Eccentric U.K. Broadcaster Jimmy Savile, Longtime Host of 'Top of the Pops,' Dies at 84

Jimmy Savile in 1972
Jimmy Savile in 1972
 Getty Images

Veteran British broadcaster Jimmy Savile, a famously eccentric culture figure, has died at his home in northern England. He was 84.

Savile, known for his garish tracksuits, chunky gold jewelry and boundless enthusiasm for pop music and charity work, was the host of two long-running British television programs and claimed to have been a longtime confidant to Prince Charles and ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

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Rarely seen without his trademark large cigar, Savile had initially worked in a coal mine as a teenager before embracing music and built a national profile as a disc jockey -- first in Britain's dance halls and later on radio, including the renowned Radio Luxembourg.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed that officers had been called Saturday to Savile's home in the city of Leeds, northern England and said that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. The cause of Savile's death is not yet known.

Savile claimed to have been the first DJ in the world to use two turntables -- enabling continuous music to be played -- inventing the techniques later embraced by modern dance music, and to have pioneered the use of record, rather than live bands, at nightclubs.

"History has it that I was the very, very first in the whole world" to organize a disco event, he told the BBC in May.

Bestowed with a knighthood for his charity fundraising, Savile was best known as the host of the BBC's Top of the Pops weekly television pop music show, launching the program in 1964 and returning to present its final edition in 2006.

For almost 20 years from 1975, Savile also hosted the hugely popular series Jim'll Fix It, in which the broadcaster responded to children's letters by arranging for their wishes to be realized.

Savile championed a host of good causes -- frequently running marathons to raise money -- and led work to collect 20 million pounds ($32 million) for the creation of a national spinal injuries center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in southern England.

"He was a very energetic character," friend and fellow radio presenter David Hamilton told Britain's Sky News television. "But most of all, I remember him as just a totally flamboyant, over the top, larger-than-life character and as he was on the air, he was just the same off."

Savile never married and lived alone in his native Leeds, in northern England, reserving part of his home as shrine to his later mother.

His guarded, and sometime curious, private life was the subject of a much-watched television documentary in 2000 by filmmaker Louis Theroux, son of author Paul Theroux.

 

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