British newspapers were aflame with rock-and-roll sordidness yesterday as they provided detailed coverage of pop music Svengali Jonathan King's conviction for sex crimes with underaged boys.
Mr. King, 56, had been sentenced in September to seven years in jail on six counts of molesting five boys, aged 14 to 16, in his West End London flat between 1983 and 1987. However, a publication ban on the conviction, deemed necessary while other offenses were being investigated, was lifted only yesterday.
With that, the British press went into characteristically high gear, topping stories with headlines such as "Fame-hungry King now faces deadly spotlight," "How he lured his boys in West End," "Relentless ego of self-styled man," and "King raped me: ex-roadie."
While in England much has been made of how Mr. King used his "enormous fame and celebrity" to lure youths into his brown Rolls-Royce, in North America he barely registers as a pop culture phenomenon. Indeed, his biggest claim to fame here is as the singer-songwriter of Everyone's Gone to the Moon,a wistful, string-drenched ballad from 35 years ago that made Canada's Top 10 and the lower rungs of the U.S. Top 20.
In England, however, the Cambridge-educated King -- born Kenneth George King -- was seen as a sort of Anglo Phil Spector, claiming to have become a millionaire before his 25th birthday. A staple of the London pop press through the seventies and eighties, he's generally credited with getting the careers of Genesis, the Bay City Rollers and 10cc off and running, thanks to his position as an executive at Decca Records and later as the founder of his own label, UK Records.
Mr. King's media profile was further enhanced by his running for a seat in Parliament in 1978; hosting jobs for British radio and TV programs such as No Limits and A King in New York;working as a pop columnist for The Sun newspaper; and publishing a novel, Bible Two,in 1982.
Mr. King also did not entirely forsake his own singer-songwriter ambitions. At one time, he claimed to have had "20 records in [England's]Top 30 under different names." These songs, with titles such as Lick a Smurf for Christmas and Wave Your Knickers in the Air,were invariably novelty and bubble gum numbers, including a heavy-metal version of the Archies' Sugar Sugar,done in 1971 under the name Sakkarin. Other King pseudonyms included Shag, Father Albaphart and the Smurps.
Mr. King -- whose favoured dress consisted of large round glasses, a baseball cap and a T-shirt -- has never lacked a high sense of self-regard. In the mid-seventies, he described himself as "strikingly handsome, veering towards Godlike." However, in 1984 he told an interviewer that, for all his fame, beauty and social contacts, he was still a virgin. "I fell passionately in love with music. It's the only passionate love affair I've had in my life, with one exception: me."
Mr. King was charged earlier this year with sex offences, conducted between 1969 and 1990, against a total of 16 boys. This was later reduced to 11. During his three-week jury trial, he was given support by Jesus Christ Superstar/ The Lion King lyricist Sir Tim Rice as well as British entertainment celebrities Simon Bates and Jenny Powell.
While Mr. King admitted he had invited "thousands" of teens to his home in Bayswater, it was for purposes of "market research into youth trends," he said, not, as the jury heard, to drink beer, look at pornographic videos and photographs, and engage in sodomy. Yesterday, in a widely circulated e-mail, Mr. King said he wished "to scream my innocence from the rooftops." Court was told that after the assaults, Mr. King would give his victims books, records, T-shirts and small amounts of money, usually no more than $100.
Mr. King's fall can be seen as just one more instalment in an English tradition, that of the showbiz celebrity whose sexual proclivities get him into trouble with the law. In the past five or six years, Hugh Grant, Gary Glitter, George Michael and Derek Longmuir, the last the drummer with the original Bay City Rollers, have all faced charges of lewd conduct.