the telegram a reedy smile spreads across the Queen’s lips. She looks towards Prince Phillip who is standing by a window making V-sign gestures to a group of Japanese tourists outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.

“Savile.” She says.  Philip looks over his shoulder and replies, “Bloody Nips.”

1970’s Britain. Flares, big hair, cigarette smoke, green shield stamps, boil in the bag cod and bigotry. Electric windows in cars were seen as a sign of sophistication and parking in a multi-storey car park was an event in itself.

But we were happy. Sort of. Legends were born, Tomaceski, Bondage Mormons, Play Dead Politicians and Striking Miners.  Zips had overcome buttons in the great fastening battles of the late 1960’s and men were in thrall to the two tone tan slip-on shoe.

In this maelstrom, two giants of light entertainment became engaged in a struggle which gripped the nation, divided individuals, families, streets, towns and rabbis.  Ask anyone over forty are you “Grayson or Savile” and a look of dement spreads across their cigarette ruined features and ill-fitting dentures click with unease.

For younger readers think Princess Diana’s death and the necrotic neurosis of consumerism and media obsession that it revealed about Britain and you will have an inkling, but only an inkling of the level of interest nay, hysteria that raged in the winter of 1974 when Larry Grayson and Jimmy Savile raced to the South Pole.

It was a time when acceptance of one’s lot was a legitimate lifestyle choice and was as powerful a moral force as Findus pancakes were a sure fired clearer of constipation.   Social Anthropologists and commentators point to the “Stroll to the Pole” as the start of a period in British cultural history that broke down these moribund mores, removed the cloying censorship of Mary Whitehouse, gave us punk and told people to not merely accede.

Less likely social revolutionaries you could not imagine. Grayson, the camp commandant of mincing mirth. Savile the ululating northerner who clunk clicked his way into the nation’s heart.

In his autobiography “Seems like a Nice Boy” (no longer in print but think Lord of The Rings meets EM Forster) Grayson wrote, “My plan was very clear. Nab the Fix It chair, claim Clunk Click, gain the Green Cross Code and then put out a contract on Tufty.  I would build my reputation and image through road safety campaigns. Savile stood in the way of that. But what I hadn’t bargained for was what a hard bastard he was.”

Savile has rarely talked about the duel, “’Ow’s about that then – goodness…..gracious….Ice Shelf.  I, that is moi Sir James of the Savile got wind of the Grayson’s….plot, goodness, gracious, lovely, lovely, to oust yours truli from the throne of Fix It whilst the New Seekers, goodness, gracious was belting out the mighti Beg, Steal or Borrow, indeed upon the sainted Top of The Pops.”

The gauntlet had been thrown down at a restaurant opening in Ashby de la Zouche three months previously. Grayson accompanied by his close friend Dudley Saunders, had earlier in the day opened the town’s new by pass and was now enjoying a quiet supper in Luigi’s Italian restaurant on the High Street.

“Larry and I were nattering about Crossroads and admiring the waiter’s twelve inch pepper grinder,” Dudley told gingerfightback, “That’s a big one, Larry had said to the waiter in that impish way of his. He was chomping on a meat ball in rich tomato sauce. He loved his balls did Larry. A dribble of the meaty juice landed onto the mauve shirt he was wearing.  I reached over and sought to dab it off but only succeeded in smearing the tangy meaty rich sauce further into the shirt.

“‘Ows about that then”

Jimmy Savile like an albino wraith, burst into the restaurant, jogged over to our table and said, “Now then, now then, Guys and Gals….what….’ave….we…’ere.? Diddie….Diddly…..Doddly….Daddly…David Hamilton…..has told unto me of your plan to nick the Fix It throne from yours truli – James De Savile.”

There was silence in the restaurant. All that could be heard was the sound of cooked spaghetti  landing on the kitchen walls. Dudley, still clearly moved nearly forty years later continued, “Savile was ranting away, “I….demand…..the right of, and now then, now then, satisfaction and therefore demand that you….. Sir Larry of the Grayson and I…. Sir James of the Savile sort this matter out like two men, by racing to the goodness, gracious South Pole. Winner takes all. Fix It, Clunk Click, Age of The Train and me time share at Stoke Mandeville.”

Grayson was a gambler, a drinker and in his youth a promising boxer with the nickname “Fister”. This is at odds with his effeminate image as was the fact that his body was tattooed with the lyrics of John Hanson’s more ribald songs. He replied,

“You’re on Savile. Dudley nip round to my very dear friend Noele Gordon and tell her that I can’t make whist on Wednesday. Shame as Crossroads just gets better and better in my eyes. Shall we make this bet interesting Savile? We’ll play for catch phrases too. Will you shut that door Luigi, there’s a terrible draft.  I’m feeling as limp as a Vicar’s handshake, I really am.”

Dudley now a spritely eighty three year old, living in sheltered accommodation in Mansfield, touched me on the knee and informed me that I would look good in corduroy. He had a pair of corduroys in his wardrobe if I wanted to try them on.

