It’s Mother’s Day in the UK today and I was struggling to remember a Mother's Day with my Mum. Did I get her card and make her breakfast? I just can’t remember.
I do remember the first cup of tea I ever made her. I was probably about six years old and had seen tea made a hundred times. I felt very grown up when she said yes and I went off to the kitchen. We used a tea strainer to make tea, it was the 1970s - add a teaspoon of tea leaves in the strainer and pour the boiling water over into the cup then add the milk and two sugars. That was how she took her tea. As it was the first cup of tea I had ever made, I wanted to make it special, so I added a pinch of salt for extra flavour.
She took a few sips and asked, “What is that strange taste?” I told her how I had added a pinch of salt for extra flavour and she just started to laugh. “Oh god! That’s why it tastes awful!” and she was laughing so hard, tears were rolling down her face.
It’s not a Mother’s Day story, it is a tea story and there was a lot of tea in the 1970s. At about the same time my mother had some toilet water, and after going to the loo I would go and find that bottle of toilet water and then pour some into the basin before flushing.
My mother asked me, “Why do I keep finding my perfume in the toilet?”
“That’s your perfume? I thought it was for the toilet”
“You’ve been putting my perfume down the toilet?”
She was laughing again and I learned that Eau de Toilette is another name for perfume and not, in fact, toilet water.
The perfume wasn't a Mother’s Day gift from me. In fact I don’t remember ever buying a Mother’s Day gift.
A few years later, when I was about 17, just after the film “Scandal” hit the screens, my mother was taken to a fancy restaurant, for an interview. When she got back it was late and she was a little bit tipsy but always thinking of her son, she had brought me back a “doggy bag”, some of the food wrapped up in a napkin.
“It was delicious, Seems, I had to save you a bit.” At 17 I was always hungry so I was delighted - that is until she opened the napkin. “It was some of my starter, a beautiful steak tartare.”
If you don’t know, steak tartare is raw steak with chopped onions, all covered in a raw egg, one of the worst meals you could put to one side and save for later. After several hours in her handbag, it looked and smelled like dog food.
“Go on, have some, it is delicious.”
The look and smell of the steak tartare made me never want to eat food again, but because Chris was a little tipsy, not wanting to eat this ‘dog food’ wrapped in a napkin was insulting to her. She had gone to all the trouble to bring me back a little doggy bag. She told me, “I had to get the journalist to distract the waiter while I put the napkin in my bag.”
She told me I was ungrateful for not eating the food - “If you’re not going to eat it, then I will!” and off she went to get a fork. After one bite, she said, “Don’t eat that, it’s gone off, yuk!” and she ran off to spit it out. We laughed so hard she started coughing, that deep smoker’s cough.
The fancy restaurant meal that night wasn't a Mother’s Day treat from me.
It seems every day more people are stepping forward and offering to help with the campaign, which is wonderful, and any help is gratefully accepted. I am finding myself getting a little nervous now and thinking what would happen if her pardon is rejected or why it would be rejected. I guess these are all understandable fears, but I also realised it’s because the story of getting my mother a pardon is not just my story. In fact it hasn’t been for a while, as more and more people get involved, more people become invested.
I sometimes sense the same nervousness in the people around me, the people who are working on this so hard to get her pardoned. I’m sure that is a good thing because sometimes being nervous reminds us when things are important.
Today is Mother’s Day, so we do something in recognition of the women who brought us into the world, and this week I wanted to tell you stories about my mother that could equally have been stories about any mother, stories that show a mother’s love.
If you are lucky enough to be with your mother today, why don't you tell her that you love her and maybe make her a cup of tea? But don't put any salt in the tea, it makes it taste yuk.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum.
Today is International Women’s Day, 8th March 2021, a day where we can: “Celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality.”
Of course there may be some men reading this who are feeling a little left out - they can put International Men’s Day in the diary, it is 19th November each year.
This year International Women’s Day (IWD) is asking people to choose to challenge #ChooseToChallenge. I think this means that we need to do more than just think about bias and equality, we need to challenge it when we see it, and I think we see it everywhere.
By December 1963 Christine was tired and beaten so she pleaded guilty to perjury and was given a nine month sentence. As it is International Women’s Day I wanted to talk about one of the reasons Christine was so beaten down and why she felt fighting was hopeless. To help illustrate some of the hate being thrown at Christine at the time, some of the ‘bias’ she suffered, I wanted to share how she was being talked about by MPs in the House of Commons.
21 March 1963
Mrs Barbara Castle:
Mr R T Paget:
17 June 1963
Mr Harold Wilson:
Mr Nigel Birch:
Mr George Wigg:
Mr Charles Loughlin:
Mr B T Parkin:
Sir Richard Glyn:
There was some strong language used in Parliament, and I think it helps illustrate her worth in their eyes and helps give a flavour of why Christine would chose to plead guilty, if only just to get away from it all.
Christine, who had never been arrested or even in trouble with the police, is assassinated in Parliament. Is it any wonder that a few weeks later Stephen Ward was found guilty of living off the immoral earnings of both Christine and Mandy.
In the spirit of International Women's Day, I call out Parliament for their discriminating treatment of Christine Keeler in 1963.
My wife/partner, Lorraine, was talking about one of her memories of Christine, it was soon after they met, so around 2001 for a short time we all lived together. Lorraine remembered how one night Christine was talking to her about her story and she just said a little mournfully “You know, Loz” - Christine called her Loz - “I should never have gone to prison”.
And she shouldn’t have.
As it is International Women’s Day I should quite rightly take this opportunity to thank the women who are helping in our campaign to pardon Christine Keeler.
Thank you to:
Mum, Chris - for her love, for being my mother, for raising me, for keeping me safe, and for the confidence she gave me through her love.
Felicity Gerry QC - Our barrister for Christine’s pardon
Hannah Marsh - Just started on the campaign, marketing and communications consultant
Julie Otter - A friend who has always been there for support and inspiration.
Fionn Wilson - A passionate supporter of Christine, who wanted to reframe our understanding of her and would go on to curate the ‘Dear Christine’ exhibition
Kate Trigg - Producer of “The Trials of Christine Keeler,” the drama that gave oxygen to this campaign.
Amanda Coe - The writer of “The Trials of Christine Keeler,” for the sympathetic telling of her story.
Tanya Gold and Tara Hanks - who have both championed Christine.
Kacey Ainsworth - for her support and kind words.
My Partner - Lorraine, who has supported and pushed me all the way on this campaign and helps me understand the bias and discrimination in Christine’s story.
My Daughter , Daisy, who is on her own journey to change the world and who is so proud of her grandma Chris.
As I write this we are coming to the end of February, the days are getting warmer and the first daffodils have come out. Christine’s campaign is now gathering speed, and we are working away on what is a more final draft of her petition for mercy.
I am also working away on a new page on the website that shows the legal timeline, the trials and court cases that surrounded the story that raged through the whole of 1963. It occurs to me that only now do we have the language to understand Christine’s story, and only now is there an appetite to understand it.
I looked up the word Gangster, I wanted to check its meaning and it is simply: a criminal who is in a gang. I think today it has a more nuanced meaning and when people get called a gangster it doesn't always mean that they are a criminal in a gang.
Christine met all sorts of gangsters Bobby McKew, who was a good friend of Stephen Ward was one of them. According to Christine it was Bobby who introduced Stephen to ‘The Indian doctor’ Emil Savundra, another famous crook.
Bobby McKew was himself an interesting man. When he came to London from Ireland he was associated with the infamous Billy Hill gang. Was Bobby always a gangster? I think in later years he called himself a crook not a gangster.
In the 70s and 80s Johnny and Chris would drink in the same watering holes through south west London. Sometimes I would be dragged along and be given a glass of cola and a packet of crisps and left in a seat in the far corner of the pub. The Man in the Moon or The Water Rat on the Kings Road or Finch’s on the Fulham Road.
When Johnny was out, he was the centre of the universe -famously he had a pub party trick to show off the size of his penis, he could balance 5 half pint glasses along its length. He was magnetic and a huge personality, Johnny had a rare charisma that made him immediately likeable. If I caught his eye he would give me a little wink that would make me smile.
Johnny said to me, “Your mum is a great woman, she’s a survivor,” in a proper London accent.
Everybody knew about his affair with Princess Margaret, even I knew and I was a child. People would say he was very decent not to talk about it ... And yet everybody knew.
Christine once said to a friend that she “really respected Princess Margaret being with Johnny.” I overheard and asked her what she meant? She looked awkward and changed the subject.
In 1971 there was a famous robbery at Lloyd’s Bank in Baker Street and safety deposit boxes where emptied;there was film about the robbery starring Jason Statham 2008. It was rumoured that one of the boxes had compromising pictures of Johnny Bindon and Princess Margaret, but I’m not sure that the dates work for that to be the case.
All of Johnny’s charm and charisma did hide one truth, he was capable of immense and lethal violence. He was charged and acquitted of the murder of John Drake, pleading self defence. It was also rumoured he ran protection rackets in the west end. I was a child and didn't see any of that.
Christine never seemed uneasy in his company or any of the men like Johnny.
