Kevin, And The Sad Reminder*….
…that mud sticks.
Michael Le Vell walked free from court today, found innocent of twelve charges ranging from rape to indecent assault. As an actor in a high profile programme like Coronation Street he was always going to be a notable cause celebre and as such subject to the full force of tabloid scrutiny. (They’re enjoying this one; Leveson could go through soon and then they’ll have to behave themselves. Kind of).
Notwithstanding the media attention he’ll get, the jokes have started already. I won’t repeat them here, but you know the kind of thing. Think of the Woody Allen and Michael Jackson ones and change the names. Then remember that as things stand he’s an INNOCENT man, a victim of someone falsely crying rape, who will carry a stigma with him, probably to the grave. I’ve always been an advocate of anonymity for both sides of the case, and the supreme irony of this one is that the parallels between this set of circumstances and a celebrated affair from the early eighties are a stark reminder of what can happen to someone found innocent of a crime and hounded because of his reputation. Wondering why?
See how many of the jokes you’ll hear mention Len Fairclough.
It gets spooky now.
Peter Adamson was an enormous star. He played Len Fairclough on Corrie, and was a household name. Like Le Vell it was the role with which he was most associated. He was also a heavy drinker who had previously been suspended for alcohol related shenanigans (pub fights, stints at AA, the depressing usual). In the spring of 1983 he was arrested after allegations were made of inappropriate touching of young girls at a pool he volunteered at as an instructor.
This was before the internet had even invented paedophilia, so people were a bit less clued up on how to be outraged about it. Nevertheless the headlines throughout the trial were reassuringly lurid. And bullshit as it turned out, as (despite a hastily recanted drunken confession a year later) he was found not guilty on all counts.
Now Coronation Street’s management played a clever hand here. Adamson was already under suspension from the show, accused of selling stories to the tabloids about co-stars. They dicided not to pay him during the trial, citing the ongoing disciplinary issues as the reason, definitely NOT the trial, oh no.
Of course, they would have looked like the most evil of bosses if they’d fired an innocent man. They had a massive dilemma. They wanted rid of him; the tabloid storm was in full effect and they wanted to protect the image of what was (and probably still is), the biggest show in the country. On the other hand they had no grounds. That was until Adamson, hamstrung by huge legal bills, sold his memoirs, in breach of his contract. They had him. They sacked him. They killed off his character.
He spent almost the next two decades in a spiral of alcoholism, sporadic and eventual non-existent work, poverty, bankruptcy (he ended up in a rented flat putting away a fiver a week for his funeral), and eventually death from cancer in early 2002. And the stigma, always the stigma….
Given that template the future doesn’t look too good for Le Vell. He doesn’t have other issues swirling asround him, and there’s every chance that people’s attitudes (and by extension Coronation Street’s attitudes) have become more sympathetic. After all, there are thousands of people alive now who are named Tyson, after the convicted rapist, so there’s that warped hope for him to cling to.
Whatever the outcome, and I for one hope he is allowed to get on with his life as far as possible. And if you’re uncertain as to how you feel about anonymity for rape suspects do spare a thought for Peter Adamson, shuffling along to the shop in his slippers to buy cut price food, eyes darting this way and that looking for a notebook or a lens, won’t you?
And of course, there’s always the jokes…..
*that’s right, Duran Duran. Problem?