The Jonathan King case
By: John Stefan
Every pop lover is well informed about the scandals pop stars were involved with in the past and which occurred rather frequently. It is not for nothing that the expression "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll" applies for a substantial part of the pop industry.
An Englishman who played a major role in pop history is Jonathan King, born 6 December 1944. Before he went to Cambridge University he visited the same distinguished boarding school as two later members of the band Genesis: Charterhouse. As a student he made the 1965 hit single "Everyone's Gone To The Moon", after which he recorded successful records under various pseudonyms, like for instance "Johnny Reggae" as The Piglets. He worked as a producer too and he had his own music publishing company, which contracted Genesis (a name he invented for the group). He also invented a name for the group 10CC, of which he released the 1972 single "Donna". Later he would also produce the debut single of boy band The Bay City Rollers, "Keep On Dancing". Apart from that, Jonathan King was the founder of a magazine about the pop industry and he acted as the host of an important musical programme. In 1997 he was the man behind the winning song of the Eurovision Song contest, "Love Shine A Light". He would sell a total amount of 40 million records.
On 24 November 2000 Jonathan King was charged with three child sex offences, dating back 32 years. In the light of the publicity surrounding his arrest, a dozen other boys (now men) came forward to tell the police that King had abused them too, during the 1970s and 1980s. Some said he picked them up at the Walton Hop, a disco in Walton-on-Thames run by his friend Deniz Corday. Others said he cruised them in his Rolls-Royce in London. He'd pull over and ask why they were out so late and did they know who he was. He was Jonathan King! Did they want a lift?
He told the boys he was conducting market research into the tastes of young people. Did they like his music? His TV shows? Were they fans of Entertainment USA, his BBC2 series? He asked them to complete a questionnaire - written by him - to list their hobbies in order of preference. Cars? Music? Family and friends? Sex?
"Oh, really?" Jonathan would say to them. "You've only put sex at number two?"
And so they would get talking about sex. He sometimes took them to his Bayswater mews house, with its mirrored toilet and casually scattered photos of naked women on the coffee table. Sometimes he took them to car parks, or to the forests near the Walton Hop. He showed them photographs of naked Colombian air hostesses and Sam Fox. He could, he said, arrange for them to have sex with the women in the photos. (Sam Fox knew nothing about this).
Sometimes, within the bundle of photographs of naked women he would hand the boys, there would be a picture of himself naked. "Oh!" he'd say, blushing a little. "Sorry. You weren't supposed to see that one of me!" (When the police raided King's house, they say they found 10 overnight bags, each stuffed with his seduction kit - his questionnaires and photos of Sam Fox and photos of himself naked - all packed and ready for when the urge took him to get into his Rolls-Royce and start driving around.)
He told the boys that it was fine if they wanted to masturbate. And then things would progress from there. Some of the boys reported that his whole body would start to shake as he sat next to them in the Rolls-Royce. And then he "went for it", in the words of one victim. None of the boys say that he forced himself on to them. They all say they just sat there, awed into submission by his celebrity.
The boys all say that Jonathan King has emotionally scarred them for life, although almost of all them returned, on many occasions, and became the victims of more assaults.
1. The trial
10 September 2001. The trial against Jonathan King takes place in the Old Bailey Court, where some hundred years ago Oscar Wilde, the famous English writer, stood trial for his homosexual relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. There are six charges within the time frame 1982-1987: one buggery, one attempted buggery, and four indecent assaults on boys aged 14 and 15. There are half-a-dozen journalists covering the case. One of them is Jon Ronson from The Guardian, who is on good terms with Jonathan King. They email each other during the trial.
The defence argues that the police actively encouraged claims of emotional scarring when they interviewed the victims, because, without it, what else was there? Just some sex, long ago. The danger, says the defence team, is that if Jonathan is found guilty, the judge will sentence him not only for the acts themselves, but also for the quantity of emotional scarring the victims claim to have. And how can that be quantified, especially in this age of the self, when the whole world seems to be forever looking to their childhoods for clues as to why they turned out so badly.
