Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Keeler comes clean ... on the sex, the spies, the sleaze - and Profumo

Finishing Secrets and Lies, Christine Keeler's autobiography, what amazes is not just how pretty she was, nor how famous (she was the naked girl photographed in that designer chair), nor how influential (she 'invented sex'), nor even how young (a teenager), but how savagely she was done over by the British establishment.

The story: party girl gets picked up by Svengali-type in topless club in Soho to be pimped out to his chums. They are toffs from the highest echelons of politics, the judiciary and the media, with huge country pads, fortunes of money, and libidos enlivened by the arrival of the sex-friendlier sixties and champagne.

One (in)famous evening the then Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, a guest at Cliveden, the Astor's family pad where Stephen Ward rents a gate lodge, spots the young lovely swimming naked in the pool, and the fun begins.

Profumo (47) and married starts an affair with Keeler (18). For reasons not clear to her at the time, Ward arranges that she also hops into bed with Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attache.

Ward is seen leaving Cliveden early in the morning, carrying papers from Profumo's quarters. Keeler is asked to bring Ivanov an envelope. What's going on?

Things cool with Profumo when rumours circulate that his girly has also had it off with a Russki. But it's only when police come to investigate a shooting, (a crazed lover), it emerges that the toffs are not just being buttered up with party girls but the man doing it, Stephen Ward, is, it's claimed, a spy for the Russians.

The Stephen Ward/John Profumo/Christine Keeler/Yevgeny Ivanov story of yet another spy for Russia at the heart of the British establishment, is turned into a saucy Cold War sex scandal.

A case is cooked up against Ward 'the pimp'. Keeler and her (former) pal Mandy Rice Davies are lined up in court. Profumo retires. Stephen Ward kills himself. The government falls. A judicial report says it was all a matter of toffs and tarts.

Christine Keeler was still only 20. The favourite bad girl of the Sixties, she and Mandy were having their hair done in Vidal Sassoon in Bond Street every day during the trial. Mobbed by photographers, they were instant celebrities.

For a while the celebrity factor carried her along.

Slowly, as it does, the froth evaporated. Keeler became a 'sexual scalp', was never sure if men wanted her, or her infamy. To this day she talks about Christine Keeler in the third person. She put 'a lot of men through her fingers'.

She briefly got married and had a clearly adored little boy. When he was three she had a wobble and asked her mum to mind Jimmy. Her mum, abandoned by her own mother, refused to give him back.

From a deprived and dysfunctional background, her mother was left in a convent by her mother until she was 15. Keeler's father left when she was three and her stepfather tried to molest her as soon as puberty hit. She had performed a badly botched abortion on herself when she was barely 16. Gorgeously pretty, she headed for the bright lights and got nabbed almost immediately by Ward.

She says her relationship with him was more father/daughter than sexual, though early on he began familiarising her with the tastes of his upper-class chums, and clients.

To a teen from Uxbridge the carry-on was an eye-opener. Dinner parties morphed into orgies. There were film stars, duchesses, MPs, media moguls and a famous barrister who liked to wear a mask.

In 2006 John Profumo died and was buried with full honours. Christine Keeler, now in her 70s, decided enough was enough. She would once again tell all.

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