‘Jimmy Savile wasn’t the only one at the BBC’, says investigative journalist and former child actor Ben Fellows
By Ben Fellows
21st Century Wire
Jimmy Savile may be the villain of the moment concerning revelations about child sexual abuse at the BBC, but the truth is there are pedophiles everywhere in the entertainment industry. Many of them are in positions of power and influence within their respective organisations, including adult stars, directors, producers and executives.
The following accounts are just some of my own personal experiences – and brushes with pedophilia out in the entertainment and big media spheres, as a child star who attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London…
At the age of ten years old I was asked by my drama teacher to go and audition at the Royal Shakespeare Company. They were looking for a mixed race boy to play alongside Hugh Quarshi who was playing Banquo, in Adrian Nobles’ production of MacBeth starring Jonathan Price and Sinead Cusack. Having gone to the audition, taken by my parents, I was lucky enough to get the part of Fleance. However, after the high of getting offered a part in the production, my chaperones – who looked after me like secret service agents (I’m not kidding) – told me that there were certain actors that I was not allowed to be alone with. As a child at the RSC, I was just having a blast and didn’t realise that sexual predators were a part of my production, however, there were certain actors who were famous and who I was warned about.
I was told in no uncertain terms never to go into certain actor’s dressing rooms. On one occasion I actually did go into an actor’s dressing room who closed the door behind me. I was offered alcohol… and before I knew it, the dressing room door burst open and my chaperone invited me to go back to my own dressing room. Of course nothing happened to me whilst at the RSC. My point is that the RSC were quite aware of pedophiles in their midst. It was an open secret that children were vulnerable, even this highly rated, professional environment.
TV’s ‘Casting Couch’
However, once I’d entered the entertainment industry proper, I was not so lucky and ran a gauntlet of pedophiles – both at the BBC and at other television production companies, and also in theatres, as well as on commercial photo shoots. In fact, almost every production I was involved with, I was targeted in some way or another. Looking back, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the problem is both institutional and systemic in the entertainment industry.
The casting couch may seem like a funny, perhaps even mythical old Hollywood style, approach to casting. As pre-teen and as a young teenager, I attended many auditions as a child where I was asked to take my top off and pose for photographs, and I was propositioned by male and female casting directors all the time.
After one audition for a Coca-Cola commercial, the Police came to my parent’s home. They advised my mother that I had inadvertently become a potential target of a known pedophile ring. It turned out that the ‘well-known’ casting director had taken pictures of me topless, and those pictures then appeared in what was described as a catalogue and was passed to other pedophiles within the company – and to external pedophiles. These were professionals within ‘the industry’, operating under the cover of an entire production company working with blue chip clients.
On another, more frightening occasion, I was chased around the dressing room by a naked actor who had invited me into their dressing room at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane – and this actor was extremely famous. I was advised by the director of the musical that I was not to complain, or tell anyone of this incident. I was thirteen years old… so I didn’t.
It was not uncommon, and on multiple occasions, that I was propositioned and called into “fake” castings. One fake casting of note was with one of the world’s most successful theatre producers(West End, Broadway), where I was systematically harassed over a twelve month period – whilst having a leading role in the musical dangled like the proverbial carrot in front of my face.
The BBC experience
At the BBC I did many series and episodes of television programmes. A a young actor on East Enders, I was propositioned by another adult actor, but by this time I had become quite a plucky kid so I didn’t tolerate it. But it wasn’t the last time, and I was hounded by that actor for the duration of my tenure on the show.
When I was on tour with a well-known musical, most of the actors stayed in the same hotel. One night I was taken out by a male adult actor. I was brought alcohol and that actor took me back to my room and attempted to rape me. If it wasn’t for my friend - drunkenly bursting into my room, I believe that I might well have been raped. Mind you, I was only fourteen years old.
When I was fifteen years old, I was introduced to politicians via working from 1990-1994 on the investigative TV show, “The Cook Report”, which became a nightmare. To explain, The Cook Report was an investigative journalism programme run out of Central Television in Birmingham. When I joined the team, I was a confident child actor. I had a powerful agent and I was working on a regular basis across the entertainment industry. The Cook Report needed a child,specifically one who was mixed race to place in front of prominent politicians to lure them into a sting operation – a dangerous honey trap if there ever was one.