"Jonathan King," says David Jeremy, the prosecution barrister in his opening remarks to the jury, "was exploiting the young by his celebrity."
In one email King asks Ronson if he would consider it fair if, say, Mick Jagger was arrested that day for having sex with a 15-year-old girl in 1970. Ronson agrees that it would not be. Later, in court, some of the victims say that Jonathan had a trick of making them feel special, as if they could do anything, as if they could make it big in show business, just so long as they stuck with him (and did not tell anyone what had happened). Ronson presumes, that Jonathan's Jagger analogy was alluding to some covert homophobia at the heart of the case, but perhaps the real contrast lies somewhere else. For Mick Jagger (or, indeed, Bill Wyman) would not need to pretend he was conducting market research into the tastes of young people. He would not need to have promised them sex with Colombian air hostesses. But Jonathan did not have much pulling power (he had a sharp nose, big black spectacles and a lop-sided grin), so he did need those extra little touches.
11 September 2001. Day two of the trial, and things are already looking hopeless for Jonathan King. The first victim, whom we'll call David and is now a painter and decorator from the suburbs of north London, takes the stand. Jonathan approached David in Leicester Square when the boy was 14 or 15. Although David had no idea who Jonathan was, he quickly told him he was famous. "It was exciting," says David. Jonathan gave him the questionnaire, the one that ranked boys' hobbies in order of preference. He filled it out. Jonathan invited him back to his house and asked him if he and his friends masturbated together. Jonathan showed him pornographic movies on a cine projector. "We were talking about masturbation," says David. "He told me to relax. He undid my trousers. He tried to masturbate me, which didn't arouse me at all. He told me to do it myself, which I proceeded to do. I felt very awkward."
David returned to King's house on three occasions. Similar indecent assaults occurred each time. Later, Jonathan wrote David a series of letters. "He made it sound like I would be famous," says David. The prosecuting barrister asks David to read one of these letters to the jury. "Maybe you will go on to be a megastar. Now I am in New York. I will call you when I next hit town. In the meantime, keep tuning in on Wednesday at 9pm for Entertainment USA, the greatest TV show in the world." David says that Jonathan King has emotionally scarred him for life. He says he cannot hold children. He says it makes him scared and uncomfortable to hold and play with his girlfriend's little boy.
After lunch Ron Thwaites, Jonathan's defence barrister, begins his cross examination of David. His tone is breathtakingly abrasive. "We are going back 16 years because you decided not to make the complaint until nine months ago," he says. "You're not asking for sympathy for that, are you?"
"I was the one that was assaulted," David replies, shakily.
"Do you think it's easy for a man to be accused of a crime after 20 years?" says Thwaites. And then: "Are you interested in money?"
"I am nervous up here," says David. "You are putting me under pressure. I was sexually assaulted by that man over there."
"You must have been fairly grown up to go to London on your own," says Ron Thwaites. "You can't have been a boy in short trousers, crying for your mother."
And so on.
Everyone in court is unaware that, during this cross examination, New York and Washington DC are under attack. That night, Ronson receives an email from Jonathan: "Makes whether or not I put my hand on a teenager's knee 15 years ago seem rather trivial, doesn't it? Are you dropping KING for the World Trade Centre? Boo hoo!"
According to another witness Jonathan offered him a lift home, which he accepted. In the Rolls-Royce they talked about music, and King told him that he needed a young person's view. King drove him home on a couple of occasions before he eventually assaulted the boy. The first assault occurred at a car park. King seemed familiar with the location. "I believe he had been there before," the witness says. "I was sat in the front passenger seat and King was in the driver seat. I noticed that King had started shaking, and I presumed that he needed the toilet. He then leant over to where I was sat. To my horror he started pulling at my trousers. He wrenched my trousers open and he just went for it. He had his face in my lap and he was performing oral sex with me by putting his mouth around my penis. I was so shocked. After a while he stopped performing oral sex on me, and although my penis was erect I did not ejaculate. I then noticed that King had his trousers undone with his penis exposed and he started masturbating himself. I remember looking out of the window and contemplating walking home. I did not, because I just hoped that once he was done he would drop me home. King eventually came and he then drove me home. I felt sick and ashamed about what he had done to me and I remember looking in the mirror the next day and wondering if you could see what had happened in my face.