Christine met The Kray Brothers at the height of their powers in the mid sixties when she was dating their nephew Freddy. She knew who they were and what they were capable of, but she said, “I had no fear of them”.
The Krays tried to give her sage financial advice: “If you have any money Christine, you should invest with us, in property in Spain.” Christine wasn't the invest money type, or having any money to invest type either.
Years later, in the early 1970s she felt she needed protection. She had left my father and wanted a minder, some muscle to frighten him off if he came near her. Johnny Bindon introduced her to a local hard man called Ginger. Christine wasn’t going to be anyone’s property any more.
When we moved to the World’s End Estate, Ginger and his family happened to be neighbours and I was friends with his youngest son. I remember Ginger was always well dressed, suit and tie, then one day my friend’s dad came home, not from the pub, but from hospital, Ginger had had the life kicked out of him by Johnny Bindon.
I was far too young to know the details but my memory of seeing my friend’s father, back from hospital, lying on their couch, was that he was all smashed to pieces, covered in wires that seemed to be holding him together. They said he was lucky to be alive.
Johnny Bindon died of AIDS related syndrome in 1993.
I don’t want to paint the picture that this was Christine’s life, because it wasn’t, these were just some of the colourful people that she met. Christine didn’t have a boyfriend who would wear a sharp suit and could have the life kicked out of him by another angry man. She would have hated that. Christine met all the characters in London because she was Christine Keeler.
The newspapers have said that Jonny Bindon was an ex-boyfriend of hers, but I’m not sure that is true or rather I never heard that until I read it in a newspaper. It seems every man Christine ever met is called an ex-boyfriend.
I never saw Christine afraid of any of these men. She was only afraid of Gordon. These hard men or London gangsters didn’t frighten her at all. Maybe she had already used up all of her fear.
We were driving down to Southend-on-Sea on the Essex coast. Christine lived there for a short time but I can’t quite remember the dates. I remember it was summer, some time in the late 1990’s and Christine really wanted me to move down to Southend with her. I was living in a small studio flat in London, it was very pokey and she hated the idea of me being there. Her idea was to get a flat in Southend and we could both live near the sea and near family. Christine had some family in Southend, her aunties Betty and Pam both lived there with their grown-up children. Christine’s aunts were both nearly the same age as her, they grew up together, they went fishing on the Thames together, they were close.
We went down to look for a flat to rent, I think with a copy of Loot, a pink newspaper that advertised all the rentals. There was one that had caught her eye, it was only a few streets away from her Aunty Betty. It was bigger than she needed so I asked why she needed the extra bedrooms and that is when she told me about her plan: “You can come and live here too and get out of that horrible flat.” We then had a very frank conversation about how I wasn’t moving to Southend - I was in my late twenties.
Driving back to London, through the East End she told me about her friend who had lived nearby who had died a few years ago. “They killed her, Seems,” she said. “Mariella Novotny, she knew too much and she was murdered, she was going to write a book about everything, but they killed her and stole her address book, it was the CIA or MI5 or someone, but they wanted to silence her... she knew too much.”
Mariella Novotny was right at the centre of the Stephen Ward story. According to Christine she was born Stella Capes and changed her name, because as Christine said, Mariella Novotny “had more of a whiplash ring to it”.
In 1960 she married Horace Chapmen-Dibben, a rich nightclub owner and antiques dealer. Hod Dibben (as he was known) was also a good friend of Stephen Ward.
Mariella lived the most extraordinary life. In December 1960 she went to New York with a new lover, Harry Alan Towers, a film producer. Mariella had plans on being a famous actress. There were sex parties with the East Coast elite, even, apparently the Kennedys, according to Mariella. She was soon sleeping with men and giving money to Towers, but by March 1961 she was arrested for prostitution. In a statement to the FBI she claimed that Alan Towers was a Soviet agent providing information to the Russians to compromise prominent individuals. The FBI investigation was called the Bow Tie case.
Mariella jumped bail and with a false name made her way back to London, where she returned to hosting sex parties for the well connected.
Alan Towers pleaded not guilty to all charges and also jumped bail but made his way to Eastern Europe. The FBI soon dropped the charges and Towers returned to London to enjoy a long career producing a vast number of movies, but there was always a question mark as to whether he had been a Soviet spy.
Dibben and Mariella hosted sex parties, this time for the elite in London, like the infamous ‘Feast of the Peacocks’ sex party that had the mysterious man in the mask.
Christine told me years later that lots of people were wearing masks.
Mariella did an interview with The News of the World in 1963, and it’s a cracking read even now.
In 1973 she wrote a book called ‘Kings Road,’ talking about famous lovers. Later in the 1970s she helped investigate police corruption, even working undercover. In 1980 Mariella announced she was going to write a book about her amazing life and all of her encounters. “It is going to be dynamite,” she said.
The book never arrived and three years later she was found dead at home in bed. The coroner called it ‘death by misadventure,’ a drug overdose. Apparently a few days later her flat was burgled and her notes, files and diaries disappeared.
Christine maintained she was murdered for the secrets she knew and because the book she was writing would have embarrassed people in power. Christine believed Mariella was pivotal to those events in 1963, “because of all she knew and the power of blackmail”.
Both Mariella Novotny and her husband Hod Dibben gave evidence to Lord Denning for his report. What had they to say? Well, you will have to wait until 1st January 2048 when that part of the report is declassified.
Mariella lived the most extraordinary life, I really haven’t done her justice on this blog, in fact there is a book on its way about her: The Novotny Papers: 'A Bit Vulture, A Bit Eagle' by Lilian Pizzichini. I do hope it is dynamite!
Mariella’s Wikipedia is almost entirely blank.
This week there was some publicity because I was asked to go on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour to talk about the pardon for Christine. The show had run over so there was a little pressure on time, as I found out that Woman’s Hour is not actually an hour long, but much closer to 45 minutes.
Interviews are always nerve wrecking because you never quite know what angle they are going to come at you with.
38:30 minutes in and Emma Barnett, the presenter, said they were going to play a clip of my mother’s interview they had from 2000. There was no prior warning and I didn’t see it coming, honestly it took the legs from under me. When you lose a parent hearing their voice again brings them back, they are in the room or on the telephone with you, that is a by-product of loss. It was particularly emotional because Christine talked about how much she loved me, and how I had understood her. It was very moving and as you can hear on the interview my voice did get stuck in my throat.
After the interview lots of people got in touch to ask if I knew the BBC were going to play the clip of my mother. No, that took me by surprise. I had no idea.
In the clip Christine was really emotional about how people could just lie about her, she talked about being called a ‘gobbler’ in the newspapers, ‘gobbler’ meaning exactly what you imagine. Christine talked about how horrific that was her. People could say anything they wanted about her; it made her feel worthless, it made her feel less than human. I heard the exasperation in her voice and it took me right back to her sadness and her frustration because people could say anything they wanted to Christine and they could even say it to her face, because she was a convicted perjurer.
That is why.
In this part of the world we are still in a lockdown. Outside it’s still winter, the days are short and it’s turned much colder, but the forecast is that the cold snap will end soon and I am beginning to notice that the short days are finally getting longer.
We have been very busy, in fact by now I feel that I have read every newspaper article from 1963. There is a surprising amount online. The Times have their whole archive online as does The Observer and The Guardian. You can also find The Mirror and ahost of local newspapers like The Belfast Telegraph all at your fingertips. They all have opinion pieces, interviews or court reporting and they all help build up a detailed picture of what happened to Christine in 1963 as she went from court case to court case.
Christine spent a phenomenal amount of time in court in 1963. In January she gave evidence at the preliminary hearing against Johnny Edgecombe - famously she was out of the country before the actual trial in March. In April she was back in court, this time because of the Gordon assault, again in May and again for Gordon’s trial in June.
In June she was at the preliminary hearing of Stephen Ward’s case, then in July the trial itself, and September, October and December she was back in court, this time charged with perjury and conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice.
At the beginning of 1963, Christine was still 20 and she would spend that year at the centre of four high profile court cases and all under the scrutiny of the world’s media. I can’t imagine how mentally exhausting that must have been.
Christine could be excellent company. When I got married in Scotland all our friends,along with Christine, travelled up to Edinburgh the day before, and that night Christine stayed up holding court and entertaining everybody with funny stories, most of which were embarrassing tales about me. I am just pleased she didn't give the best man speech! But on the day of my wedding she was tired, tetchy and much less fun.
I have lots of friends who tell stories of spending an evening with Christine in hysterics as she regaled them with anecdotes - she could be good fun. Like most of us, Christine struggled to remember jokes, she could never remember the punchline, or maybe she couldn’t remember the set up, but she loved stories that made her laugh and the ruder the jokes the better.
Christine loved telling the three men and the fridge joke. If you haven’t heard it, there are three men walking up the stairs to heaven and they ask each other how they died.
The first man says, ‘I was so convinced that my wife was cheating on me, I left work early and rushed home to catch her at it, but when I got there she was in bed on her own. I was so wrong and I felt like such an idiot that I picked up the fridge and threw it out of the window, but the handle caught my belt and I fell out of the window with it!’
