|Feb 22 2021
|Nov 28 2017
An interesting report came out of Great Britain earlier today about John Profumo, the disgraced Secretary of State for War who resigned in 1963 after it emerged that he was having an affair with Christine Keeler, who also had sexual ties to a Russian intelligence officer. When authorities learned of the potential security threat, Profumo was interrogated, at which point he denied involvement with Keeler. When his denial was found to be false, he resigned amid the spiraling scandal.
Now MI5 files have revealed that Profumo had a previous affair with a Nazi spy who may have tried to blackmail him. The woman was named Gisela Klein, and she and Profumo met at Oxford University in 1936 when he was an undergrad. During World War II she began working for Nazi intelligence, and after the war was imprisoned as a spy. However the American in charge of her jail got her released and married her. As Gisela Winegard she maintained contact with Profumo after he entered politics, and he allegedly wrote letters to her on House of Commons stationery.
There's no evidence Profumo knew about his old flame's Nazi connections, but he may have learned of her blackmail schemes by becoming a target. In 1951 Winegard was living in Tangier with her husband when she applied for a visa to visit Britain and listed “Jack Profumo MP” as a reference.
Observers are speculating whether Profumo may have been under pressure to help push her application through. But the visa was eventually refused because of Winegard's Nazi past, with the head of British intelligence in Tangier also noting: “We have good reason to believe Mr. and Mrs. Winegard have recently engaged in blackmailing activities and now think it is possible their intended visit to the UK may be connected with this affair.”
Since we've mentioned the Profumo Affair several times, we found this to be an interesting footnote, especially in light of the ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation into White House connections to Russian operatives. It's curious that Profumo's affairs would twice send him orbiting so close to spies of adversarial countries, but it doesn't seem as if the Klein/Winegard connection will produce any real smoking gun in terms of improper favors. As for Trump and Russia, that remains to be seen. You can read some previous posts on the infamous Profumo Affair here, here, and here.
|Mar 28 2017
Joachim Joesten's Der fall Profumo is a true account of the Profumo sex scandal that rocked Britain's conservative government in 1963, eventually brigning about the resignation of Secretary of State for War John Profumo. The book was translated from the original German into Dutch by J. P. M. van Elswijk for Dutch publishers De Kennemer and made into what you see above, and newly titled Christine Keeler.
The names of the other players in the story—Profumo, Yevgeni Ivanov, and Stephen Ward—were listed just below, so sometimes you'll see the title of the book written as Christine Keeler, Profumo, Ward, Ivanov. An unwieldy title perhaps, but the book came out the same year the scandal occurred, which means the names would have been instantly recognizable to bookstore browsers.
You've doubtless heard about Keeler and company as well, but if not check here for a quick overview. Even back then it was Keeler who was the central figure, and today she's the one that's remembered, while the others have become bit players in her story. That's why the beautiful cover painted by Dutch artist Martin Oortwijn is so appropriate. Obviously he was an illustrator with special talent. We managed to find a couple of other pieces by him, so we'll get to him a bit later.
|Nov 9 2015
This Inside Story from November 1963 features cover star Christine Keeler and the people in her life, while the left of the page has insets with Mamie Van Doren and Anthony Quinn. We’ve covered Keeler. Hers was one of the most flogged scandals of the 1960s, and Inside Story editors are well aware of that, which is why they claim to have new information. But it’s nothing new—just rehash on Keeler, a background on Czech call girl Maria Stella Novotny, who was well known by this time as one of Keeler’s colleagues, and standard red scare stuff about motel rooms set up with microphones and two-way mirrors. We will get back to Novotny, however—her tale offers some interesting twists and turns.
Inside Story shares stories about Mamie Van Doren, Jackie Gleason, Peter O’Toole, Ava Gardner and a nervous tailor who measured her for a suit, and how perfume makes men go wild. Editors also decry the injustice of a Harlem restaurant refusing to serve a white woman—this, mind you, during an era when literally hundreds of thousands of U.S. enclaves, from restaurants to schools to country clubs to sectors of the military, were whites-only. False equivalence, thy name is Inside Story. But interestingly, a subsequent piece about the world’s sexiest nightclubs tells readers chic Harlem bars are frequented by white Hollywood stars. And so it goes…
|Dec 19 2014
Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the central figures in the John Profumo Affair of 1963, died of cancer early this morning. Most accounts of the scandal describe Rice-Davies as a prostitute, and indeed Stephen Ward, one of the principals in the fiasco, was imprisoned for living off the earnings of Rice-Davies and other women—another way of saying he pimped. But Rice-Davies spent a good portion of her final years denying she was a call girl, saying she didn’t want her grandchildren to remember her that way.
