CHRISTINE KEELER: Why the woman haunted by the Sixties still refuses to 'disappear'
Published: 1 March, 2012
by GERALD ISAAMAN
Soho, of course, was where it started, just before the Swinging Sixties arrived to bring about a decadent change to the 20th century.
But it was already an age of sexual permissiveness and the Pill when the Cold War threat of annihilation from Soviet nuclear bombs turned the passions tap to hot, at least for some.
Nubile girls just out of school, some naïve and gullible such as waitress Christine Keeler, would-be model and showgirl, aged 17, enjoyed earning £5 a time playing host to naughty men at Murray’s Cabaret Club.
And others, such as Mandy Rice-Davies, still only 16, were willing to dance beyond the limit for those who sought something a little more physical – if the price was right.
That’s where Dr Stephen Ward, the osteopath to the stars from Wimpole Street, Marylebone, recruited Christine for his nefarious links with high society at Cliveden, where her naked swim in the pool had mesmerised men chasing her to see more.
And it led, as is well remembered, to the Profumo Affair – the Secretary of State for War, Jack Profumo, compromised by Christine’s times in bed with both him and, at different times, Russian naval attaché spy Eugene Ivanov.
Profumo lied to Parliament, was caught out, and his world, and the government of Harold Macmillan – himself cuckolded by Lord Boothby – came crashing down. Poor Supermac, as he was depicted, hatefully insisting that “no British government should be brought down by the action of two tarts”.
Meanwhile, Dr Ward killed himself on the last day of his trial for living on immoral earnings, taking his secrets with him to the grave.
Or did he?
Christine, 70 last week, believes otherwise.
And while her new book covers, almost with relish, all the antics of her time spent feeling like Cinderella at the ball, she reveals that the Profumo Affair was something much more important.
With Profumo now dead, she claims with meticulous detail to add to its authenticity, that Dr Ward was himself a spy for the Russians who duped and manipulated her and many others, the claim being that he was trying to get Ivanov to defect.
But he decently killed himself to avoid the shame, and British intelligence never exposed him because it would have created shockwaves in America, already reeling from the defections to Moscow of Philby, Burgess and Maclean.
Remarkably, all that happened while the fifth member of the “Cambridge Five”, Sir Anthony Blunt, Keeper of the Queen’s Pictures, was among the exclusive guests at Cliveden together with M15 chief Sir Richard Hollis, no less, who was rumoured to have alerted Kim Philby of his imminent arrest and failed to warn Profumo that Dr Ward was a spy.
Indeed, Christine could have told them how she dropped off Dr Ward’s letters to Ivanov at his home in Avenue Road, St John’s Wood, as he tried to discover the capacity of nuclear weapons in the West.
At one time Dr Ward suspected that Christine knew too much, thought she was a ticking time-bomb and tried to kill her when she was being pulled through the water by a speedboat on the Thames.
Profumo’s own disregard of security – Christine claims that he had lost vital letters that would have undermined his Cabinet role anyway – was entirely reckless too.
He picked her up in his chauffeur-driven ministerial car with flag flying.
Profumo even took Christine back to his home in Regent’s Park while his actress wife Valerie Hobson was away, had sex with her in the marital bedroom and then showed off his dining room where the Queen, he proudly announced, was a frequent visitor.
Worse still, he made her pregnant.
She pins down a host of lies in what has been written about her, notably that she wasn’t naked in the temptress 1963 photo of her sitting in a chair.
She had her knickers on.
Almost 50 years on, you have to decide for yourself whether it is all fantasy, or fantastic fact successfully denied, even destroyed by Whitehall.
Yet there remains something desperately sad about Christine’s saga, which has haunted her relentlessly, even to the extent of a headteacher dismissing her with humiliating speed once he discovered she was one of his harmless school dinner ladies.
As with all tainted women, her infamy hangs like a shroud that cannot be shaken off.
Christine’s two marriages, one at St Pancras town hall, ended in divorce, her two sons shun her, her mother, too, refuses to speak to her.
Nowadays, the symbol of Sixties illicit sex and scandal lives alone with her cat and declares that she can’t be bothered with men.
It would be easy to say she has only herself to blame for a misspent youth in a social stratosphere.
She could have “disappeared” by changing her name.
But I suspect the shameful notoriety of being cast off as a whore, no matter how untrue or harmful, is still endured because it brings in some fat cheques – she took £21,000 from the News of the World and was well paid to attend the premiere of the 1989 film Scandal whose huge errors she hated.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced that he is contemplating a musical about the Profumo Affair. He seems to think Dr Ward was the “fall guy”. No doubt Christine can enlighten him – for a fee.
• Secrets And Lies. By Christine Keeler with Douglas Thompson. John Blake, £17.99