The next man gives him a long hard stare and says, ‘There I was walking up the street and this damn fridge fell on my head!’
The last man says ‘Well, there I was, minding my own business, sitting in this fridge...”
Christine would fold up laughing at this joke.
Christine liked the great Irish comic Dave Allen and would let me stay up late to watch his show. I remember she loved the way he said the word ‘fart’. I have been living in Ireland for about 15 years and talked to people from all over with all the different Irish accents but I think everyone says the word ‘fart’ the same way, just like Dave Allen said it.
When I was at school I heard my first Christine Keeler joke. By then there weren’t that many, they were already out of fashion by the time I went to school. One of my friends said to me, “Here’s a joke my dad tells: Christine Keeler walks into a fishmonger.” Now my friend had no idea who my mother was, we were young kids at school and we didn't waste our time talking about our parents. “The fish monger says to her ‘pound of fillet?’ and Christine Keeler says, ‘I bet you a pound you don’t.” I never said it was a good joke.
When I told my friend Christine Keeler was in fact my mother he was mortified and this story ended with me consoling him, but I realised even then that of course there would have been jokes about my mother, she had been famous, and of course there would be jokes like that. I would be naive to think anything else.
Just a few years ago a very good friend contacted me, he was all excited as he had just been told a Christine Keeler joke. He was working with an older man who had no idea of the connection between him and me, and he told him the joke out of the blue.
My friend couldn’t wait to tell me.
“Now you won’t get upset?” He was being polite because he was a good friend so he was going to tell me the joke if I wanted to hear it or not.
“Christine Keeler gets her toe stuck in a bath. Mandy Rice-Davies does everything she can to help Christine get the stuck toe unstuck, but after a long time of pulling and pushing at the toe, they decide to call a plumber because the toe won’t budge.
Before the plumber arrives Mandy grabs a tea towel to cover Christine’s top half and finds a bowler hat to cover her lower area so Christine wouldn’t be naked when the plumber arrived. The door bell rings and in comes the plumber. He takes a good look at Christine in the bath with the tea towel over her top half and the bowler hat covering her lower area and then he points at the bowler hat and says, ‘I won’t be able to get him out of there’.”
We both laughed.
I was asked, not too long ago, if there was any way I could prove that Christine was not a prostitute - if, for example, I had old tax returns showing her income from modelling or something like that. The very idea of the Christine doing a tax return makes me smile and I think the question was less about proving my mother wasn't working as a prostitute and more about finding a piece of evidence to show that Stephen Ward couldn’t have been living off her immoral earnings. No, I don't have her tax returns because of course she didn’t do tax returns, but equally it’s obvious Stephen Ward wasn't living off her immoral earnings.
I have spent a lot of time researching the events around Christine being assaulted in April 1963 and the follow up trials for her application for mercy and there is an amazing amount of hard information out there in press and court records and it’s quite easy to find.
Going through these court records you can trip over some interesting exchanges that add more colour to the wider story. For example Paul Mann, who was a bridge playing friend of Stephen Ward, was called by the prosecution to give evidence at Christine’s preliminary hearing at Marylebone Magistrates’ Court on 28 October 1963. He was questioned about a trip to Spain with Christine in March earlier that year, and he was asked whether he was trying to sell a photo of somebody famous pictured with Christine. The famous person in the picture remained unnamed, but Paul Mann was allegedly asking for £2000 to hand it over, a huge amount of money in 1963. We can only wonder who was the man in the picture. (Press record pictured)
I like this piece from the court case, because at one stage Paul Mann was asked what his business was that took him to Spain, he answered, “That is my business.” The barrister then asked, “Do you refuse to answer that question?” and he said, “I refuse to answer.” I have never been asked a question in court, so it never occurred to me you can tell the court to mind its own business!
I think back now and Christine had lots of sayings she would throw out and most of them would drive me crazy.
“Never listen to the words in a song, just listen to the music.” She used to say this one a lot and it used to drive me crazy.
“The words are part of the song” I would argue.
“Don’t listen to the words! It’s just somebody else’s story that mostly don’t make sense anyway, just feel the music.” We would argue about this often and she was convinced that she was absolutely right, the lyrics to songs were not necessary and she couldn’t understand why I couldn’t understand that.
One day after she had dropped that expression again I said, “What about opera? If you don't listen to the words you don't know what’s going on”
“Seems,” - she would call me Seems -”they are singing in a foreign language, so you won’t understand it anyway!” she replied. “Anyway, I’ve been to opera and you do understand it without the words.” She might have had a point about opera I didn’t actually know enough about it to argue with her.
She had another expression that used to get under my skin. “Whatever someone says, apply it to themselves.” Christine would throw this expression out when somebody had said something nasty about someone and every time I would ask, “What does that mean?” When I got older and I would put an ‘even’ in my question “What does that even mean,” because this expression drove me crazy.
She would explain, “If somebody says something horrible, then really they are talking about themselves. If someone calls you a liar, it’s because they are a liar”.
“That makes no sense,” I would argue. “If I called you a mad old woman, does that mean I am the mad old woman?”
She would laugh at that and say, “I may be mad, but I’m not old,” but she would say same expression the next time anyone had something nasty to say.
She also used to say, “What people say doesn't matter, it’s what people do that matters”. As a young man I didn't understand this either and I would argue, “What about all the beautiful things people have said or written? They matter”.
Lots of people have written books and opinion pieces on my mother’s life, some of which are better than others, but it does strike me that so many books and opinion pieces have been written by people who clearly didn’t do even the most basic research.
Christine would get really angry if people who told the story of her life and were wrong with any detail. For her it was an unforgivable act. You might think you are right, or you may even be mistaken but for Christine there was no excuse. For my mother, truth was real and tangible, it could be hard to find, it could take a lot of work to get at it, but it was something you could almost touch.
Christine made some scathing private notes about things people had got wrong when telling her story, in her eyes it was not about poor research or misremembered an event, in her eyes it was an unforgivable lie.
So Christine used to tell me, “What people say doesn't matter, it’s what people do that matters,” and for her I think she had a point. Maybe all of these little expressions meant the same thing, sometimes people lie and there are even some people that lie a lot and sometimes people tell stories they think are true.
So don't believe what one person says, if it’s important, do the research, find the proof.
Lastly a quick reminder about the campaign to pardon Christine, and why we are doing it.
In 1963 Christine Keeler famously went to prison
Not because she had made up an assault - because she didn’t
Not because somebody else had slapped her earlier that night
Not because a drunken conversation was recorded
But because she denied that two witnesses were there when she was assaulted
So why does it matter?
It is time to forgive my mother, so as to better understand our history, or for her family, or just because she was a human being.
It is time to free Christine Keeler
This week Christine got her entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a record of national figures who have helped shape Great Britain. I think you get your mention a few years after your death, so I am again reminded of the story Christine would tell me about what Stanley Baker said to her. Stanley Baker, probably best known for his starring role in Zulu, said, “Christine, you are the most famous person here, we’re all actors and we will be forgotten, but you, Christine, you are in the history books forever.”
We have just finished another draft of the pardon document and are really pleased with how it is shaping up. So fingers crossed it won’t be too long, but these are strange times.
Some memories are much harder than others to write down and share but they are just as important as they paint a more rounded picture of our lives. This year I wanted to talk more about the price that Christine Keeler paid.
It wasn't long after Christine was released from prison she met James Levermore. She said he was sweet with a great personality, he was educated and chose to work as a labourer in the outdoors. They fell in love, a whirlwind romance, and in 1965 they were married at Reading Registry Office. It was a normal wedding, her family all came too. Her mother and step-father, her grandmother and one of her aunties, who being more or less the same age as Christine, was like a sister. Of course the press were there too, so maybe not an entirely normal wedding.
Christine wanted to start afresh, she would play the part of a wife and play the part of being happy and maybe even for a time she was. A few months later she was pregnant with my half-brother James and things started to come apart. At the hospital she went into a panic, in fact a complete meltdown. “You are trying to kill me,” she said to the doctors.
One of the team that night in the maternity ward was West Indian and maybe because of the drugs they gave her something snapped, maybe she thought Gordon was there or maybe she thought it was a friend of his, but that night going in for her Caesarean section she was terrified they were going to kill her.
Christine went home with her new baby and played the part of a new mother and housewife but something was wrong, she was desperately unhappy. She was struggling to bond with her son Jimmy. She said, “I didn't feel he was mine at all.”
Christine then became convinced that her husband was going off with other women, because, why would any man want to be with Christine Keeler! She was so insecure, she would secretly follow him to work to make sure he wasn’t seeing other women. Her suspicions and insecurity destroyed her marriage.
The marriage was over and her husband James left. Christine had a three month old baby who was a stranger to her. Her mother stepped in and offered to help, she would look after Jimmy until Christine felt better. They used to call it the baby blues but now we call it post-natal depression and it is surprisingly common. I don't know if it was linked to the bad experience when Jimmy was born or finding herself trapped or maybe it was everything, but Christine was very sick.
