Rolf Harris, Disgraced British Entertainer, Dies at 93

Rolf Harris, the Australian-born entertainer whose decades-long career on British television ended in disgrace after he was convicted of sexually abusing teenagers, died May 10 at his home in Berkshire, England. He was 93.

His family announced in a statement issued Tuesday, nearly two weeks after his death, that he had “died peacefully” and was buried. The Pennsylvania news agency reported that a death certificate listed the cause as cervical cancer and “frailty of old age.”

Mr Harris’ career in British television spanned 60 years but collapsed in 2013 when he was arrested and charged with a total of 12 attacks on four girls between 1968 and 1986. He was later sentenced to five years and nine months in prison. At the time of the crimes, the girls were between the ages of 8 and 19, although their conviction for the assault on the 8-year-old girl, an autograph hunter, was later overturned.

One of Mr Harris’s victims was a close friend of his own daughter, Bindi. He was found guilty of abusing her over the course of six years, starting when she was 13.

“Your reputation is in ruins, you have been stripped of your honours, but you have no one to blame but yourself,” Judge Nigel Sweeney told Mr Harris at his sentencing in 2014.

“You have not shown any remorse for your crimes,” he added.

Mr. Harris died without apologizing to his victims.

The son of Welsh immigrants, Agnes Margaret and Cromwell Harris, Mr. Harris was born on March 30, 1930 in a suburb of Perth, Australia. After moving to Britain when he was 22, with “nothing but a whole lot of self-confidence”, he later said, to study at the City and Guilds of London Art School, he made his first BBC appearance in 1953. , drawing cartoons on a children’s TV show.

That kicked off a storied career that included everything from international hit songs to upbeat TV shows in which he would demonstrate his skills as a speedy painter (think UK’s version of Bob Ross).

“Can you tell what it is yet?” became her famous catchphrase when she brought the canvases to life. It also became the title of her autobiography, published in 2001.

One of Britain’s best-known artists, Mr Harris was even commissioned in 2005 to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II for her 80th birthday, whose whereabouts today are unknown. a great source of mystery. It was previously voted the British public’s second favorite portrait of the Queen, but received a noticeably cooler reception from critics.

“I was very nervous,” Harris told the British press in 2008, describing the two sessions he had with the monarch. “He was in a panic.”

As a musician, Mr. Harris was known for his use of a colorful variety of instruments, including the didgeridoo and the so-called rocking board, an instrument he invented and featured in his best-known song, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” a novel issue about the last wishes of an Australian rancher, which he wrote in 1957.

His 1963 re-recording of the song, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, catapulted him to stardom in the United States. That same year, he recorded a version with the Beatles for a BBC radio show: the names of each band member jokingly incorporated into the lyrics. (“Don’t mistreat me, pet dingo, Ringo”).

The original fourth verse of the hit song sparked controversy due to its use of the word “Abo”, a derogatory slang term for Aboriginal Australians. The verse was included on Mr. Harris’s first recording of the song, but omitted from later versions, and he expressed regret about the lyrics later in his career.

But that career finally ended in disgrace a decade ago when Harris was one of several senior media personalities arrested as part of Operation Yewtree, a British police investigation sparked by the sexual abuse scandal involving TV presenter Jimmy Savile. . Others convicted as part of the investigation include Britain’s best-known publicist, Max Clifford, and Stuart Hall, a former BBC broadcaster.

After Mr. Harris was convicted in 2014, he was stripped of the list of honors he had received throughout his career, and reruns of his TV shows were taken off the air.

He was paroled in 2017 after serving three years in prison, after which he sank into a solitary life at his family home in Bray, Berkshire, a picturesque village west of London on the banks of the River Thames, which it is said to have more millionaires than any small town in Great Britain.

Mr. Harris’s survivors include his daughter, Bindi Harris, and his wife, Alwen Hughes. The two married in 1958 after meeting at art school, and she and his daughter stayed with him through his trial and prison.

After Mr. Harris’s sentencing in 2014, Judge Sweeney described him as a criminal who had manipulated his fame.

“You took advantage of the trust placed in you by your celebrity status,” he said.

Harris’ attorney at the time, Sonia Woodley, pleaded with the judge to be lenient due to her age.

“He’s already on borrowed time,” he said.