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Lynn Barber: I was nervous when I told Jimmy Savile, 'People say you like little girls'

The following is an extract from an interview with Sir Jimmy Savile by Lynn Barber that appeared in The Independent on Sunday in 1990.

For Jimmy Savile, being awarded a knighthood was a joy and an honour. More interestingly, he says it was also a relief. For the past several years, tabloid journalists have been saying that he must have a serious skeleton in his cupboard, otherwise he would have got a knighthood by now. "Ooh ay, I had a lively couple of years, with the tabloids sniffing about, asking round the corner shops – everything – thinking there must be something the authorities knew that they didn't. Whereas in actual fact I've got to be the most boring geezer in the world because I ain't got no past. And so, if nothing else, it was a gi-normous relief when I got the knighthood, because it got me off the hook."

What he says about tabloid journalists is true. There has been a persistent rumour about him for years, and journalists have often told me as a fact: "Jimmy Savile? Of course, you know he's into little girls." But if they know it, why haven't they published it? The Sun or the News of the World would hardly refuse the chance of featuring a Jimmy Savile sex scandal. It is very, very hard to prove a negative, but the fact that the tabloids have never come up with a scintilla of evidence against Jimmy Savile is as near proof as you can ever get.

I wasn't sure whether Sir James actually knew what the particular skeleton in his closet was supposed to be, though I notice that he told The Sun five years ago that he never allowed children into his flat. "Never in a million years would I dream of letting a kid, or five kids, past my front door. Never, ever. I'd feel very uncomfortable." Nor, he said, would he take children for a ride in his car unless they had their mum or dad with them: "You just can't take the risk."

Still, I was nervous when I told him: "What people say is that you like little girls." He reacted with a flurry of funny-voice Jimmy Savile patter, which is what he does when he's getting his bearings: "Ah now. Sure. Now then. Now then. First of all, I happen to be in the pop business, which is teenagers – that's No 1. So when I go anywhere it's the young ones that come round me. Now what the tabloids don't realise is that the young girls in question don't gather round me because of me – it's because I know the people they love, the stars, because they know I saw Bros last week or Wet Wet Wet. Now you, watching from afar, might say 'Look at those young girls throwing themselves at him', whereas in actual fact it's exactly the opposite. I am of no interest to them.

"A lot of disc jockeys make the mistake of thinking that they're sex symbols and then they get a rude awakening. But I always realised that I was a service industry. Like, because I knew Cliff [Richard] before he'd even made a record, all the Cliff fans would bust a gut to meet me, so that I could tell them stories about their idol. But if I'd said, 'Come round, so that I can tell you stories about me' or 'Come round, so that you can fall into my arms' they'd have said: 'What! On yer bike!' But because reporters don't understand the nuances of all that, they say, 'A-ha'."