Jimmy never came to live with Chris, her mother would always find a reason to extend his stay. She would tell Christine, “You’re not settled enough to look after a child,” or, “The baby is holding my marriage together”. So days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and months turned into years.
Five years later Christine remarried and Jimmy still wasn't with her, and then I was born. I had moved around so much inside Chris that my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, so it had to be an emergency C-section. Christine used to tell me that the doctors asked, “If it’s a choice, who do we save: the mother of the baby?” and Christine told me she said, “Save my baby,” and, no, I don’t really believe that story, but she never let me leave her side. So maybe it’s true!
I met her mother, my grandmother, only a few times. I stayed there for a week one summer when I was seven; according to Christine they didn't want me back again, I was too much hard work and it upset Jimmy.
The last time we saw either Jimmy or Christine’s mother was at the Worlds End Estate in 1988. I can’t remember how it came up, but Christine was saying, “At least tell him I bought your house for you.” I think Christine wanted to show Jimmy she had done something for him. She wanted to show him she wasn't “just a bum”.
Then we argued some more because Christine’s mother talked about all the “black faces” in London and how frightening she found it. I was only 16 or 17 and said, “That’s what Hitler would have said,” and they left and we never saw them again. I have sometimes wondered if I was the one who went too far that night.
Christine sent them birthday and Christmas cards and even tried to call them over the years, but it was done.
Looking back, strangely, I have no recollection of ever talking to my grandmother, of ever making eye contact or being hugged. I always thought she was a cold woman.
I once asked Christine if she had any regrets, she thought about it for a while and said, “My cat, Thomas, I took him to the vet too late. I think he suffered and I blame myself for that’
Now I am a parent and I think to myself, of course that’s what she would say to her son. Of course she had regrets, but what else could she say?
Jimmy was her one major regret.
I do hope that this year is better than last year for everyone, and I must admit I look forward with optimism. We have vaccines rolling out across the world, where I live in the northern hemisphere the winter solstice has passed and each day is longer than the last. 2020 saw many stories come to an end and chapters close and it is my hope that 2021 brings healing peace and a coming together.
I also want to see a pardon for my mother for her crime of being attacked by a man who had a history of violence against her, in fact just a history of violence. I am currently working on a family statement to be added to our application for pardon, it has been James Harbridge’s idea to talk a bit about the personal and family impact of my mother’s conviction in 1963, to write a victim impact statement type of thing. It’s been much harder and more emotional than I thought, but does focus the three reasons why what we are doing is so important: To correct the story that is our history about those events, for her family, and most importantly for her, because she was a human being.
When I was a child I had a toy gun, it was a Luger, or that was what was written down the side. It was painted black metal and quite a lot of the paint had chipped away so it looked mottled with silver. There was no grip - it had broken off on its travels, so it was awkward to hold and a very sorry looking toy. I remember the toy gun because on more than one occasion Chris held it in her hand and told me or told friends, “This is a real gun to protect me from Lucky Gordon, if he comes here I will shoot him”.
This story doesn't end with ‘and It was a real gun!’ It is not that type of story, but hopefully it illustrates how I grew up understanding that Gordon was a real threat. There is another thing the story illustrates that is harder to write, because I can’t tell you that my mother always knew herself that it was just a toy gun. Fear is a strange partner.
In these blogs I have talked a lot about my mother’s humanity, something that I always felt was missing from the story of Christine Keeler. It is harder to talk about the price that my mother paid for being Christine Keeler. All stories have context and Christine Keeler was quite damaged by what happened to her in 1963 - that much must be obvious to anyone, but it is also true that my mother always loved me and did all any mother could do to keep me safe. I plan to talk about this more on the blog.
I have been doing a lot of reading on perjury in the English courts, how it is used and what it means. I believe that the charge of perjury was used as weapon against my mother, a tool to punish her, and to mangle the words of Mandy Rice-Davies “I would say that, wouldn’t I?”
In 2015 Andy Coulson, the ex-editor of The News of the World, was charged with perjury, and he was acquitted. Mr Coulson had lied on oath but in Judge Lord Burns’ view, “Not every lie is perjury,” and the lie did not change the course of the trial. Link
There are not that many perjury cases, over the last 100 years they average out at 150 per year - Link
But I do wonder how many of those charged with perjury are women, women who have claimed they have been assaulted or raped. It’s interesting research and there seem to be a number of people doing the same research raising real concerns about how historically the courts have ‘aggressively’ prosecuted woman with perjury where their initial assault charges couldn’t be proved.
Katie Baker has written a few articles on the subject, here is one on buzzfeed - Link
Woman Against Rape have run a six year campaign with concerns about the use of perjury against the victims of abuse.
If rape, stalking and physical assault is really about power, as is often claimed, isn’t the ultimate show of power seeing your victim go to prison for what you did to them?I wonder how powerful Lucky Gordon felt when Christine went to prison.
I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think that perjury was used to punish my mother, In fact I don’t think she would be the only victim of this weapon, even now.
I will leave you with another story to show how Christine had power taken away from her and how that can impact those around her. A long time ago in the early 1990s I did some bookkeeping work for Freddie’s Model Agency, invoices and payments, things like that. One morning I went up to their stairs and in the hall as you entered their upstairs office was a huge three metre tall poster of a model sitting in that chair in that pose, made to look just like my mother. It was an advertising campaign for bread with the slogan, “It tastes great with nothing on”. It featured one of their models and putting the poster up was a deliberate gesture to embarrass me or maybe to embarrass my father, as the owners were friends.
As mortified as the young me was to be confronted by that massive poster at my place of work, it could still be taken as just good fun. I did know that Christine would not have received a penny from a campaign like this, and seeing her used always stung me a bit.
So I was mortified by the poster and I had a vague sense of injustice, but I wasn't going to let anyone else see that, The one thing I can’t remember was who tried to give me a lesson on that poster and about that campaign. knowing full well who my mother was, they told me with some pride about this wonderfully clever idea, how it get around copyright and how unimportant that original model was, “You are just piggy backing, riffing, off a cultural icon, the picture that is not Christine Keeler, she was only a model and not even a very good one I hear”
I swallowed a lot of pride, that poster was on the wall every time I went there. If I had been older and braver I would have pointed out the obvious: “She so unimportant and yet you are still using her to sell your bread”
Incidentally, the model from the campaign, Helena de Bondt, sent me a kind message when Christine passed. So while some people think models are unimportant, at least some have their humanity.
2020 is fast coming to a close. This year has meant turmoil for everyone, a lot of people have been financially and emotionally impacted by this pandemic, others have been luckier and just inconvenienced by this new normal. My family and I are looking forward to Christmas together and are hoping that nothing stops that from happening, that we all remain well and hoping that next year is better for everyone.
This time last year the BBC drama The Trial of Christine Keeler was about to air and our campaign to recognise that Chris should never had gone to prison was about to start. My life changed as I understood what Chris had asked me to do in her will: “To make sure that the truth is told about events of which I took part during my lifetime”.
Christine Keeler was not a prostitute and Christine Keeler was not a liar. Christine Keeler, and she would have hated me saying it, was a victim.
There are of course people who will say, “...but she was a liar, she lied on oath when she said two men did not witness a crime” but when those two men made it clear to Christine they wanted nothing to do with the police, when those two men washed their hands of any responsibility to help convict a man who had assaulted her, Christine had a terrible choice - either don’t mention the witnesses to the police or just don’t report the assault, those were her choices.
“Or just don’t report the assault” - and face yet another assault by Lucky Gordon, and next time it could be worse, what a terrible choice.
There is a story I was told recently by someone who interviewed one of the police officers who was there in 1963. When Christine was questioned in connection with Stephen Ward the ex-police officer said, “We knew Christine was a prostitute because at the end of the interview she took the uneaten sandwiches with her. That is something prostitutes do and that is how we knew”
If only she had left those sandwiches. Would our history be different today?
For some of us the world has changed a lot since 1963. Chris told me how they would eat a lot of vegetarian spaghetti bolognese, which was basically spaghetti and tinned tomatoes, and there were of course a lot of sandwiches. She saw an avocado in the early sixties and at the time she thought they looked like a very bad idea!
After the exhibition I went out with friends, including one of Christine’s old friends, Desmond Banks, and we had a few drinks, laughed together and had a glass of scotch, Christine’s favourite tipple. Thanks to the pandemic that would have been one of the last times I was out with friends.
This website was published and lots of you sent kind messages and still do. A lawyer, James Harbridge, made contact and offered to help with Christine’s pardon, pro bono, and with lots of hard work he took a campaign page on a website and turned it into a legal document and so much more.
Felicity Gerry QC has taken on the fight pro bono and by the end of 2020 I feel we have a chance of correcting a part of history, telling that ‘truth’ that Christine talked about in her will.
2020 has had its downs, but it’s had some ups.
Merry Christmas everybody, may you love and may you be loved too.
It’s been an interesting week. More of you have come forward asking to help, which has been brilliant. Any help is much appreciated; even just telling friends about this really helps. It has also been a little frustrating at times, with one journalist telling me that the story I’m trying to tell is too complicated for their readers.
