Keeler, Christine (1942—)

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Keeler, Christine (1942—)

British call girl of the 1960s involved in the infamous Profumo Affair. Born in Wraysbury, England, in

1942; married James Levermore (divorced); remarried; children: (first marriage) son Jimmy.

Christine Keeler was the "tainted woman" of the notorious "Profumo Affair," the scandal that brought England's Tory Party to the brink of disaster in 1963. She was born in 1942 in the working-class suburb of Wraysbury, England, and was raised in a converted railway carriage by her mother and stepfather. After a troubled adolescence, Keeler left school at 15 and went to work in Soho, first as a sales clerk in a gown shop and then as a waitress. For a short time, she shared a flat with Mandy Rice-Davies , another attractive young waitress who would also become embroiled in the government scandal. In 1959, Keeler left waitressing and took a job in a seedy West End cabaret as a show-woman. It was there that she was introduced to Stephen Ward, a charming, successful osteopathic doctor who was also an amateur artist and a staunch supporter of the Communist Party. A darker side of Ward's personality was his attraction to young, down-and-out girls, whom he groomed as prostitutes for his rich and often distinguished friends. Keeler was soon lured in by Ward and moved into his flat in the upscale Wimpole Mews. Although her relationship with her benefactor was termed "brotherly," she had numerous other liaisons with rich and powerful men, including simultaneous affairs with Captain Eugene "Honey Bear" Ivanov, naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in London, and British War Minister, John Profumo, who was married at the time to actress Valerie Hobson . A troubling aspect of Profumo's association with Keeler, aside from the obvious moral questions it raised, was the risk of blackmail because of Keeler's association with Ivanov.

Rice-Davies, Mandy (1944—)

Involved in Profumo scandal. Born in Birmingham, England, in 1944; married Rafael Shaul (an airline pilot), in 1966; children: one daughter.

Mandy Rice-Davies also quit school at age 15 and worked as a shopgirl before moving to London where she befriended Christine Keeler . The two girls shared a flat before Keeler moved in with Stephen Ward. Although Rice-Davies continued to live independently, she later testified to being one of Ward's "girls" and entertaining a number of clients at his residence. When the scandal broke, her descriptions of Ward's parties and mirrored bedrooms made her excellent copy for the tabloids, and she apparently reveled in the publicity. After the scandal died down, Rice-Davies moved to Munich where she headlined in a nightclub. Her side of the affair was published in magazine format as The Mandy Report, but attracted little attention. In 1966, at age 26, Rice-Davies converted to Judaism and married Rafael Shaul, an Israeli airline steward who later became a pilot. The couple settled in Tel Aviv and had a daughter.

sources:

Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Became of …? 3rd series. NY: Crown, 1970.

Profumo's affair was conducted with the utmost discretion, and his relationship with Keeler cooled within a year. Although the British Secret Service had Dr. Ward under surveillance because of his Soviet sympathies, the sexual link between Ivanov, Profumo, and Keeler might have remained under wraps had it not been for a subsequent affair Keeler had with John Edgecombe, a West Indian who was overcome with jealousy when the relationship ended. On the afternoon of December 14, 1962, Edgecombe arrived outside Ward's flat, armed with a gun, and fired seven shots into the front door. He was arrested, and Keeler was later called as chief witness at his trial. In the interim, the British press, which had since gained access to Keeler's background but was prevented from printing anything by England's libel laws, began hinting at improprieties involving the call girl and a number of other celebrities. Keeler, flattered by the limelight, also began talking indiscreetly to friends, mentioning Ward, Ivanov, and Profumo, and providing additional grist for the rumor mill. By March 1962, part of the truth began to leak out and the corridors of the House of Commons as well as the bars on Fleet Street were abuzz with the story of "a Minister and a call-girl ring." When Keeler failed to appear in court for Edgecombe's trial (she apparently forgot to return from a holiday in Spain), a deliberate cover-up was suspected, and Profumo was called into question concerning his relationship with Keeler.

In a statement before the House of Commons on March 22, 1963, Profumo denied any improprieties, claiming that he and Keeler were merely friends. By the end of June, however, he had been undone by his own lies and was forced to resign. (Steadfastly supported by his wife, he would go on to do a great deal of charitable work in the East End.) In the meantime, the handsome Soviet attaché, Ivanov, was hustled back to Russia. While Prime Minister Harold Macmillan attempted to rally his party and the government from the backlash of the scandal, Dr. Stephen Ward was arrested on morals charges. At the end of his trial, just as the jury was to start deliberations, he took an overdose of drugs. While he lay in a coma, he was found guilty on two charges, but he died before sentencing.

As for Keeler, in the course of a year, she had testified in three criminal trials: the case of John Edgecombe, the ex-lover who had tried to shoot her; the case of Aloysius Gordon, another ex-paramour whom she accused of beating her; and of course, the Ward trial, where both she and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies took the stand. Keeler testified that Ward had a hypnotic hold on her, and encouraged her to have sex with his friends so she could repay loans he had made to her. After serving a nine-month prison sentence for morals offenses, Keeler slipped into obscurity, as did the whole sordid affair (although the Conservative Party's loss of majority in the next general election was attributed to the affair). Keeler moved the Chelsea, dyed her hair blonde, and married a handsome engineer by the name of James Levermore with whom she had a son. They later divorced, and Keeler subsequently married and divorced a second time. Although the tabloid News of the World paid her £20,000 for her memoirs, a book deal never materialized.

sources:

Crimes and Punishment. Vol. 9. London: BPC Publishing, 1974.

Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Became of …? 3rd series. NY: Crown, 1970.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Keeler, Christine (1942—)

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