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Christine Keeler: Showgirl who brought down the Tories dead at 75

CHRISTINE Keeler, the central figure in the sex-and-espionage Profumo affair that rocked Cold War Britain, has died at 75.

Her son, Seymour Platt, posted on Facebook that Keeler died on Monday at a hospital near Farnborough in southern England.

A naked photo of Keeler straddling the back of a chair is among the most famous U.K. images of the 1960s.

The Sun reports that Keeler was the showgirl whose colourful love life propelled her to the centre of the most famous British scandal of the 20th century - and helped bring down the government.

She was born in Uxbridge, Middlesex, in 1942 and raised in Berkshire by her mum and stepdad.

She claimed in a later memoir she was sexually abused by her stepfather, who she said beat her mother and drowned her puppies.

She also said she aborted her own child with a knitting needle after falling pregnant to a US airman aged 17.

Christine Keeler at the height of her fame in 1963. Picture: Getty
Christine Keeler at the height of her fame in 1963. Picture: Getty

Still only a teenager, Keeler was a topless cabaret dancer in London's Soho when she met society man-about-town Stephen Ward.

He introduced her to a whirlwind party scene involving what were described as orgies attended by aristocrats and VIPs.

It was through Ward that she met both Cabinet minister John Profumo and Soviet spy Yevgeny Ivanov in 1961. She had affairs with them both.

When the love triangle came to light two years later, fears of a Cold War security leak sparked a lurid scandal that rocked the government and had the public transfixed for months.

It made Christine Keeler one of the most famous women in the world in 1963.

British politician John Profumo and Christine Keeler had an affair
British politician John Profumo and Christine Keeler had an affair

WHEN DID CHRISTINE MEET JOHN PROFUMO?

John Profumo, then 46, was Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan's government when he met 19-year-old Keeler.

His first sight of her was when she climbed naked out of the swimming pool during a party at Lord Astor's country house Cliveden.

They began an affair that lasted from a few weeks to several months, according to various accounts.

At the same time, Keeler was sleeping with diplomat Yevgeny Ivanov, an intelligence officer and the Soviet Union's naval attache in London.

Some accounts claim MI5 hoped to use Keeler as a "honey trap" to persuade Ivanov to defect, and were alarmed when they found out she was also seeing Profumo.

Christine Keeler & Marylin Rice Davies leave Old Bailey Court in 1963. Picture: AP
Christine Keeler & Marylin Rice Davies leave Old Bailey Court in 1963. Picture: AP

They warned the minister off being associated with Ward's seedy circle, and he ended the affair.

It remained hidden from the public until 1963 when her disintegrating love life thrust her into the spotlight.

A jealous boyfriend, Lucky Gordon, fired bullets at Ward's front door as she hid inside, and the subsequent Old Bailey trial caused rumours to swirl in Westminster.

Profumo lied to the House of Commons, denying any impropriety with Keeler, but was later forced to quit in disgrace, followed months later by the prime minister.

Ward was put on trial for living off immoral earnings - accused of pimping Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies and other girls. He killed himself on the eve of the guilty verdicts.

Keeler, who always denied she was a prostitute, was jailed for nine months for perjuring herself during Gordon's shooting trial.

This picture of Christine Keeler shot by photographer Lewis Morley was one of the most famous UK images of the 1960s. Picture: Lewis Morley
This picture of Christine Keeler shot by photographer Lewis Morley was one of the most famous UK images of the 1960s. Picture: Lewis Morley

CHRISTINE KEELER'S ICONIC PHOTO

At the height of the scandal, Christine Keeler sold her story to newspapers around the world and was the subject of a proposed film, the Keeler Affair, which was never released in the UK.

To promote it, she agreed to pose naked for photographer Lewis Morley in a studio in Peter Cook's Establishment Club.

Her modesty was covered by the curved back of a bent plywood chair - a copy of the iconic Model 3107 by Danish designer Arne Jacobsen.

 

Sales of the Jacobsen chairs surged off the back of the photo, which was reproduced around the world, and many retailers rushed out knock-off designs to cash in on its popularity.

David Frost and Dame Edna Everedge are among the famous people who have been photographed sitting astride the same chair, which is now an exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

WHAT BECAME OF CHRISTINE KEELER?

Keeler had two brief marriages and two children but mostly lived alone after the scandal.

Before her death at the age of 75 she was reported to be living in sheltered housing in South London.

She claimed most of the money she made from newspaper stories was spent on lawyers in the 1970s.

Keeler wrote a number of books about her role in the scandal.

Christine Keeler was jailed for nine months for perjury in relation to the affair. Picture: AP
Christine Keeler was jailed for nine months for perjury in relation to the affair. Picture: AP

In an interview to publicise her most recent memoir in 2012, she said she was estranged from her two children.

She said: "My children don't want to be associated with that bloody whore Christine Keeler. It's awful but that's the way it is."

She was played by Joanne Whalley in Scandal, the 1989 film about the Profumo Affair.

Part of this article originally appeared in The Sun and is republished here with permission.

Topics:  christine keeler john profumo scandal



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