I was laughing the other day when reading through Christine’s original manuscript It was a comment about how tough her stepfather Ted was, when she was a child. She tells a story about falling out of a moving car and another one about pets being drowned, but the line that made me laugh was something she said Ted used to say to her: Ted used to tell me, “Wish in one hand and spit in the other, and see which one gets filled up first”.
It is a dark enough expression to use, the glass is definitely half empty with this expression, only this wasn't quite what Ted would say, it was:
“Wish in one hand and SHIT in the other, and see which one gets filled up first”
That was just Christine being polite, being a little discreet. I remember Christine speaking on the phone with a different voice, her telephone voice. That was the generation she was from, it is not lying, it is just not wanting to be rude.
A student reached out a few weeks ago asking about Christine’s campaign and they mentioned how after reading Christine’s Wikipedia page they where given no idea about Lucky Gordon and his history with Christine. It is true that her Wikipedia page glazes over some important aspects of her story and in some places is just plain wrong.
It is frustrating because I have made one or two changes on Wikipedia only to see them taken out again!
Here are some examples:
Wikipedia Says: The exact length of the affair between Keeler and Profumo is disputed, ending either in August 1961, once Profumo was warned by the security services of the possible dangers of mixing with the Ward circle, or continuing with decreasing fervour until December 1961.
I wanted to add: Christine said that the relationship ended in December 1961 and, in his statement to the House, Profumo said he last saw Christine in December.
Wikipedia says: ... Yevgeny Ivanov. According to Keeler, she and Ivanov had a short sexual relationship.
I wanted to add/change:
After an evening drinking vodka, Christine and Ivanov had a one-time sexual relationship - Ivanov confirmed Christine’s account in his 1992 book ‘The Naked Spy”.
The Wikipedia line implies that Christine lied about this. You will notice this as a trend throughout her Wikipedia page.
Wikipedia says: After her relationship with Profumo ended, Keeler was sexually involved with several partners, including jazz
So this is what I wanted to change it to:
In October 1961 Christine met Lucky Gordon when buying cannabis for her and Stephen Ward. Christine alleges that Lucky Gordon, who had a record of violence against woman, started an 18 month campaign of intimidation and harassment and assaulted her on numerous occasions. In May 1962 Christine and Michael Lambton were briefly engaged. In Sept 1962 Christine met jazz promoter Johnny Edgecombe and they started a relationship. On 27 October 1962, while Christine and Johnny were out dancing, there was a dispute with Lucky Gordon that ended with Edgecombe slashing Gordon’s face with a knife.
Wikipedia says: On the 18th of April 1963, Keeler was attacked at the home of a friend. She accused Gordon, who was arrested and charged. At his trial, which began on the 5th of June, he maintained that his innocence would be established by two witnesses who, the police told the court, could not be found. On the 7th of June, mainly on the evidence of Keeler, Gordon was found guilty and sentenced to three years' imprisonment.
It’s just not true that Gordon said the two witnesses would establish his innocence, he just didn't say that. Gordon argued that although he had hit Christine, he wasn’t responsible for all of her injuries and that she had run into a door whilst trying to get away from him. The police doctor’s evidence was also key in Gordon’s conviction.
Wikipedia says: Ward's trial, which ran from the 22nd to the 31st of July 1963, has been characterised as "an act of political revenge" for the embarrassment caused to the government. He was accused of living off immoral earnings, earned through Keeler
Wikipedia says: Gordon's assault conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal when his missing witnesses were found and testified that the evidence given by Keeler was substantially false
What I wanted to change it to was: Gordon's assault conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal when his missing witnesses were found on the basis that Christine had lied about the two other men being present at the assault.
Wikipedia says: ... she was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, serving four and a half months in prison.
This should say: serving six months.
The changes I wanted to make are supported with actual evidence. The entry is not complete, but I hope the changes tell the story more clearly and objectively. I also believe it removes some of the malice in the text. Lastly, it is Christine’s Wikipedia page, so it should tell her story. Maybe there are some people out there who just want to think that Christine lied about everything. Maybe some people who support Stephen Ward can’t hide a certain contempt for Christine and Mandy or maybe some people don't actually know the story as well as they think they do.
When I was young Christine would take the palm of my hand and tell me there was a big farm right there in my hand. She pointed to the field were they grew potatoes and where the cows were kept, and on my hand she would point at the farmhouse and a greenhouse for the tomatoes. Finally she would ask me, “What do you think is here, in the middle of the farm?” and she would point at the middle of my hand. “It’s a duck pond,” she said as a big drop of spit landed in the middle of the farm. It was gross but it was funny and sometimes that’s what families are.
But I am sure there are some people who will now say that Christine had a nasty habit of spitting at people.
Today is Christine’s anniversary, she died three years ago on the 4th December 2017. I thought I should post the foreword I wrote for the re-issue of her book - Secrets and Lies. I am sure some of you may have already seen it, but it was the first time I had written anything about Chris and some of it was taken from her eulogy so it seems apt.
I never met Christine Keeler.
For me my mother was always Christine Sloane. She changed her name to get away from being Christine Keeler. In our house Christine Keeler was talked about in the third person ‘who would want to be associated with Christine Keeler?’. Christine Keeler would get the blame for lots of things that happened. Friends, family, relationships that had soured, that would be Christine Keeler’s fault.
I wanted to give a flavour of the person I knew, the human being and not the ‘Sixties icon, not the sex symbol and not the victim.
I was born ten years after the Profumo affair, and those events were always a part of our lives. Stories about some fabled ‘man in the mask’ who was at upmarket orgies, or the rumours of doctors and nurses with President Kennedy, or who was spying for the Russians. My mother always did hold her cards very close to her chest even from me. ‘If you want to keep a secret,’ she would say, ‘tell no one’.
My mother paid a high price for Christine Keeler, she went from riches to poverty, from all the adoration of men to loneliness. She called herself a scapegoat and when we bickered, I would call her a martyr on a cross.
Christine was a fantastic driver: she loved driving and loved driving fast. ‘Start accelerating as you’re coming out of a corner, get your speed up for when you straighten up,’ she used to tell me. That was a big surprise for the instructor on my first driving lesson.
She told me when she was much younger, she nearly raced at Le Mans, and after she was released from prison, she would speed round London in her Mini Cooper until the police gave chase. ‘They couldn’t catch me. They had to put road blocks up to stop me and when they did I would say:
‘I’m Christine Keeler and they would have to let me go because it would look like I was being victimised by the police after what Denning did to me.’
In the early 1990s she was living in Clapham and was asked for an interview on a TV show in Birmingham; I can’t remember the name of the show but it was on the BBC. She didn’t want to go but we were poor, and it was £250 cash. We both jumped in her battered old red Renault and flew up the M1. When we arrived, there was no cash. Suddenly, it was not the BBC’s policy to pay cash.
‘Christine you must understand it’s a live show, there is a presenter, a studio audience other guests: you need to stop being difficult and get on with it,’ one of the BBC production people told her. Chris wasn’t having any of it. No cash, no interview. It felt like a room full of hostile people all acting like she was being difficult or unreasonable. They turned to me: ‘Can you speak to your mother?’ She was told there would be cash for this interview, that cash would pay for the petrol back, for food, she was not being difficult, she was making the only choice left to her, she wasn’t rich and powerful with a world of choices.
The cash arrived just before the show went live, she puts on her make-up and did the show. On the way back to London the gear box on the Renault slipped on the motorway and she could only get the car into third. She had to drive from Birmingham to south London in third gear: ‘We can’t stop for anything, I won’t get it going again.’ She didn’t stop, she was a very good driver.
In the late 1980’s the film Scandal came out, and things got a little easier for a while. She had sold an option to make the film about five years before for a few thousand pounds, when we were very poor. They had six years to make the film or they would need to pay Chris more money to extend it and just before time was up production started. There was a lot of this through the years, people managing to not pay Chris in the nick of time, publishers going bust -- after everyone else was paid -- or ex-husbands not having to pay child support even when they lived in large houses and drove big, flashy cars.
I would have been about seventeen when Chris had been paid a few thousand pounds to go to the premier of Scandal and we both got to walk down the red carpet in Leicester Square. Bob Geldof and Paula Yates sat next to us in a cinema packed with 1980s celebrities. The Pet Shop boys and Dusty Springfield had a song [ ‘Nothing Has Been Proved’,1989] at number two in the charts in both the UK and US about my mother.
It all led to an American release for Scandal and in fact it did pretty well in America for someone, and it was one of the top UK movies there for a long time. We went all around America and she advertised the film. I remember we were in the Ritz Carlton on Central Park and watched the Hillsborough disaster on the news; 96 people died when they went to watch a football game and the Press where already blaming the fans. I clearly remember her saying ‘That’s crap, those bastards just let those people die, and now they are going to cover it up”. Decades later she was proved right. I think she understood how police, press and politicians worked.
Coming in to America through customs we were bickering, probably because I was a teenager. ‘Hold this’ she said and gave me a scrunched up tissue. She always had scrunched up tissues. I protested and we bickered more as she got our passports ready and we bickered past customs to a waiting car. ‘Give me my tissue back’ she asked and opened it and inside there was a small lump of cannabis. ‘I’m going to need this for my nerves,’ she said. She liked a smoke.