The second assault on me by King took place near the car park which had been previously described. This time he buggered me... Once at the location, we got out of the car and he then led me about 15 yards to a dip in a wooded area. King led me by placing one hand on the back of my neck and the other on my arm. King was shaking. He then took my trousers and underwear down. He then forced his penis inside my anus and penetrated me. I would describe King as frantic at the time. He was totally uncaring. I honestly believe if I had said no, he would have forced me. King had his underwear and trousers down by his ankles and he used no lubrication. I can also say that he did not have a huge penis. Although he was rough, it was not painful. I was in a state of shock. King eventually came inside of me and it was all very quick. Not only did I wash that night, but I constantly washed myself that week. I hated what he had done to me and I felt dirty. It may be that King grabbed some of my hair, because for about a week I washed my hair everyday which was most unlike me.
The third time that King assaulted me was, again, following a lift home from the Hop. This time it did hurt and I told him that, but he did not stop. I even asked him if he used Vaseline, and he replied, 'Oh no, you'll do with spit.' It all happened very fast, and he was very surgical and physical. I would also like to add that King never kissed me or showed me any affection. Many years later, I attended the Brit Awards, and while I was there I saw Jonathan King. On seeing me, he gave me a long stare and then walked away. I believe he is dangerous and I want to stop it happening to other children."
In the end, Jonathan is acquitted of this particular charge. The victim admits on the witness stand that he was probably 16 when he knew Jonathan, and the prosecution cannot prove that the sex was non-consensual. A 16-year-old who has had consensual sex with an adult must, by law, complain within a year of the offence for the adult to be tried. This boy waited 23 years, which is why his case is abandoned.
Every day, in the Old Bailey, Ron Thwaites launches another merciless attack on anybody he can think of who is not his client. The victims are "cranks" who came out of the woodwork" seeking "compensation." This includes one who cried in the witness box. "Crocodile tears!" he snarls. Others are "drug addicts and fantasists and liars." One is "completely mad".
Admittedly, Thwaites does have something of a point here. One of the victims, Chris Sealey, admits within five minutes of cross-examination that he sees black cats that nobody else can see and thinks that Gypsies are going to come to his house to rip out his throat. Chris also admits that he came forward solely for the money. He hopes to sell his story to a newspaper. (He does: to the Sunday People, embellishing his testimony with extraordinary relish. Chris' argument is, "So what? Jonathan King got something out of me, so why shouldn't I get something out of Jonathan King?").
There is no material evidence in this case. No DNA. How can King defend himself against crimes which occurred so long ago?
19 September 2001. On day 10 of the trial Thwaites plays for the jury a videotape of the highlights of Jonathan King's career. Maybe JK tries to awe the jury in the same way that he awed the boys. It takes the jury three days to reach a verdict. JK is found guilty of six charges. He nods every time he hears the foreman of the jury say: "Guilty". Within seconds, Jonathan is led downstairs from the dock, and straight to Belmarsh Prison.
21 November 2001. JK is sentenced to seven year's imprisonment. The Crown Prosecution Service won't proceed with any more trials - this includes the allegations from boys who said JK had picked them up at the Walton Hop. The judge says that the case is a tragedy. This otherwise honourable man, he says, this successful celebrity, used and abused his fame and success to attract impressionable teenagers. But there was no violence, no threats used.
2. Other witnesses
The Walton Hop closed down in 1990. There were complaints of noise from the neighbours. But the Hop's home, the Walton Playhouse, still stands. Jimmy Pursey, the lead singer of Sham 69, was one of the Hop's most regular teenage attendees. He went dancing there every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night throughout the 1970s.
One day, shortly before the trial began, Jimmy gave me a guided tour of the Playhouse. "It's so hard to explain to people who see in black and white the colour that existed in this club," he said. "The Playhouse was a theatre for fringe plays and amateur dramatics. But on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays it would become a paradise." Jimmy took me through the hall, and towards the stage.
