Rolf Harris' dark side
What will history make of Rolf Harris' 50 years of songs, paintings and appearances now he's been found guilty of child sex crimes?PT3M28S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3b5uz 620 349 July 1, 2014
Rolf Harris was every 20th century Englishman's idea of an Australian: bright, breezy, cheeky, anxious to please, obsequious, yet something of the above his station in life hovered disturbingly.
He washed ashore in London in 1962 during the dying days of empire, one of thousands of young Australians who sailed ''home'' on a P&O liner, but only he built a seven-decade career as a sort of mild colonial boy straddling Beatlemania, punk, heavy metal and the new romantics to become a children's entertainer who ended up pandering to that curious English need to regard veteran performers as ''beloved''.
Harris' plummet from grace, surpassing even Lance Armstrong's rapid descent, has galvanised many at home and abroad who heaped him with honours into erasing all traces.
Rolf Harris leaves court after being found guilty. Photo: Matthew Lloyd
Within hours of Harris being convicted in a London court of indecently assaulting four girls in Britain between 1968 and 1986, the shame seemed deepest in his home town, Perth.
He was born there in 1930 and, growing up in a little municipality on the Swan River, they proudly called him ''The Boy from Bassendean''. No longer; locals want nothing to do with their most famous son.
On Thursday, the Town of Bassendean council meets to scrap the freeman status bestowed on Harris in 1979 as Western Australia celebrated its sesquicentenary. It will also consider removing works in council offices, including a large painting of his parents' weatherboard house on the banks of the Swan.
Branded: Harris makes front page news in a UK tabloid newspaper.
''[The freeman award] is not something that could remain standing, given the court verdict in London,'' Bassendean deputy mayor Mike Lewis said.
Perth lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi told local radio that the future of a plaque in the central business district was under consideration.
''I think the general feeling around the place is that we don't accept these types of offences and therefore that would automatically translate to [the plaque being removed],'' she said
His old school, Perth Modern, on Tuesday removed Harris artworks.
And Edith Cowan University, where Harris studied to be a teacher, announced it would remove all Harris artworks and next month the university council will consider rescinding the honorary doctorate awarded in 2000.
The National Museum of Australia in Canberra revealed after the verdict that two wobble boards and a leather jacket donated by Harris had been removed from display late last year.
The Australian Recording Industry Association announced on Tuesday it would withdraw the Hall of Fame award bestowed in 2008 and children entertainers, the Wiggles, have removed Harris from one of their DVDs.
(Harris' 2005 official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II quietly disappeared last year as the court case loomed.)
Prime Minister Tony Abbott was ''gutted and dismayed'' by Harris' crimes.
''It's just sad and tragic that this person who was widely admired seems to have been a perpetrator,'' he said.
In England, newspapers reported that Harris would probably be stripped of awards and honours, including his Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).
He has also been awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
A Government House spokesman would not comment on Harris but said the Council for the Order of Australia investigated matters brought to its attention and then advised the Governor-General on further action.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts said he would be stripped of the BAFTA Fellowship award.
Meanwhile, the British red top newspapers went ballistic, linking Harris with the disgraced late paedophile Jimmy Savile.
Rupert Murdoch's The Sun headlined: ''Rolf Harris & Savile stalked Broadmoor together''; ''Sign of Evil,'' said the Daily Mirror, explaining a photograph of Harris and Savile signing autographs at Broadmoor, a mental health hospital in London.
The Daily Mirror also reported that one of Harris' victims had written to the Queen warning her he was a pervert as he painted a royal portrait monarch in 2005. Although the anonymous letters were passed onto Scotland Yard, they stayed in the too-hard basket for seven years.
The comedian Russell Brand took to YouTube after the verdicts: ''You can't get any joy out of it because look at Rolf now, he's just a pathetic old guy. You can't go Good. Go to prison. I mean what vindication, what joy can you get from it? What sense of justice? It just makes you feel that reality is very muddled and confusing, like you have to revise your own childhood.''
The Daily Mail also weighed in with a story claiming Harris' supposed $20 million fortune could be wiped out by the prospect of lengthy legal battles (and legal fees) as his victims line up for compensation.
''Recent published accounts show that his millions are tied up in a network of companies and family trusts, two of which were set up in 2012 – months before he faced police investigation,'' the Daily Mail said.
Police confirmed there were no active investigations being carried out in three Australian states.