While in America we were contacted by a family living on a Native American reservation they were related on her father’s side and they were keen to make contact. Chris wasn’t very interested. I think she was a little embarrassed: it was a different time. We talked about it over the years, she seemed to think her father who had been put up for adoption and was originally Native American, I never did find out for sure.
Chris was a terrible cook. She would say: ‘I’m not a good cook, but I do have one or two dishes that I’m ok with.’ That was a lie for she was a terrible cook. One Christmas she put the small turkey in the oven, put the gas on low but forgot to light it. Half an hour later we could smell gas, she jumped up, opened doors and windows.
She had gassed the turkey, our Christmas dinner tasted of gas, and she had made some sort of gravy from its juices and poured this gas tasting juice over everything, and she started laughing. She was a terrible cook.
She used to laugh, really laugh, we played tricks on one another. I told her once you can get rid of dark under your eyes with just a dab of Deep Heat then rub it in. ‘You bastard’ she screamed her eyes streaming and both of us rolling around laughing. Don’t worry she would have got her own back with an equally devious prank.
Family and friends came and went, but I don’t think it was ever Christine Keeler’s fault, money would have been part of it, some friends and even family disappear when you lose all your money. We went on a trip to Brazil when I was five, she was doing interviews, so it was a working trip, whilst we were there everything seemed to change, all the money was suddenly gone, I even think we were stuck there for a while, but we came back to London things were hard for Chris, we stayed in friends’ flats, we even stayed in squats.
Chris had a great friend called Professor Dennis Evans, we stayed in his spare room for a while. Dennis used to keep exotic pets, scorpions, spiders and snakes, one morning he poked my head into our room and announced: ‘I’ve lost the scorpions, one is very nasty, so shake your shoes before you put them on’. We ended up in a council estate. Chris was in trouble with the tax man and there was no money. There are pictures of her around this time, and she is very thin, it wasn’t for fashion. When Professor Dennis Evans died of cancer many years later Chris didn’t go to his funeral, and afterwords she told me it was because she was so damn angry at him for dying.
I remember her mother, my grandmother, wasn’t a warm woman. When I was very young, six or seven we went to visit then where they lived in Berkshire. My brother Jimmy didn’t live with us but lived with her mother and stepfather and for me always had. They all lived in the house Chris brought her mother during better times. I was playing with the family dog, a collie, and her stepfather started pretending to set the dog on me: ‘Go on attack, go on boy.’
It was all clearly a joke. I was six and knew a joke when I saw it, but mother went mad. ‘Don’t threaten my boy, don’t joke around like that,’ she screamed and she shouted and really stood up to him. I didn’t know then all the pain he had caused her when she was a young girl. Then we saw less of them, then we didn’t see them at all.
Families sometimes break and sometimes mothers and fathers don’t have any love for their children, but I always knew my mother loved me, always.
The smoking took its toll and she died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on my birthday, December 4, 2017. I posted a statement on Facebook and we told the Press, and all that media craziness started again, TV and newspapers wanting quotes and stories.
The BBC news called to say that although we, her family, had told them they didn’t have enough sources for the story that Christine Keeler was dead. They weren’t going to run it, but they could run the story if I came to their studio and did a live interview that night. Then they would report it. I explained that my mother has just died and the last place I wanted to be was on telly.
This moment in time didn’t belong to us, it belonged to the press again.
I went to see her laid to rest in the hospital. I was with my wife and my oldest friend Mark, and she lay there still and peaceful in a hospital gown. My friend leaned in and whispered: She would be so annoyed us standing here and her without her make-up on.’
I half expected her to sit up and laugh.
Please remember- any support for our campaign is really appreciated
I hope this blog finds you well, and thank you for finding this page.
It has been another really busy week. I was interviewed by Kevin O’Sullivan on talk radio last Saturday, and by Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ radio on Tuesday morning. There were also some press interviews, and I wrote a piece for a magazine and all will be out soon. I am trying to get Christine’s Campaign out there.
Having a mild form of dyslexia the writing of blogs and articles takes a lot of time and energy. I find writing professional emails and letters straightforward enough, its mostly terminology or standard phrases that you just get used to typing out, but creative writing is much harder. So it only seems fair to thank any readers for their patience if they trip over my typos on this website. I am happy to be told about them and I do update them.
I get some readers’ questions about Chris and I wanted to answer some this week. I was asked about Christine and how she felt about being photographed as she got older, and it is a brilliant question because I think it says a lot about the person I grew up with.
I am often asked for personal pictures of Christine and family pictures and the truth is, there aren’t very many at all. We forget now how easy it is to take pictures, but when I was growing up, we didn’t have a camera, as they were expensive and film was expensive too.
I was given an old camera by a friend of my mother’s. It was in a brown leather case and had a heavy lens. It just needed film and I remember thinking it was very beautiful. I had recently met my father and he was very wealthy, so Christine suggested that next time I saw my father maybe I could ask him to get some film and the very next Saturday I was due to see him I took my camera with me to his large house in Chelsea.
I remember there were friends of his there when I showed him the camera and I told him I just needed film, but my father said something along the lines of - it needs film so he could see why I brought it now, but he was looking at his friends when he said it
and the grown ups gave each other knowing looks. It made me feel like the poor child from a council estate even though I knew it was a dig at Christine. I was very young but I felt humiliated, so I left the camera there and I never saw it again. Sometimes when a marriage breaks down it ‘salts the earth’ and the hate between two people colours everything.
Chris hated having pictures taken of her. She would put her hand in front of cameras and say “no no”. Part of that was about vanity. She would say “how old I look”.
We talked about getting old and she would say “I still feel eighteen, inside... but then I catch myself in the mirror!” And we would laugh and talk about covering all the mirrors in the house like the crazy old ladies in literature. “I’m not a crazy old lady” and we would laugh even more, because she was a bit.
Chris also said how she worried that personal pictures could just appear in the papers. She worried about that. At some stage she was betrayed to the press by nearly every member of her family, so Imagine the betrayal she would have felt if a picture taken by her son hit the papers? It would be too much. Imagine how I would feel if I betrayed her that way? We only once asked Christine for a picture and that was with her granddaughter a few weeks before she passed. She was so happy having that picture taken, talking to her about modelling shots and asking her granddaughter “What is your best side?” in a photo.
There are only a few pictures of Christine and I. A few photos from my wedding, press pictures from the movie Scandal, and one picture from when I was young that I have already posted on an earlier blog, and that is it. But thats ok I don't need anymore, I was there.
Just to let you all know we have released a campaign image to help with some of the costs in running this website and with Christine’s campaign. We also need help spreading the word about our campaign to pardon Christine so please let friends know, like and share posts. It all helps.
Introducing new audio blog extra!!
This week has been both exciting and exhausting with The Times reporting how Felicity Gerry QC has been engaged to help to get Christine a pardon. I am so delighted Felicity accepted this brief and she comes with a wealth of expertise. Felicity has taken this project on pro bono as well as James Harbridge, a lawyer based in Dubai with 25 years dispute resolution experience.
James had contacted me through the website at the end of August asking to help, and for me he has been the real breakthrough. Hundreds of emails, WhatsApps and Zoom calls later we find ourselves able to tell people why Christine, both morally and legally, should not have gone to prison in 1963. I am so incredibly grateful to them both.
I cannot forget Desmond Banks, Christine’s friend and solicitor who has helped and guided me through this whole story. Desmond has been a great mentor to me since Christine passed away and has even taken on the burden of spell checking each of these blogs before they are posted, not an easy job.
It’s been a strange week and I have been talking to the press about what we are doing. I can’t lie - I was upset that The Times article referred to Lucky Gordon as an ‘ex-boyfriend’. Christine would have been incandescent with rage: “He was never a boyfriend,” she would say.
I don’t know where that started, the first reference to Christine and Gordon being in a relationship. I have been doing lots of research and I think it may have come from an interview Lucky Gordon gave to the Jamaican Observer (1989) where he claimed to be Christine’s boyfriend. That is the first time I see it mentioned and I don't need to tell anyone reading this that he wouldn't be the first stalker or rapist to say they were in a relationship with their victim.
I have so many questions for Chris that she can’t answer anymore.
This week Peter Sutcliffe, The Yorkshire Ripper, died and an old memory came back to me. We were living on The Worlds End Estate in London and I was still very young. One day coming back from school there were two men in suits who introduced themselves as police officers, for me it was all very exciting but sadly they left almost immediately after I arrived. I can’t remember if Christine was angry or upset but she definitely hadn’t liked the conversation she had with the police.
It was little later that day, when a friend of hers came round, and she was talking about how the police had seen her and warned her that she may be a target because this serial killer was killing prostitutes.
I was young and can’t quite remember all of the details about that day, Christine and I talked about it because I think I was a bit worried. The police still hadn’t caught him and it was on the television all the time. I do remember that she did say the police thought she would be a ‘trophy’ for this killer because of who she was.
Of course I was young and my memory isn’t clear and the police may not have been there because of the Yorkshire Ripper - it could have been some other threat who thought Christine would be a ‘trophy’.