"It was inspirational," said Jimmy. "This wasn't table tennis. This was dancing. This was testing out your own sexuality. Normal people would become very unnormal. It was Welcome to the Pleasure Dome. It was everything."
He leapt up on to the stage, and took me to the wings, stage right. We stood behind the curtains. "This is where the inner sanctum was," said Jimmy. "From here, Deniz Corday would have the best view of the teenagers who were a little bit bolder, a little bit more interesting."
"Bolder and interesting in what way?" I asked.
"People like me," said Jimmy. "If Deniz liked you, you'd be invited backstage and get a little bit of whisky added to your Coca-Cola. Backstage, you see. And you'd go, 'Oh, I'm in with the big crowd now.' That's all there was to it with Deniz."
"He'd drive into the Hop car park, and come backstage from the side," he said. "And we'd all be going, 'God! There's a Rolls-Royce outside with a TV aerial coming from it! Ooh, it's got a TV in the back and it's a white Rolls-Royce!' Because you'd never know if it was the Beatles."
"But it wasn't the Beatles," Ronson said.
"No," said Jimmy. "It was Jonathan King." He laughed. "A very big difference there!"
The Beatles lived on St George's Hill, in nearby Weybridge, and were often seen driving around Walton in their Rolls-Royces. The Walton area, in the 1970's, was London's playpen, full of pop moguls and pop stars, letting their hair down, doing just what Jimmy said the teenagers at the Walton Hop did - being "unnormal". In fact, a disproportionate number of celebrities who are now convicted pedophiles hung around backstage at the Walton Hop, this popular youth club, during the 1970s and 1980s. There was Jonathan King's friend, Tam Paton, for instance, the manager of the Bay City Rollers who was convicted of child sex offences in the early 1980s. It was Paton who first introduced Jonathan King to the Hop - they met when Jonathan was invited to produce the Rollers' debut single, "Keep On Dancing". Chris Denning, the former Radio 1 DJ, was another Hop regular - he has a string of child sex convictions, was in jail in Prague for a long time and was friendly with King and Paton.
"It was fun with Deniz Corday," said Jimmy. "Deniz would say, 'Oh, Jimmy! Come here! I'd love to suck your fucking cock!' Deniz was a silly, fluffy man. Then there was Tam Paton. I remember being back here having one of my whisky and Coca-Colas one night and Tam turned to me and he said, 'I like fucking lorry drivers.' Chris Denning was more reckless. One time he placed his penis within the pages of a gay centrefold and showed it to my ex-bass player, who proceeded to kick the magazine, and Denning's dick, and yell, 'Come on, Jimmy, we're fucking out of here!' But Jonathan King was more like a Victorian doctor. It wasn't an eerie vibe... but Jonathan had this highbrow, Cambridge, sophisticated thing about him. The Jekyll and Hyde thing. There wasn't much conversation with Jonathan. And with Jonathan, you'd always had these rumours. 'Oh, he got so and so into the white Rolls-Royce.' And they'd always be the David Cassidy look-alike competition winners. Very beautiful."
"Would he make a grand entrance?" I asked.
"Oh no," said Jimmy. "It was never, 'Look at me!' He never went out on to the dance floor at all. He was much happier hiding backstage up there, behind the curtains, in the inner sanctum."
Jon Ronson asked himself if pop impresario's who seduced young teenage boys in the Walton Hop saw themselves not as a pedophile ring, but as the continuance of a venerable tradition. For in the early 1960s Larry Parnes, Britain's first pop mogul, based his business judgements on his sexual tastes. "If I am attracted to Tommy Steele (one of his discoveries)," he would tell his associates, "teenage girls will be, too." Parnes' Westend flat was often full of teenage boys hoping to be chosen as his next stars. If he liked the look of them, he'd give them a clean white T-shirt. Once he'd sex with them, he'd make them take off the white T-shirt and put on a black one."
Wham!'s manager Simon Napier-Bell - who was once invited by Parnes to put on a white T-shirt - has said that the great difference between the British and American pop industries is this: the American impresarios are traditionally driven by money, while their British counterparts were historically driven by gay sex, usually with younger boys.
