I’m no fan of the Daily Mail: neither its headlines nor its content. Christine and I met one afternoon and had an interesting conversation. I was a gauche boy of seventeen with no experience of girls but there she was, ready to be chatted up. We were exactly the same age, but she was already entangled in the connections which were to bring her downfall, with wide-reaching consequences in British politics. According to journalistic cliché, her influence spread wider, as in this from today’s obituary in the Telegraph:
The scandal somehow defined a generation. When Philip Larkin wrote that “Sexual Intercourse began in 1963/ Between the Lady Chatterley ban and the Beatles first LP”, it was to Christine Keeler and John Profumo that he was assumed to be referring. A devastating, leggy beauty, Christine Keeler became an icon of the times in her own right through a famous (and much parodied) Lewis Morley photograph in which she sits, naked and pouting, astride a Jacobson butterfly chair.
I remember the gist of our conversation. She was a bright girl from a fractured family background. I believe they lived on a low-life caravan site (trailer park)*. She’d already found her escape route. It was all too easy to see herself as a one-trick pony, a fascinating bait for rich and powerful men. Not that I had the perspective to grasp this at the time. I remember we talked together as equals—Innocence meeting Experience. Solemnly, almost like a concerned parent, I offered the opinion that she couldn’t simply rely on contacts in high places. She needed marketable skills to fall back on. But no, she had to fall back in her own way.
And did she fall! I feel no sadder than I did last year when I wrote “The Girl Who Rocked the Government”. Somehow, she died long before she died.
* “Christine Keeler was born on February 22 1942 in a converted railway carriage on the edge of a gravel pit at Wraysbury, Buckinghamshire. In the absence of her real father, who was away in the Army, her mother took up with a man whom Christine was told to call ‘Dad’, and who, she later sometimes claimed, molested her.” (from today’s Telegraph obituary)