Dave Lee Travis: the medallion-clad arbiter of popular culture now under scrutiny
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Thursday 15 November 2012
If proof were needed that Dave Lee Travis remained influential beyond his BBC Radio 1 golden years, it came when following her release from 15 years of house arrest Aung San Suu Kyi revealed the Hairy Cornflake had helped her endure her captivity.
In one of the more surreal conjunctions between the battle for democracy and hirsute elder statesmen of pop, Travis last year met the Burmese opposition leader after she remarked how his World Service music request programme, A Jolly Good Show, had “made my world much more complete”.
As the two were introduced, Travis kissed Mrs Suu Kyi on the hand. For the veteran DJ, it was doubtless a gesture of gallantry but now Travis finds his behaviour towards women under much more uncomfortable scrutiny.
The allegations of sexual assault, which he went out of his way to deny last month long before detectives arrived at his Bedfordshire home at breakfast time today with an arrest warrant, relate to the period when Radio 1’s DJs were among the nation’s biggest broadcasters and Travis was close to the top of the pile.
Born David Patrick Griffin (DLT was a stage name) and raised in Manchester, Travis had started out in life as a designer of shop interiors but soon his night time hobby of DJing in Manchester’s clubs and ballrooms became his main pursuit as he toured Britain and America in the early 1960s.
When he returned from Statesside, Travis entered the floating crucible of anti-establishment broadcasting that was the pirate radio industry, working for Radio Caroline on ships floating off the coasts of Essex and the Isle of the Man.
By the time he jumped ship in 1967, the BBC had woken up to the idea that the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones should not be compered by men in tweed jackets.
Travis joined the newly-founded Radio 1 and, along with the likes of Tony Blackburn, became a member of the nation’s DJing aristocracy. He reached his Radio 1 zenith in 1978 when he took over its breakfast show from Noel Edmonds and re-christened himself to listeners as the Hairy Cornflake.
After carving out a persona somewhere between a medallion-clad arbiter of popular culture and the Honey Monster, Travis was considered something of a national treasure.
Despite rumours that he was not overly amused, he has insisted he sees the funny side of comedian Harry Enfield’s lampooning of two verbally incontinent DJs, Smashie and Nicey.
It is during this period of the late 1970s and early 1980s that Travis has been alleged by two women, including news broadcaster Vivien Creegor, to have carried out sexual assaults against them - claims he has denied the claims vehemently.
Travis left Radio 1 in highly public fashion in 1993 when he resigned live on air, declaring his opposition to a planned overhaul by the station’s new controller, Matthew Bannister and saying “changes are being made here which go against my principles and I just cannot agree with them”.
The DJ, who has been married to his Swedish wife Marianna for 41 years, has since adopted a lower profile, hosting a show for a commercial radio station and concentrating on his photography.
In an interview with The Sunday Times earlier this year, Travis was described by the journalist, Camilla Long as excessively touchy-feeling, saying: “I don’t think there is a part of my body that he didn’t grope.”
The DJ denied the claim. He said: “She was in my living room and my wife was with me.”
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