Deniz Corday was desperately worried that the Walton Hop, his life's work, was about to become famous for something terrible. "Jonathan didn't want me to talk to you," he said to Jon Ronson," but I must defend the Hop with all my life." Deniz is immensely proud of the Hop. "Every day someone comes up to me in the supermarket," he said, "and says, 'Thank you, Deniz, for making my childhood special.' Some say the Hop was the first disco in Great-Britain. It was terribly influential. Oh dear..." Deniz sighed. "This kind of thing can happen in any disco. The manager can't control everything."
Deniz said that he knew it looks bad, but that the famous pedophiles were not there to pick up boys. They were there to conduct market research. "Tom Paton would play all the latest Roller acetates and say, 'Clap for the one you like the best.' Same as Jonathan and Chris Denning. It helped them in their work. In 32 years we never had one complaint about Jonathan and young boys, and suddenly, after 32 years, all these old men, grandfathers some of them, come forward and say they've been sexually abused and it's been bothering them all their lives. I think there's something deeply suspicious about it. Jonathan is a really nice guy and definitely not a pedophile. I think a pedophile should be someone who goes with someone under 13."
Deniz said that the youngsters at the Walton Hop were not fragile little flowers. They were big and tough and they could look after themselves.
One morning in November, Ronson visited Nick McMeier in his flat in Kingston, Surrey. Nick showed him some of the presents Jonathan bought him during their time together. "Whenever I visited, I'd end up with two or three records. So I guess you can calculate how many times I visited him on that basis." Ronson looked at the pile of records. "There must be 30 or 40 records here," he said. "Or more."
"And he gave a copy of his book, Bible 2," said Nick. "And a guitar. And a biography of Edie Sedgewick."
"It sounds like the two of you were having a relationship. That he was not your abuser, but your boyfriend."
"I don't know," said Nick. "He enjoyed being assertive. He was never particularly shy about name-dropping or describing how famous he was."
Nick is 34, and very good looking. He told me how they first met. He was between 14 and 16 - he cannot exactly remember - and he was cycling home from Richmond Park when Jonathan King pulled over in his Rolls-Royce and asked him directions to Kingston bypass.
"I gave him the directions and then he said, 'Do you know who I am?' And I said, 'Yeah. I do.' I tried to act as unstar-struck as I possibly could."
Later, Nick visited Jonathan in his flat and they listened to some records and had a bit of a chat. On every later occasion when Nick visited him, Jonathan buggered him. He was always gentle, said Nick, and would coo, comfortingly.
"Why did you keep going back?"
There is a silence. "I don't really know. Well, I was getting records every time. But I was also enjoying the sexual gratification. I was not racked with guilt. At that age, you've got the hormones raging inside you. And I felt taken care of. I knew that wasn't how grown-ups normally took care of children, but he had a kind of invincibility about him. A self-assurance."
Nick's relationship with JK lasted 18 months. In the intervening years, he has come to identify the extent of the emotional scarring those months caused him. He just completed 6 weeks of therapy which, he said, had barely scratched the surface. "It caused a division between my emotional side and myself," he said. "It's not even something I was aware of happening until I spoke to the police and they came to interview me. And two days later this incredible dark cloud came over me, like a black dog.."
Nick said that he thought now that Jonathan was a rather sad, impotent man.
Little Kellerstain, Tom Paton's large, outlandish, rural bungalow near Edinburgh airport, his home for 27 years. It was noisy there, when Jon Ronson visited Paton and you can imagine it to have always been a noisy place. The old neighbours, the now dead rich couple who lived next door, used to complain bitterly about their eccentric, legendary, pop impresario neighbour, the packs of screaming Roller fans forever camped outside his electric gates, the parties, the teams of police officers searching his house for clues of pedophile activity, and then more screaming - the screams of the headlines: "Sordid Secrets of Twisted Tam", "Tam's Night in the Sauna with the Boys."