Two years previously Mike Yarwood and Frankie Howard had duelled to the North Pole due to a love triangle involving the Golden Shot’s Anne Aston. Yarwood had been victorious. The victory had extracted a great personal cost but had secured him a lucrative chip pan fire safety commercial and a voiceover contract for Cadbury’s Smash. Savile knew that polar exploration was not only romantic but also commercially attractive. There was another more bizarre motivation in his thinking.

Savile had always had a fixation with Scott of the Antarctic, once memorably announcing on his BBC Radio show that he was the love child of Scott and an Inuit woman. The Inuit dialect of his alleged mother only has a handful of words including, “Goodness”, “Gracious,” “’Ows”, “About”, “Now,” “Then”, “Blubber,” and “It’s snowing again”. Eerie if true.

The duel had been accepted. News spread and Britain quivered in a collective shiver of excitement at the quixotic nature of the challenge. News of the race pushed the Bay City Rollers, three day weeks, power cuts, the debate about the taste of Stork margarine and the fugitive Ronnie Biggs off the front pages. Savile and Grayson were on everybody’s lips.

Newspapers declared their allegiances whilst Nationwide’s Frank Bough consulted a skateboarding goldfish who could speak Latin for its opinion on who would win the race. Sadly the fish died.

Larry Grayson – Polar Explorer

The views of Arthur Negus were sought.  Negus’ heroin addiction and reliance on prostitutes for sexual gratification had been kept from a public who had grown to love his valuations of candelabras, plates and orphans on national television.

Negus was interviewed by Val “Lezzer” Singleton for Blue Peter in a flop house in Billericay coming off the pipe and receiving oral satisfaction from a heavyset girl by the name of Ten Tons of fun Tania. “My money’s on Savile – mad as a bow legged chimp but as hard as the Times crossword set by a dyslexic,” Negus opined. He was to be proved right.

Grayson arrived at Antarctica on April 7th aboard the SS Mince with his support crew of Dudley, Everard, Pop It in Pete the Postman, Sterilised Stan the Milkman and Slack Alice all in tow. (Apricot Lil was left behind in Nuneaton to keep up to date with events in Crossroads).

From the outset Grayson was not comfortable in his surroundings, as Dudley explains, “Larry felt the cold something terrible. The buckles on his slip ons were ruined by the snow. And he was a martyr to his back. Poor thing. He was watching some penguins cavort near the ice station, when Pop It in Pete, in playful mood as always, hurled a snowball at him. Larry twisted to see who had chucked it and his back just went. He had to be carried to his quarters legs akimbo, for all the world to see. No amount of liniment would unlock his predicament. He was as stiff as a stevedore’s lunch box.”

Two weeks passed. Grayson’s back gradually eased largely through morale boosting telegrams from  Noele Gordon and vigorous rubbing from Dudley and Everard.

Savile had arrived adorned with ridiculous amounts of gold jewellery, four reversible tracksuits, and three months’ worth of Findus pancakes.  He created a support team all with the name Scott, including Brough, Selina and the jock fella from Star Trek.  “He had an aura of invincibility,” commented Selina Scott recently to gingerfightback, “and that juicy body in the tracksuit was just so Hot!”

Scotts of The Antarctic

He continually taunted the prone Grayson that he was running scared, would never do the race and that Benny had promised him the woolly hat he wore on screen in Crossroads.

“Larry was livid,” Dudley told me, “He said, Dudley, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but Noele will never desert me.  We race.  He stood up in the Kung Fu pyjamas I had given him for Christmas that year, vigorously ate a slice of wholemeal bread spread with Stork and pronounced himself fit.”

Outside the chalet, a northern accented gently ululated in quiet satisfaction. Savile’s goading had worked. The race was on. He would destroy Grayson.

Both men and their support crews lined up at 6 am on August 1st 1974. As Brough Scott recalls, “There was a lot of tension.”

The starter raised a pistol in the air and fired a single shot. Grayson, wrapped in a corduroy scarf, a gift from Dudley, looked at him and complained that the noise had perforated an ear drum. But off they set on the race to the pole. Savile astride a Space Hopper.

Almost immediately it became apparent that Savile’s team had prepared properly for the gruelling trek across these frozen lands and made steady progress.  Whereas Grayson soon found that the lack of preparation was costing him dearly.  Was it wise to assume that two Cherry Bakewells a day would provide sufficient sustenance? After ten days Everard and Slack Alice exhausted and frost bitten, dropped out of the race.  Sterilised Stan left three days later, leaving only Grayson and Pop It in Pete the Postman to cover the hundreds of miles that remained.

The only accompaniment to their suffering was the banshee like wail of an ululating Yorkshire accent some distance ahead incanting, “Now then…now then…goodness gracious….the luvly luvli Clodagh Rodgers with..Jack…In The…Box”

Remorselessly Savile marched and hopped onwards, putting greater distance between himself and Grayson until his advocacy of Clodagh Rodgers no longer carried within earshot.  “He was a machine,” recalled Brough Scott, “A bouncing, jingling, jangling machine.”

