His fame allowed Rolf Harris to abuse young girls for decades without suspicion or blame. But as other celebrities were exposed as sexual predators, his victims found the courage to come forward.
“I assumed from the start that Rolf was a perfectionist...He’s an immense talent... You can’t write that off just because of what’s come out since...The performer Rolf was terribly focused......You just couldn’t reach him...He’s not the kind of guy to have a beer with.”-Tony Porter, Actor
Rolf Harris was born in March, 1930 and raised in a suburb of Perth, Western Australia, called Bassendean.
“It was a bit...of a fly-blown backwater of a place.”- Dr. Joe St. John, Author and Lawyer
Rolf’s childhood was typical of many Australians back then. He spent a lot of his boyhood outdoors and was a natural at sport. And, perhaps because his Welsh grandfather had been a portrait artist, he was also as happy at home painting. But indoors or out, whatever he did, Rolf needed an audience.“He talked about being a natural show-off from the start. He liked performing for other school children.”Patrick Carlyon, Senior Journalist, Melbourne Herald SunWith a river behind his house, Rolf swam nearly every day and by 15 he was a national backstroke swimming champion. He would, however, fail to find a place competing for his country at the 1948 London Olympic Games.
Aged 16, Rolf held the first of four exhibitions of his paintings in his home town.He attended university but struggled to shine and decided to train as a swimming teacher. When a polio-like virus ended that hope, he determined, aged 22, to become a painter in what his parents called ‘the hub of the universe’, London. For many Australians, it was a ‘rite of passage’ to go to the ‘motherland.’He enrolled in art school and there met his future wife Alwen Hughes. He said she agreed to marry him on their second date. Rolf supported himself through performing at cabaret clubs - this polished his natural abilities - and made him an obvious pick at a children’s TV audition.
“His...beginning in television coincided, more or less, with the beginning of television itself. And one of the things that was often done in children’s entertainment, was to try to have a show that taught them how to draw. That tended to be very boring entertainment (because) it was laboriously slow”- Dr. Joe St. John, Author and Lawyer
Rolf could not only draw and paint fast, and do both well - he could perform to camera at the same time. He’d practise his routine at home by talking to a door handle as if it was the camera in the studio.Rolf was about to become very, very famous.