That day, the place was noisy with dogs and boys. The dogs were rottweilers. There were four of them, and they seemed to hate each other. There are about half-a-dozen boys living with Tam. They live in spare rooms and in caravans in the garden. They are all around 18 years old. Tam is 63 now. He was polite to a fault, almost humble. It was as if the years of being considered a pedophile, a pervert, had reduced him to a position of constant subservience around strangers. The Tam Paton of today is nothing like the fearsome svengali you would see on television during the Roller years.
Ronson had come to see Paton because of the similarities in his and JK's crimes. They were friends and colleagues, and would visit the Hop together. Like Jonathan, the boys Paton "indecently assaulted" were not that young. The youngest was 15. Ronson knew that it would take Jonathan years to settle into his new role in life as a convicted celebrity pedophile. Paton had had 20 years to do this. So Ronson imagined that meeting him would be like meeting Jonathan in the future.
"I was jailed for six years for underage sex," said Tam. "Underage sex. Under the age of 21. This was 1981. I served a year. My victims were... one was 15. I never even touched him. There was nothing physical in that particular charge. The chap was deaf and he had a speech impediment. He came to my house and he saw a pornographic movie, a heterosexual pornographic movie. It was all to do with women's boobs. Big boobs. All sizes of boobs. And he'd had two lagers. The charges that were raised against me was that I'd subjected a 15-year-old handicapped boy to pornographic movies and supplied him with stupefying alcohol with intent to pervert and corrupt. I got six months right there for that."
Tam took Ronson to the scene of more of his crimes - his sauna room. It was built in the 1970s, in what used to be his utility room. He turned on the Jacuzzi. "I got six months for putting my hand on a guy's leg in the sauna," said Tam. "And then I got another two years for a chap who willingly came up here. He was 16, educated, a nice guy. He came up in a taxi. I gave him a bottle of Lambrusco."
Of course, the stigma of being imprisoned for underage sex crimes remains with Tam to this day. Just last week, one of his friends - who has a three-month-old baby - was visited by social services and warned that the baby should be kept away from Tom Paton. "A tiny little baby!" said Tam. "People look at me like I'm an animal. People who don't know me judge me."
"Can I ask about the boys who live here?"
"They clean up," he replied, a little sharply. "They feed the dogs. They take them for walks. They help me with my property business. They are 18 years of age, and I don't have a relationship with them. You can interview them until the cows come home. Maybe I just like nice people floating about. We don't have orgies. There's no swinging from the chandeliers."
There was a silence.
"Even if there was," he added, "it would be legal."
Tam believes he was targeted because of his fame, because he was a celebrity svengali. He blames his arrest, then, on the pop business. And now he is out of it. He has become a property millionaire, with 40 flats in Edinburgh's West End. "I want to forget it all," he said. "I've had two heart attacks. And now the same thing's happening with Jonathan. A fox hunt. Everyone wants to see the death of the fox. They would never have gone after us if we were heterosexual. But if you're a poof, my God!"
"Do you think you have emotionally scarred any of the boys for life?" Ronson asked.
Tam looked startled - as if he's never considered this possibility before. "O, my God," he said. "I hope not."
3. Jonathan King's story
September 11th, 2001 was the most important day in my life. On that Tuesday, in the Old Bailey Court, where 100 years before, Oscar Wilde had stood in the dock charged with very similar accusations, my own trial began. There are two aspects of the JK scandal that, I believe, need objective and considered examination - the specific situation that arose and destroyed me - technically, I hasten to ad. In reality I'm doing fine, thank you. The other aspect is the general, disturbing elements which, I would suggest, clearly shout blind homophobia and dangerously blinkered reaction to the word or insinuation of pedophilia.
I'm clearly biased in both areas. You cannot exist in the centre of a tornado and retain you ability to divorce yourself from the emotions. But there has been so much negative, tunnel vision, inaccurate and unfair coverage of my case that I feel the need to pass across my observations so the less involved, intelligent thinkers can balance the realities and reach conclusions. I am not a pedophile. I don't say that in any way to denigrate those who are. I'm not prepared to stamp my own morality onto others, and I have never done so.
During the 60's & 70's, most of my friends took drugs. I didn't. But that was my own choice, for myself, and I was never ready to condemn them for making a different choice for themselves.