Daily updates were received by the BBC. The nation was agog with interest.  Each night The Nine O’Clock news reported progress and a map plotting progress of the racers was avidly followed and scrutinised. People became experts on the topography of the Antarctic, weather conditions and the vast scale of the continent.  There was even a novelty single released by Malcolm Rifkind entitled “I Can’t Find Larry’s Pole”. It reached number 76 in the pop parade.

It was rumoured the Queen was enraptured by the race, whilst Prince Phillip stalked the streets abusing coloured people.

Radio contact was lost after three weeks. Savile was hopping to the poll and eating his Findus pancakes raw, whilst Grayson was hampered by a large crevasse and the crampons were playing merry havoc with his corns.

But for Britain the question on everybody’s lips was, who had won? Who would claim Fix It and with it the bounty that would follow in the guise of Road Safety Adverts?  On a state visit to Britain at the time, President Gerald Ford commented “Who are they?”

Two days later The Footman brought in the telegram that alerted Her Majesty to the news all the nation waited for.  November 11th 1974. Savile had reached the pole first. He was two hundred miles ahead of Grayson when he did so. A look of thin hatred spread across Savile’s face as he recalled the moment on the Russell Harty Show two years later, “Lovely, lovey, goodness gracious…I…Sir Jim of the Savile….fucked him over completely.”

The Victorious Savile At The Pole

Grayson never reached the pole.  He and Pop It in Pete had struggled desperately on, unaware of Savile’s achievement and that he had already begun the hop back to base. At 87 degrees and 34 minutes south, Grayson and Pete set up camp before the final desperate assault on the Pole.  That night a storm blew with such ferocity that Grayson thought it carried the anger and bitterness of all jilted lovers. The storm raged for a further three days.  Their supplies of Cherry Bakewells and water were dwindling. Frostbite and severe dehydration set in. As Grayson wrote,

“What a palaver! Windy, cold and desperate to know whether Meg has accepted Hugh’s proposal of marriage. What’s a boy to do?”

The storm raged on for a further seventy two hours. Their situation became desperate. Both men were at death’s door.  As Grayson wrote;

“There is no laughter now. Even breathing is a chore I wish I could do without. There is nothing but the solace of death to look forward. I am empty.  Spent.  The wind and cold are incessant. I do not think I shall reach the pole now.  Savile has me.”

A day later Grayson wrote, “ Pop It in Pete turned to me and said, “Just popping out Larry. Time for me second delivery.”  I remember watching him walk away from the tent, whistling a tune from Carousel and then he was gone.  That was the last I ever saw of a dear friend. A postie who sacrificed his final Cherry Bakewell for me.”

Grayson lay in the tent for a further two days wishing for death to come quickly.

“Shut That Flap”

Yet as soon as the storm started it abated. A weakened Grayson heard a shuffling outside and thinking it was Pop It in Pete, was disappointed to see an Emperor Penguin staring at him. “Help me, please” Grayson implored the Penguin.

Dudley now picks up the story. “Savile returned to a hero’s welcome. He had won. But we were worried for Larry and the gang. Everard,  Slack Alice and Sterilised Stan eventually returned, but days passed and there was no sign of Larry or Pete. Hope was fading fast. But I knew, I knew, that Larry was still alive.” Dudley struggled to hold back the tears and blew his nose on a corduroy handkerchief before continuing, “After three weeks everyone had given up hope. Even I was having doubts now. Search parties had been despatched and come back empty handed. Then as we were packing up ready to return home on the SS Mince, a small spot appeared on the horizon. As it waddled its way towards us it became clear it was a Penguin. He reached the camp and around his neck was a small piece of corduroy. It was corduroy from the scarf I gave to Larry! The bird stared at me and nodded vigorously. One of the support crew, a brutish lout from Belgium tried to shoo it away, before slack Alice said “I think it is trying to tell us something.” – the Penguin continued yapping before turning on its heels and walking out of the camp in the same direction it had come in.  A group of us followed.”

Dudley stared at me, tears rolling down his eyes,” Larry was saved by a Penguin and a piece of corduroy. You couldn’t make it up.”

When he was brought back to the base, Grayson was at death’s door. It was only the actions of the Penguin and the self-sacrifice of Pop It in Pete that had saved him. In his feverish ramblings Grayson begged for news of Pete.  Alas there was none.

Grayson saw his career eventually outshine that of Savile, who although retained the Fix It throne slowly began to wane from the affections of the British public. In his honour a small inlet on the Ross Ice-Shelf was named after Larry.  Grayson’s Passage is a treasured memory for Dudley. “We had such fun in Larry’s passage,” he said with a smile.

A bitter glint can still be seen in Savile’s eye to this day how events unfolded. “’Ow’s about someone dying for moi? Sir James of the Savil’es” he has been heard saying on a few occasions. But nobody has.

In October 1998 a group of men braved the frozen wastes of the Antarctic. They struggled with sled and dog to carry a large metal object to 87 degrees 34 minutes south. Once there they constructed a small cairn of stones. On top of the cairn they placed a red post box. A simple plinth reads “Pop It In Pete – Who Popped out for A Bit”. To this day the cairn has a guard of Emperor Penguins. Nobody knows why the Penguins are there. But it is good that they are.

Pop It In Pete’s Memorial and Penguin Guard

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