Politique Diabolique Nov 4 2009
CHRISTINE CONDITION
High heels in high places.

Above we have a well-worn On the Q.T. from November 1963, with Christine Keeler on the cover. Keeler, at upper right and below, was a London showgirl who had a brief relationship with Britain’s married Secretary of State for War, a man named John Profumo. The two met at a party in Buckinghamshire, in a mansion owned by Lord Astor, and though Keeler wasn’t a full-time prostitute, she occasionally made herself available to wealthy and powerful men and they sometimes gave her cash gifts.

She and Profumo were involved only a few weeks, but that was long enough for people to notice. When Profumo was paraded before the House of Commons and asked to answer to the rumors, he claimed there had been no impropriety between him and Keeler. It wasn’t just the lie that sank him—members of the government were alarmed because Keeler’s many acquaintances included Yevgeny Ivanov, a Russian attaché at the Soviet embassy in London. With the Cold War in full swing, officials feared Keeler was working Profumo for nuclear secrets on behalf of Ivanov and the Russkies.

The mess cost Profumo his job and reputation, and also may have brought down conservative Prime Minster Harold Macmillan, who resigned six months later for “health reasons.” It was the scandal of the century in Britain, and really, it still is. Never since have sex, politics, and state secrets been fused in such a way. There are many detailed retellings of the story, but for people interested in an inside account, Keeler published an autobiography in 2001 that sparked an outcry because she wrote that actress Maureen Swanson was one ofthe girls who attended private orgies arranged by Dr. Stephen Ward (in sunglasses on the magazine cover). Ward was an osteopath who dabbled in pimping, and his orgies were infamous. Open only to the rich and powerful, they featured not only beautiful girls, but the occult, sadomasochism, interracial sex shows, and so forth. Maureen Swanson later became the Countess of Dudley through marriage to Lord Ednam, so Keeler’s naming of her as a participant caused quite a bit of embarrassment to British nobility, for which she sued and won a settlement.

We could go on, but life is short and history’s intrigues are many. For cinematic types, the 1989 film Scandal, starring Joanne Whalley and Bridget Fonda, is an entertaining way to learn more about the event. We watched it, and, while Whalley is fine in the lead role and Fonda is good as always, only reading Keeler’s own words can convey the sense of ’60s liberation and breeziness that was such a large part of her personality, and which the British public reacted to with such revulsion. More than one writer of the period observed that when Britain crucified Keeler, they were really trying to destroy a part of themselves. Keeler said it herself: “I took on the sins of everybody, of a generation, really.”

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 09
1954—Murrow Blasts McCarthy
In an event that would mark a turning point in American history, newsman Edward R. Murrow blasts anti-communist Senator Joseph McCarthy on a nighttime news show called See It Now. The broadcast used mainly McCarthy's own words to make its case that the senator had abused his position and perverted the rule of law, and, despite McCarthy's power, America agreed, as response to the episode ran 15 to 1 in favor of Murrow.
1959—Barbie Doll Debuts
The Barbie fashion doll, manufactured by the American toy-company Mattel after being designed by Ruth Handler, debuts in U.S. stores. Barbie, whose full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts, was inspired by a German doll called Bild Lilli, and has sold in the hundreds of millions.
March 08
1978—Hitchhiker's Guide Debuts
The first radio episode of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, written by British humorist Douglas Adams, is transmitted on BBC Radio 4. The series becomes a huge success, and is adapted into stage shows, a series of books, a 1981 television series, and a 1984 computer game.
1999—The Yankee Clipper Dies
Baseball player Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio, Jr., who while playing for the New York Yankees would become world famous as Joe DiMaggio, dies at age 84 six months after surgery for lung cancer. He led the Yankees to wins in nine World Series during his thirteen year career and his fifty-six game hitting streak is considered one of baseball's unbreakable records. Yet for all his sports achievements, he is probably as remembered for his stormy one-year marriage to film icon Marilyn Monroe.
March 07
1975—Lesley Whittle Is Found Strangled
In England kidnapped heiress Lesley Whittle, who had been missing for fifty-two days, is found strangled at the bottom of a drain shaft at Kidsgrove in Staffordshire. Her killer was Donald Neilson, aka the Black Panther, a builder from Bradford. He was convicted of the murder and given five life sentences in June 1976.
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