I, simply, do not find children sexually attractive. I am bisexual and I do find teenagers attractive. I always have done, ever since I was a teenager myself. I'm not a pedophile. I'm a teenophile. And anyway, I'm now too old to be the slightest bit interested in any physical involvement, thank you. Secondly, I would never force anyone into doing anything they don't want to. Indeed, the prime element in my personal enjoyment of sex is that my partner enjoys it more or as much as I do. Please bear that in mind.
Homosexual, consensual behaviour was illegal between men under 21 (until 1993) or 18 (until 2001) - a discrepancy in the law which made no sense at all, since the heterosexual age of consent was 16. I chose to ignore the law, as did many others. So I am guilty of criminal acts. I did deliberately break the law. For me, if a woman was capable of legally consenting to sex at the age of 16, so was a man. Since that is now the law, I would claim that I was right and the law was wrong.
And I'll go further than that. In the merry 60's & 70's, when I was a young pop star, most of us were blissfully enjoying the fruits of our success. We did not always ask for birth certificates. So, whilst I did not want, look for or enjoy children as sex objects, I cannot swear that every single girl or boy fan was 100% certainly over 16.
It was a very open time. I had illegal sex, below the age of consent, with John Lennon - except, then I was the "abused" and he was the "abuser". I have to say, two young men picking up a couple of girls and returning to my apartment for a "foursome" seemed fun and enjoyable, even though I was under 21 and John was 21 at the time. God knows how old the girls were - perhaps they'd like to write and let me know, if they are still around - clearly now in their fifties but, hey, I'm still here! Guilty is such an emotive word. The Jews and Gays were guilty of being Jewish and gay in Nazi Germany but most people would agree it was society that was, in reality, guilty.
Moving onto the specific allegations in my case. One seedy and totally untrue claim against me was from 1971, by a distressed man who is now in his late forties and who, thank heavens, has found help for his trauma and pain with top-psychiatrist Max Clifford. I don't think I ever met the man. I certainly never had sex with him. And, since he claimed to be working for a major company at the time, he was, anyway, over 16, since that company never hired anyone under 16. Those first claims, were, I'm certain, designed to provoke other, more probable, allegations. The entire set-up stank. So, after the expected media coverage, others came forward. These ranged from total lunatics, some of which even the police discarded as blatantly fake, to people I had perhaps once met casually, to others whom I had known better and who exaggerated the circumstances, to some whose descriptions were reasonably accurate, but who re-invented the effect and altered their involvement at the time. Some consciously, some unconsciously, some for reasons of greed or revenge or a desire for attention, some to justify subsequent personal failure, and many from people whose drugs and drink problems had spiralled out of control, through whatever cause.
The vast majority of those fleeting meetings remained superficial and passing. I'd ask questions, get polls filled in, send a couple of CD's as a thank you and never heard from the people again. In a few cases, I'd get back letters or meet up again, for further research. Some of those became friends. And a tiny percentage did, indeed, become closer relationships. The largest amount of phone calls I had, after the case broke, was from people who had met me and wanted to come forward on my behalf, to attest that nothing had happened and that I made no indecent approaches whatsoever. My lawyers told me they would be no use in court. The fact that I hadn't assaulted hundreds would not prove me innocent or other specific allegations.
Despite the fact that their cases were dropped as clearly false and that they proved to be not under 16 but over 16 during the assaults, some witnesses have made large sums of money selling their original and inaccurate stories to the media. In the final analysis, I was found guilty of only one serious sexual offence - buggery. The man concerned had been trying to sell his story to the News of the World for three years. In court, when asked, if it was so traumatic, why he continued to visit me, he said I was "a great bloke and I had a fantastic time"... pause for thought... "except for the buggery, of course." I almost burst out laughing in the dock. He did return many times over three years, until he was nearly 17 - I received 7 years. Tony Martin, the farmer apparently supported by the British public, got five years for killing a teenager. There's British justice for you.