Whatever her means of support during the Profumo Affair, what is certainly true is that she was young and beautiful and somehow found herself at the nexus where rich, entitled men and beautiful women always seem to meet. The Profumo Affair's world of secret parties, middle-aged male egos, and a lurking Soviet spy came into being during the most paranoid years of the Cold War, and John Profumo’s role in it cost him his position as Secretary of State for War in the British government.
|Intl. Notebook | Sex Files
|May 2 2014
This issue of The National Insider appeared today in 1965 and features cover star Yvonne Buckingham. The headline refers to her, and the reason men thinks she’s sex mad is because she starred in 1963’s The Christine Keeler Story as the titular Keeler, whose affair with Britain’s Secretary of State for War John Profumo caused a scandal. We find it fascinating that the film appeared in November 1963, mere months after the revelations became public. That’s quick action.
Buckingham had already begun building an acting career, having appeared in at least twenty movies beginning in 1957, but for some reason, after all this steady work, she managed just one more role during the 1960s, and only two more in total. We have no info on whether starring as Keeler negatively affected her career, but certain roles have a way of doing that. Certainly Buckingham thought so, if National Insider can be believed. For example, the blurb beneath her cover photo reads: They ask what I think of Negroes as lovers, says Yvonne Buckingham. This refers to the scandalous revelation that Christine Keeler had a black lover who was peripherally entangled in the Profumo scandal.
In essence, the British press seems to have thought it would be good fun to portray Buckingham as a version of Keeler. The tactic probably helped sell papers and probably even expanded Buckingham’s public profile, but building a very specific association with a persona non grata such as Keeler in the minds of movie producers also very likely diminished Buckingham's chances to land a wide variety of movie roles (you can get a sense of how toxic even the most tenuous connection to Keeler was by reading what she had to say about it here). Buckingham eventually solved her career problems—in the early 1970s she gave up on the British film industry and moved to Brazil.
|Nov 20 2011
Q: What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a national scandal? A: Parlay the recognition into money. The above photo of Welsh-born party girl Mandy Rice-Davies made us think yet again of that question and answer. The first time we remember considering them (because Rice-Davies was before our time), was during the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. Lewinsky appeared on the cover of a national magazine and an acquaintance of ours commented that she must be mortified by the entire situation. But we noted, “Not so mortified that she didn’t manage to get into an expensive photography studio and get these shots made.” Not an affordable thing for a D.C. intern with legal fees looming, but no problem for a person who has signed a representation deal and is being backed by managers.
Likewise this photo of Mandy Rice-Davies tells the world she isn't the least interested in hiding, but rather in embracing her unexpected fame, derived from her role—along with friend Christine Keeler—in the Profumo Affair that rocked Britain’s conservative government in 1963 with tales of wild parties, paid sex, and nuclear secrets. Rice-Davies used the notoriety she gained to release pop singles, open nightclubs bearing her name, and write an autobiography and a novel. She and Keeler weren’t the first ordinary citizens to rise to fame on the back of a sexual scandal, nor the first to use that recognition for their benefit, but their case seems like a historical marker, telling us we were entering fully into an age inwhich infamy, pain and public spectacle would rank equally with creativity and intelligence as undifferentiated collateral to be traded for cash. A culture of Hiltons, Kardashians and Joe the Plumbers speaks to this truth. You can read more about Mandy Rice-Davies here.
|Intl. Notebook | Sex Files
|May 3 2011
The infamous Profumo Affair exploded onto British front pages during the spring and summer of 1963, outing Secratary of State for War John Profumo’s affair with the call girl Christine Keeler, and leading directly to his humiliation and resignation. More than a year later the other call girl at the center of the scandal—Mandy Rice-Davies—was promoting a tell-all book about her time in the sex trade. It was called The Mandy Report and on the cover of Confidential from May 1964, we see Rice-Davies holding the book and looking pretty darn pleased with herself.
The Mandy Report was actually rather cleverly formatted as a tabloid-style magazine, and between the covers Rice-Davies claimed to have spent quality time between the sheets with the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Mitchum, Bob Hope, George Hamilton and many other household names. Mostly, the men denied it, of course, but to paraphrase Rice-Davies herself: “Well, they would, wouldn’t they?”
Call us prejudiced, but we tend to believe women about situations like these, even when they happen to be trying to drum up sales—and especially when they aren't. In pulp novels women publicly lie about this stuff all the time, and as a fictional device it's fun, but in the real world there's a lot of potential for danger and social loss that makes us think falsehoods in this area are relatively rare. But that's just us.
We don't know how many copies The Mandy Report eventually sold, but the fact that it's still widely available online might be an indication that it did okay. Later in life, Rice-Davies stayed in the spotlight, acting in film and television. That’s her below, relaxing on a beach on Majorca circa 1963, and if you're curious you can read a bit more about the Profumo Affair at an earlier post, here.
|Nov 4 2009
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.”