I would love to ask her, along with a hundred other questions too, but most of all I would love to ask her if she wants a cup of tea and a chat.
If you would like to help I would be delighted to hear from you. Now I have to get the word out and drum up the publicity we need for Chris.
Don’t worry this is not about the American elections!
In 1989 I was about seventeen and I had a Saturday job working in an electronics shop on Tottenham Court Road. I got the job because two friends were already working there on a Saturday and they managed to get me in too. We would earn £20 for the day but as I was new I was started behind a counter where they sold a small selection of videos. While my friends were on the shop floor helping customers buy TV’s, microwaves or any other electrical gizmos and chatting during downs times, I was mostly bored and stuck behind the video counter with Taz.
Taz ran the video counter and some of the customers that came in only Taz was allowed to serve, that was one of the rules. There was also a box under the counter that I wasn’t allowed to look in, that was another rule. Taz was a bit over weight, unkempt and smelled a bit of spilt milk, so I didn't even want to look in any boxes he had under his counter.
My job was to clean, go get Taz’s lunch, clean again and deal with customers that Taz wasn’t interested in and then do some more cleaning. Amazing to think that back In 1989 a new release movie was really expensive, up to £50 or £60 which was a lot of money back then. Taz was making good money in his little department not to mention whatever went on from the box under the counter.
Then the film Scandal hit the cinemas and Taz immediately took a very different interest in me. The next Saturday came around and shortly after our shift had started my friends came over saying there was a big problem. The manager of the whole shop and Taz had pulled them aside because they had a problem with me! The Saturday before some Videos had gone missing, it added up to a lot of money maybe even a few hundred pounds, and they had seen me take them!
I was in shock, I didn't take any video’s...We didn’t even have a video player!
Then Taz was over “The manager is going to call the police”.
I was now in a panic.
“We might have a way out” Taz said with a long pause before he went on “Your Mum’s film... if you get us ten copies, we won’t call the police and you can even keep your job”
I tried to explain, I couldn’t get copies of the film, but Taz said “you need to speak to your mum then or we get the police involved, make her understand”
I hurried home and told Chris about my imminent arrest. At first she laughed but quickly became furious. She felt this was her all her fault “Don’t go back there, let them call the police...do they owe you wages?”
Suddenly Chris had me under firm orders to go back to get my days wages, and not forget to tell them “My mum says, How #¢$$#$#$#$ dare they try this ££#$##£## on my boy”
I asked Chris if she would come with me but she made herself more comfortable on the couch with a “No, you go”
I returned to ask for my days pay, but there were more threats of the police and lots of shouting. Taz was angry and I was fired, and everyone who worked there had never been so insulted by this family!. So I left without the days pay and never went back. When I got home Chris asked how it all went and I lied and said they paid me. I didn’t want her to know I had failed or to feel bad about it anymore.
There has sometimes been a price to being Christine Keeler son. An ex girlfriend who told me how disgusting she thought my mother was for selling ‘sex stories’ (I think what upset me the most was she felt it was acceptable to even tell me) Or after a particular wave of press interest in Christine I had a company director who just stopped talking to me for three months. I found it so difficult to do the job that I had to hand in my notice.
Recently there was a article in the Mail about my fight to clear Christine’s name, I made the mistake of reading the comments section, and that was all a bit painful. Of course being Christine’s son has had some wonderful advantages too: I have met interesting people, had some great adventures because of it and of course I had my mothers love.
I hope everyone is well and for anyone stuck in a lockdown I hope it is not too isolating. I live in Ireland and we are going through our own lockdown but I have found this lockdown much harder than the first, as the days are much shorter and the novelty has well and truly worn off. It helps me to remember that one day this will all be behind us.
A podcast I am in came out on Tuesday called ‘So, I quit my day job’ where I talked to Cathrine Mahoney about Christine, the website and all the work that is being done. Its such a complicated story, I enjoyed the time that podcast gave me, so it is a long ramble but there are lots of stories and hopefully, it is entertaining, maybe even funny in places too.
I have also updated the campaign page a little - here. I wanted to make it a little clearer. There is a lot more research that has been done that allows me to be much more sure about the events around that night and the court cases afterwards. With more research, any police culpability seems less important to Christine’s eventual imprisonment.
I read Johnny Edgecombe’s book ‘Black Scandal’. As a principal in the story, Johnny’s contribution is important and Johnny’s account does paint a vivid picture of Christine’s fear for Lucky Gordon and he supports Christine’s account of rape and harassment at the hand of Lucky Gordon.
Johnny makes a few claims that I find hard to tie in with a timeline, but interestingly he does mention the taxi that took him to Wimpole Mews on the day he fired the gun at Stephens flat. When the BBC drama aired in January a lot of people commented on why the taxi driver just waited while watching a man shoot at the flat, but according to Johnny the taxi driver did wait and after firing the shots Johnny jumped back into the taxi and told the driver to “drive anywhere”. I wish I could find the Cabbies account from that day.
Its not a long blog post this week, but there is a two hour extra to listen to, but one last thing that came to mind this week.
After being coerced, Christine denied two witnesses were at a scene of a crime. The witnesses would later, on oath, support Christine’s version of events, but Christine went to prison.
Whereas, for implying he had relations with Christine Keeler, John Profumo sued the English distributors of Tempo Illustrato, an Italian Magazine, and also brought a case against Paris Match. A legal lie that benefited his reputation and to a small extent benefited him financially, but there was no call for his conviction.
“I could not believe a man would be so foolish, even it so wicked, as to sue for a libel he knew to be true.” - Prime Minister, Harold McMillan concerning John Profumo.
This week has been very busy in furthering Christine’s story, her truth. The support that I continue to receive has been quite amazing and there is now new help and guidance that is truly inspirational. This week I found this journey even more emotional than at any time before, in a zoom call I felt the first wave of vindication for my mother and I won't lie, it brought a tear to my eye. Now for the hard part.
It’s been another very busy week with lots happening, some of which may even have made Christine’s story a little clearer. Work is continuing on Christine’s Application for Mercy and my continued thanks go out to everyone who is helping, if you have your own stories about Chris or even want to help, I would be delighted to hear from you.
It surprises me sometimes quite how much information is out there that covers those events in 1963, and sometimes it’s about getting events in the right order and at the right time, because when events happen sometimes tells its own story.
With so much in the news about the upcoming elections in America, I wanted to mention Christine and her politics. I must start by saying I do not wish to push any personal agenda, I would call myself a wishy-washy metropolitan liberal but Christine politics were her own and transcended any particular label, her politics were...complicated.
Christine was a life long Conservative voter. Christine, who brought down a Conservative government, voted for Thatcher, John Major any conservative when she could vote, I found this infuriating because if you sat down and talked to Christine about her views she would say, “You shouldn't have rich people We should distribute wealth amongst everybody. It is just not fair these rich people with their wars sending children to die...,” and then she would go to the ballot box and vote Conservative. I'm not saying that Conservatives want to send children to wars but they don't tend to campaign for a redistribution of wealth!
Christine's short marriage to my father didn't have any influence on her thinking, my father whose politics were a few steps to the right of Margaret Thatcher, but I have wondered if Stephen Ward influenced her politics having read his police interviews and Christine’s notes.
Through her life, Christine found it very difficult to find work away from the scandal, when she did find a job she would be let go as soon as they found out she was Christine Keeler and that happened more times than she made public. It was a different time and I think Christine would have found it impossible working in a shop or facing the public every day. You would need to be made of steel with what some people said to her but unfortunately, she was only made of flesh and blood. So Christine and I struggled on child allowance and the occasional piece of work she would get. Christine never claimed unemployment, she had her reasons, they were complex but it made us poorer than most.
”I think you have free food for the poor, even Marie Antoinette would give cake to the poor” she would say.
Christine was the most communist leaning Conservative you could ever meet.
I recently read a blog post about Christine from a publisher who workedwith her, Richard Glyn Jones; he talked about Christine being a life long Conservative. He said he asked her why and she replied, “Because people like me do better under the Conservatives.” I don't doubt she said it.
I was thinking this week about how very hard it must have been for Christine to tell her story because some of her story must have been so hard to re-live. I have been reading through Christine’s personal manuscript and some notes she left, in her own words. I was reading through her account of first meeting Lucky Gordon in October 1961: Lucky Gordon tricking her back to his flat in St Stephen’s Gardens to see some jewellery he claimed he had stolen. They had walked up lots and lots of steps before arriving at his flat, where he shut the door and pulled out a knife.
It’s a very raw piece of writing, Christine was clearly in shock, still asking about the jewellery. Of the actual rape she says this, “With the knife in one hand, he had it off with me”, “After 19 hours I managed to persuade him to let me go”.
It is difficult to read, but how hard was it to write?
She was relying on memory and I have found in her story that although she tends to be right about an event, sometimes she might get a date wrong, not often, but sometimes. Now we have tools available like the internet and freedom of information they help take these events and put them in the right place, and sometimes that can changes story just a tiny bit.
