Friday, 25 May 2012


My quintessential '60s British moment has always been the Profumo Scandal of '63, rather than the awful 'swinging sixties' hippie zeitgeist that followed. The notorious affair had all the hallmarks of a classic gutter press story...glamour, politics, international espionage, suicide and underage call girls all played out within the inner circle of the upper echelon of conservative British politics. These were the bunga-bunga parties of the early 60s, Christine Keeler's innocent beauty tempered by the cynical cock-teasing power of a young woman entirely cognizant of her female potency, particularly entrancing to powerful middle-aged Tory stiffs.  

London's Mayor Gallery in Mayfair featured these photographs from Keeler's personal collection at a small show in 2010. Classically beautiful studio portraits cut with seedy Soho bar glamour shots were balanced out by the fresh-faced naiviety of our herione playfully sunbaking in the rolling pastures of Albion. She must have loved these particular images herself, and my favourite is the one of Keeler tucking into a home-cooked chicken dinner on her first night of freedom from Holloway prison (below). The saucy minx. These photographs seem to symbolise some kind of end of an era of post-war British innocence, the beginning of the breaking down of conservative social conventions into the repugnant maelstrom of acceptable behaviour we take to mean civilisation half a century later. Keeler looks like shes having so much fun. Just good clean good time girl fun. Hooray!


  1. Re. Christine Keeler: I was about 14 at the time.

    My mother was a Principal of a small ethnic school at the time, and my father a Government auditor in East Africa.

    Once a month, one month of The Daily Mail would arrive, on flimsy paper bound together. Years later at university in Montreal (Canada), of course, I would read the Manchester Guardian on flimsy paper sent out by air on a Sunday, the weekly edition.

    I recall cutting out the photo in the Daily Mail of Keeler kneeling upright in her bikini. It was her pouting lips that set her apart. I was fascinated by Dr. Stephen Ward, and I kept a photo of him sitting in his garden, digging around the roses. I figured 'gardening' and a good profession get the girls.

    I played clarinet, considered a sissy instrument. The trumpet gets the girls.

    In those same years, 1958 to 1963, two Canadian Conservative cabinet ministers were having an affair with Gerda Munsinger, a East German spy., but it only became public in 1966 to 1968 when the Liberals were in power.

    It turns out that the RCMP, Canada's spy and security agency, put a camera in the light bulb in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, 120 miles from Ottawa (the capital), and they photographed Pierre Sevigny, having 'sex' with Munsinger, while he was Associate Defense Minister. He was a WW11 veteran, who lost his leg in the war, and there were crude jokes about him taking off the wooden leg by the bed.

    His daughter was in my classes at a Jesuit college, at the B.A. level, but the students were very 'mature' about it, and nobody said an unkind word, as far as I know. It was in the papers for months. I imagine it was humiliating, as everyone knew who she was.

    The next time you, any of you, check in at a hotel anywhere in the world, and plump yourself on the bed for a few minutes to rest, stick your finger out at the light bulb or chandeliers to tell anybody out there it is none of their friggin' business to spy on our private lives.

    That was 1960s technology when they could also read from a satellite the license plates of a VW on a highway in Texas. Today, they probably can 'see' in 3D..

    There are some people who say: but if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry. Is that a point, philosophically and practically?

    To get some perspective: bin Laden's eldest son, 18 at the time, was interviewed in a British newspaper, The Guardian I believe (that's a plug, 'Manchester Guardian' when I was younger).

    He said that when his father left Kandahar for the last time, it was with an entourage in about 5 or 6 18-wheeler trucks, with satellite dishes on the roofs. His father told him that being the eldest, he had to stay and look after the family.

    'They' bombed the hell out of the mountains of Afghanistan, killing all the wildlife and villagers, but they could not 'see' 18-wheeler trucks and the dust in the unpaved desert roads of Afghanistan. How about that?

    Gerda Munsinger died in Munich in 1998. Before she died she was offered $35,000 for an interview, but she said very little and refused the money. Who is the one with integrity? It's not that I know anything about Gerda Munsinger.

    The link below is to the Chrsitine Keeler Exhibition in London in 2010, with a recent photo. I just Googled it:

    You mention her 'innocence'. I believe that. Her song was probably: 'Girls just like to have fun'. Not all, imagine, or not in the same circumstances. The constellation of stars just arranged themselves in a certain pattern, causing the particular mix of relationships.

    - Ivan
    Ivan D. Pereira
    Ottawa & Montreal, Canada

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