Firstly, it was illegal for The Cook Report to exploit me in this way. I was a child for God’s sake! Yet, if I was eighteen but looked fifteen and I fully understood what I was getting into – then fair enough. But I was only fifteen at the time, so not being able to say no to a job – I joined the team and began my role in the sting.
During the show’s ‘Cash for Questions’ investigation, the first politician who I met was then DTI Chairman, Sir Michael Grylls, who invited me to tea in the House of Commons “tea room” and spent the meeting attempting make untoward body contact with me under the table. After that, I was sent to a political lobbyist named Ian Greer who tried to rub his genitalia against me while he hugged me. On one separate occasion, I was summoned Ian Greer’s offices where Ken Clarke was also present. Greer gave me a two glasses of whiskey and was acting a little, lets say, “over-familiar”. Ken Clarke and Ian Greer were well aware of my age – because I told them. Now, I’m not suggesting that either Sir Michael Grylls, Ian Greer or Ken Clarke are pedophiles, however, it’s not over-the-top to describe what transpired as very questionable behaviour towards a minor – by anyone’s standards – let alone the standards expected from our public officials and government inner circle members.
So, if Prime Minister David Cameron is calling for an inquiry into the BBC over the recent pedophile revelations of Jimmy Savile, then his government should also be including members of parliament, as well as the entire entertainment industry.
Of course, The Cook Report producers are just as culpable for putting me in that position in the first place. Certainly, it wouldn’t be the last time that show put my life in danger. As an undercover journalist on several stories, I was constantly put in danger.
It wasn’t just the celebrities who were at it. A BBC producer, after filming one day on a television programme, took me to a party and introduced me to other BBC staff. I also met a male Guardian journalist who tried to come on to me. I am straight, and as I was a child and even though I probably thought I was cool, I was most certainly naive to the ways of adult behaviour in the industry! The producers took me back to their house in Ealing, a suburb of London, frequented by BBC staff. I was drunk, and a female BBC staff member tried to sleep with me. On another occasion I was given cocaine by famous personalities and crew with the full knowledge of the executive producers, producer and directors. They even had the coke delivered via a BBC courier to the party we were having in a BBC rehearsal room in Acton.
I could go on with many stories of being exploited sexually in the entertainment industry. My point is that it’s not just the BBC where pedophiles are operating. It’s the entire entertainment industry.
When I was between the ages of ten and the age of consent, on every television programme and theatre job I did, I was either sexually harassed, coerced into drinking too much, felt up in some way, or simply followed home by a crazy male fans. I’ve had actors expose themselves to me and I mean really famous actors, including world-famous movie stars – many who are touted by the sycophantic celebrity-worshiping media as role models. So you can see how recent revelations of Jimmy Saville are of little surprise for me.
Sickness That Infects the Whole of Show Business
The entertainment industry can be a rough ride for a child, and an industry that seems to have little or no internal governance regarding the regulation of sexual predators within its borders. I’ve been attacked on a few occasions and saved by sheer luck, ended up at serious sex parties with male and female prostitutes, bucket loads of drugs, alcohol – and all with some of the world’s most famous industry professionals. I don’t know about now, but when I was growing up in the industry it was rampant and everywhere – and everyone knew about it. It is the industry’s big, dirty secret.
For children in the entertainment industry what I’ve described is real, and it’s appropriate to note here that there were even child actors I personally knew – who committed suicide because of their abusive experiences. One can only guess at the number of survivors who later fell into self-abuse, narcotics and depression as a result of this institutional disease.
Male or female, it didn’t matter. I was a child and I was under the age of consent.
We can’t just look at the BBC without looking everywhere else – including the music industry. I was exposed to many famous men who tried to abuse their positions of power as industry ‘King Makers’.
Little or No Reform
As for the disgusting excuse for a public servant – Harriet Harman MP, who in the past has advocated for less stricter legislation on pedophile photographs, films and videos and wants the age of consent lowered to 14 years old – I say, only a pedophile would want to call for less legislation and therefore make being a pedophile much, much easier and more legal.
Now, more than ever, children need to be protected in society, and that includes the entertainment industry. If pedophiles were rampant in my day as a child actor, one could assume that it’s rather unlikely that this situation would have improved over time all by itself.
Listen to The Ben Fellows Radio Show at www.thebenfellowsradioshow.com.
RELATED STORY: ELITE CHILD ABUSE: ‘JIMMY SAVILE… DOORMAN TO THE CESSPIT’
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