31.12.13

JONATHAN KING - In The Stir


In 1965 Jonathan King had a hit with ‘Everyone’s Gone To The Moon’ which wasn’t bad, but thereafter he got cheesier and cheesier recording under a variety of different names and becoming wealthy. Then he became a TV personality. In 2001 he was sentenced to seven years in jail for sexual offences and in 2004 I visited him in Maidstone Prison. He’d approached me to publish his autobiography and wanted to meet me, so I filled in the forms and when my visiting day and time was allotted caught a train to Maidstone and walked up the hill towards the imposing gate of the oldest prison in the UK, like a castle in the middle of the town. When I got there I was told I could take nothing in with me save for £5, no pen and paper to take notes, no food or drink, nothing but what I was wearing. I was thoroughly searched by an aggressive female warder who treated me as I was a criminal; indeed almost all of the warders were female and aggressive. I was part of a group herded through several gates that were opened and locked behind us, and across an exercise yard until we reached a room with metal tables and seats, all fixed to the floor. In the corner was a counter where snacks could be purchased, hence the £5.
     I waited for a while, observing other prisoners and their visitors, all of them pale-skinned and waxy, and dressed in blue and white striped shirts and ill-fitting jeans. There was a depressing, slightly malignant atmosphere. Warders looked on, unsmiling. When Jonathan finally arrived he turned out to be a friendly old cove, a bit full of himself and given to self-promotion on an epic scale. He never stopped talking, not once, vigorously protesting his innocence, blaming the tabloid press for his plight, claiming that other prominent gay men in the music industry and elsewhere had committed indiscretions far worse than him, and that he was prosecuted because the establishment required a scapegoat. He even named names which I won’t repeat here for fear of defamation but it certainly seemed to me that he’d been unfairly treated. It also seemed to me that although he was clearly angry he wasn’t in the least bit downhearted. He was making the best of it, befriending other prisoners and trying to help any who might benefit from his experience of the world and his boundless self-confidence.
    I never did publish the book (which in the event he self-published). The sales department were wary of it, probably justifiably so, believing that shops might not want to stock it in case the prurient tabloids created a fuss and demand it be boycotted. He understood. 

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