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Saturday, 22 December 2018

Typing Up A Storm: The Sad and Sexy Life of Christine Keeler

Christine Keeler typing her memoir Scandal! on an Olympia Splendid 33 portable typewriter in March 1989. Her story was made into a movie of the same name.
She also wrote The Businessperson's Guide to Intelligent Social Drinking with Richard Basini the same year.
It's a little more than a year now since Christine Keeler died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, aged 75, at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Locksbottom, Greater London. My own life had struck a bit of heavy turbulence at the time of her passing, and I never got around to writing about her back then. But Keeler was very distant muse in my highly impressionable early teens, an age when I was banging out the schoolboyishly risqué Anthony Marks novels on my Underwood Universal portable typewriter, away from prying eyes in my solitary confinement (I was supposed to be doing homework). Wikipedia, that self-appointed arbiter of fact and good taste, describes Keeler as an "English model and topless showgirl", which strikes me now as a singularly inadequate summary of her life. Rarely, in the entire history of the human race, has a 21-year-old woman so fulsomely fed the world's insatiable appetite for salaciousness and hypocrisy as Keeler did in 1963.
Keeler typing on her Brazilian-made plastic Hermes Baby portable typewriter
at her home in London, May 7, 1969.
Christine Margaret Keeler was born on February 22,  1942, at Uxbridge in Middlesex. After an unhappy, deprived childhood - during which she was sexually abused - and an unwanted pregnancy, Keeler had just turned 19 when she started working as a topless showgirl at Percy Murray's Cabaret Club in Soho. There she met society osteopath Stephen Ward. In July 1961 Ward introduced Keeler to British Secretary of State for War John Profumo, 5th Baron Profumo, then 46 and married, at a pool party at Cliveden, the Buckinghamshire mansion owned by Lord Astor. Profumo began a brief affair with Keeler, which ended after he was warned by the British security services of the possible dangers of mixing with the Ward circle. It turned out Keeler was sleeping with the enemy, from both home and abroad, and the pillow talk might have included state secrets. Among Ward's other friends was the Russian naval attaché and secret service officer Yevgeny Ivanov. In the House of Commons, Profumo denied any improper conduct but later admitted that he had lied. This incident led to the downfall of the Conservative Government of Harold Macmillan, in what became known as the Profumo Affair. 
Soviet spy Yevgeny Ivanov, standing left with camera,
at a picnic with Keeler at Cliveden in 1961.
How LIFE magazine headlined the story.
Lewis Morley's iconic portrait of Keller was taken at the height of the Profumo Affair, in a studio on the first floor of Peter Cook's Establishment Club. Although the world felt justified in assuming Keeler was naked while sitting astride a crude imitation of Arne Jacobsen's Model 3107 teak and plywood chair, she was in fact wearing knickers. A print of Morley's shot hung on the wall of Keeler's home when this photo of her was taken on January 29, 2011:  
Announcing Keeler's death a year ago, her son Seymour Platt said his mother had been unwell for many months. "She was always a fighter," Platt said, "but sadly [she] lost the final fight against a terrible lung disease." The innocence had long since gone from these eyes.


Bill M said...

I remember the chair photo, but never knew much about the lady in it. Nice report Robert.

Kate Lynch said...

I really like and appreciate your post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

Johnpyyc said...

Merry Christmas Robert.

I enjoyed the post. Back in the sixties I remember the Keeler/Profumo affair. It was an interesting time that also brought out Philby and his Cambridge spy pals. The Russians were having a great time turning both the Brits and Americans in knots. Great story and great typewriters.