The media coverage ignored the single, serious conviction and created a story including 20,000 boys, vice rings for V.I.P.'s and an "evil pervert pop King". Since there is no need for proof or evidence, since there are large sums of money from the Criminal Compensation Board (up to £ 33,000), why wouldn't anyone make allegations? Isn't this an incredibly dangerous situation? Put in an unfounded allegation against a former teacher, care home worker, swimming coach, uncle - and there could be £ 33,000 in it for you. I dread to think of society in ten years time, when orphaned, abandoned and homeless children from today grow into adults. There can be no intelligent, sensitive human being foolish enough to work in the care system. They'll know they will end up in prison, no matter how innocent they may be. Children will be brought up without any love, affection, interest, touching. Only the brain dead could decide to look after damaged kids today. What an indictment against society!
As for me - well, this is the best and most interesting thing that has ever happened to me, with the possible exception of "Everyone's Gone To The Moon". I've discovered a whole new world. The prison service is full of good people, grossly under appreciated by public and politicians alike, who daily illustrate the fundamental decency of humanity, by trying to make life more bearable for some very miserable inmates. I've also learned the obvious - that nobody is all good or all bad, and that some terrible crimes have been committed by some nice people. There is kindness in the most unlikely places.
Freedom is in your mind. You make your own freedom. So I've never been more free than locked up at Her Majesty's Pleasure. I'm free to observe, to contemplate, to consider, to listen, to read and to write.
I don't blame anyone, not even myself. I blame the hypocritical British attitude towards sex. We are brought up to consider sex as perfectly natural, but the subconscious message is the opposite. From the moment when a British mother removes a hand from fondling its genitals, we get the clear understanding that sexual gratification is bad, wrong and dirty.
It's no different from having a meal with somebody. You don't force anyone to eat food they don't like. You don't intentionally feed someone poisoned food, or food that may damage or disagree with them. You don't buy someone a meal if they are under a delusion that it means something it shouldn't.
One of the many claims that infuriated me was the allegations that I promised teenagers fame and fortune. Never. I would never play with someone's dreams. I'd never even say they would meet some celebrity or other. That, for me, is immoral. But there's nothing wrong with consensual sex. When it's both people enjoying it, as long as no disease can be caught or given, no unwanted pregnancy, no delusion of romance where none existed - that's fine by me.
I was prosecuted in order to give a target to those who opposed the lowering of the age of consent for gay men to 16. I think it was deliberate, planned and organised. I was the perfect scapegoat. The police knew I was not a pedophile. They neither examined nor took away my computers. They ignored my address books. They found no pornography or indecent photographs of boys. I think there's a huge percentage of the country and the media that simply regards homosexuality as wrong and evil.
Boys, who came hundreds of miles on trains, never decided they were bored by the journey and made excuses to their family. Or said they hated my music. Or, even, revealed they felt uncomfortable with my character. They didn't have to return so many times. Dozens of excuses were available. But decades later, with much learned from life, probably including a variety of real sexual experiences, and these men in their 30's, 40's (and one in his 50's!) invent, embellish and embroider according to observation and experience. There's money in it. There's attention in it. There's blame in it. There's power in it. But there's no truth in it.
I have every intention of developing my talents even further. I want to rip asunder the fabric of British sexual hypocrisy. I want to help demolish the unfair laws and petty blindness of the judicial system, just like any terrorist. It may be less easy than naming and breaking 10CC or Genesis. What a challenge though! I'm expecting further persecution and vilification. The deionisation of JK has been remarkable, considering the triviality of the conviction. I will survive.
Not my choice, I hasten to add. I'd have avoided this confrontation, given the opportunity. Very few people have the backbone for this type of battle, and I am not an exception. But I've been passed the flag to bear, and hope to carry it prouder and better than Oscar Wilde managed 100 years ago. Society destroyed him. I will not allow it to destroy me. Or other, nameless innocents waiting to be exterminated.
Jonathan King, January 2002
Jon Ronson, "The Fall of a Pop Impresario." In: The Guardian (2002) - www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,609185,00.html
Jonathan King, "Not so Profundis" (2002) - www.kingofhits.com
source: Article 'The Jonathan King Case' by John Stefan; Article translated from Dutch; OK Magazine, no. 88; December 2003