When I was going through Christine’s manuscript I also found a few pages of research by Christine, talking about the Labour party through 1963 and how they regularly used Christine and the scandal to discredit the then ruling Conservative party. I realised that Christine had been politisised for that year, a weapon to hit the Macmillan government with until they lost the next election.
So maybe what Christine felt about politics was also a little more personal and not at all political.
I’ve tried to make these blogs about the human being who was once Christine Keeler, and how she wasn't always a perfect human being, but she was human. I think it is important because sometimes when you know someone it can help explain the difficult choices they make. I have met a lot of people who are critical of the choices other people make, and critical of the choices Christine made. In fact I’m sure I was pretty critical of her a million times as I was growing up with her.
One thing I have learned is that people can only make choices when they have options open to them. When they don't have any options then they are not really making choices at all. I think Christine found herself in this position many times in her life.
Friday nights were movie nights and Christine and I would go over to her old friend Dennis Evans for the evening. Dennis had a video player, so Christine would cook us dinner before we would all settle down and watch the movies Dennis had picked up from the local video store.
I have spoken before about how bad a cook Christine was. We mostly had spaghetti bolognese for dinner and on one occasion Christine experimented with a dessert, her take on rice pudding:
Christine’s Rice Pudding suprise
An amount of rice (any rice you have)
One can of evaporated milk
An amount of sugar that feels right
Boil quickly because you are in a hurry
It didn't taste anything like rice pudding, it tasted like hardwood pellets in a runny sweet sauce and even now if I close my eyes I can still taste it. Thankfully she didn't do desserts again, but I did catch her eating her rice pudding dish on more than one occasion later and it didn't look like she had improved on the recipe.
Dennis was a Professor of Chemistry at Imperial College. He was kind, generous and extremely logical. Christine had met him in the mid sixties - she said they met at a party and Dennis was sitting in the kitchen with a notepad and pen. Dennis stuck a needle in his arm and passed out, when he came too Christine asked him what the hell he was doing and he explained how he was “doing a study on the effects of ketamine for a paper he was writing”.
Our movie nights started in early 1980, video nasties were in the news and Chris and Dennis both wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I would have been 10 maybe 11 and Dennis was quite happy that I had a logical enough mind and would know they were just films with actors and it was all make-believe. We all talked about it and it was decided I was probably old enough to watch anything.
The films were always after dinner, so Chris and Dennis could relax and “let their hair down.” Both had a few drinks, and then they would pass commentary on how ridiculous the storylines were. They saved the most contempt for Indiana Jones films as they were completely beyond belief. Christine also hated the films where an old actor had a young girlfriend: “Why would she even look at that old man...yuk,” she would scream at the film, but George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was faultless!
By the end of the night with the movies watched, Christine would get Dennis to put some music on his new CD player, the future of music. He said it was better than playing old vinyl records, but I think that was because the CD Player had a remote control and he could skip to the next track without getting up.
At the time there weren’t even that many CDs out as it was such new technology, so we would listen to Grace Jones, The Kinks and always finish on Christine's favourite Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture. In the early hours and with the adults a bit drunk, Chris and I would leave for home.
It wasn’t a long walk across London - Cathcart Road, down Edith Grove to the World’s End Estate - but at that time London was pretty deserted and past the Fulham Road there was a derelict old house. I dreaded that part of the journey after all the horror films and we both quickened our steps. I was worried about zombies or werewolves jumping out and I’m sure Chris was afraid of monsters jumping out as well. On those walks home I was between ages, too young to hide behind my mother but not yet old enough to be her protector.
A few years earlier, some time in 1979, we had walked the same streets one night. I was much younger, far too young to be my mother's protector. The Omen was going to be on television that night, I was maybe eight years old and I had convinced my mother to let me stay up and watch it. I knew my mother would sit right next to me and if it got too scary she would still cover my eyes with her hand, the trouble was this always made any film scarier as now you could only imagine the horrors on screen and that was always worse.
Christine had brought me with her to meet a man called Michael and he sold cannabis. We didn't see Michael often, he wasn't a friend. Michael lived at the top flat in one of those big houses just off the King's Road, I think it was a small studio flat but it did have throws and big tie-dyed pillows everywhere, there was a large futon bed and the whole place smelled heavily of joss sticks. Michael was one of those adults who never looked at me and I didn’t like him. Chris would sometimes buy a small amount of cannabis, that was her thing. “Seems everybody has something for recreation,” she would say, “I don’t really go out.”
When we arrived, something was wrong and Michael was agitated. “What is he doing here?” he said, and he was pointing at me. I could smell the joss sticks and their incense was making me feel a little sick, but the look in Michaels's face made me feel quite afraid. I grabbed my mother’s hand. I could feel the sudden danger in her.
“I just wanted to get a little something. We’ve got to get back.” Christine manoeuvred us out of the door and at the same time she handed him some money.
I didn’t understand what happened next and I can’t clearly remember, but Michael was angry and I couldn't see a reason why. He snatched the money from Chris, grabbed his coat and barged past us, slamming his door shut.
Christine stood there in a seething rage before we followed him down the stairs. She was dragging me in her wake, calling his name. I remember how fast he walked ahead of us and how Christine dragged me along with her. Michael walked the streets always 20 feet ahead of us, speeding up when he needed to. I don’t remember other people on the roads that night but it was cold, dark and getting later and later, I was worried we were going to miss the film. We followed Michael for what seemed like hours with Chris calling after him, “Michael stop being silly’ and, “You’ve got my money.”
Then suddenly he stopped and we could catch up. There was a cold look in his face, it was contempt, and he threw her money on the pavement, pushed through us again and walked off up the street leaving Christine to shout after him. I remember her having to get down on her knees to pick up her money.
When we got home we had missed the first half of The Omen, a fishbowl had just smashed in slow motion and she didn't cover my eyes through as we sat through the film.
I asked her why Michael was so angry and she said, “He thought I’m something I’m not and I think he hated me for it. People can be like that”
We didn’t see Michael again.
I recorded a podcast this week and I talked a little bit about Stephen Ward and how James Norton and John Hurt both played him with such charm and charisma and what a credit it was to them. I also talked about meeting John Hurt with Christine.
It really started in around 1980 and I was about nine, my reading and writing was well behind where it should have been and I was being failed by my school along with a lot of other inner city children. Christine and I were living in a council estate and were desperately poor,the past couple of years had been very difficult for Christine. “I wasn’t living, I was surviving,” she later said.
I think Christine was getting more and more worried about me. I would go out with friends and hang around on the estate and she was worried about my future. So one day she asked me if I wanted to meet my father.
It was a short walk from the eleventh floor flat at the World’s End Estate to his four storey house in a wealthy part of Chelsea, less than a mile, but it was a world away. My mother had left him when I was six months old, they went through an extremely long and acrimonious divorce, so much so that I was made a ward of court because they had both managed to make each other look so bad through the legal process that the High Court were deemed a better guardian.
On meeting me for the first time in many years, my father was also concerned about my level of education,so he paid for me to go to a boarding school in Kent. Staying at the school would get me away from any distractions on the council estate and maybe even to get me away from my mother after that bitter divorce.
At half terms and holidays I would travel back to the council estate in Chelsea with Chris. I think it broke her heart sending me to school, but it was an opportunity for me that she never had.
A few days before I was sent to the new school in the countryside I was with Chris in The World’s End pub near where we lived. We didn't often go to pubs but at that age my job was to sit quietly in the corner with a fizzy drink. One of the locals who called himself a real gangster told us he had been to prison for robbing banks. He also told me, “When you get to this new school, the boys will probably tie you up and rape you, it’s just what happens at these places. When you have money you send your kids away to be raped, they think it makes them men”
I was terrified.
“It’s ok” he continued “When you get there, you need to figure out who’s the top dog, who’s in charge, and you need to take them out, just walk up to them and bang! butif they are a big fucker, wait till they are asleep, then take them out.” There was a long pause: “Do that, they won’t come near you”
I asked Chris what she thought and she said she was going to call the school and ask them to make sure I wasn’t raped by the other boys.
I was very nervous when I arrived at St Michael’s prep school and immediately homesick. The housemaster looked down at me and said,“I’ve spoken to your mother, and we will take care of you.” I remember he was smiling - I can’t imagine the conversation they had had.
So on my first night, when everyone was asleep, I stabbed a boy in the arm with a compass. It worked, in fact I don't think anyone spoke to me for the first week, but I wasn't tied up and raped. In fact I never did see any boys tied up and raped.
I do remember in our dorm, behind an old wardrobe was a name carved into the wood from on an old boy It said “John Hurt” and a date that I can’t remember. We all knew that was the actor John Hurt as he was a famous ex pupil and we all knew he had the Alien burst out of his chest in the Ridley Scott movie, some of us had even seen it. We would talk about it when the lights went out at night to try and scare the boys who hadn’t seen it.
Many years later John Hurt would star in Scandal, the 1989 film about the Profumo affair. He played Stephen Ward and was very good in it, he was charismatic and likeable, the hero of the story. To promote the movie Scandal we went to America and Christine was on chat show after chat show, but she wasn't alone. John Hurt was doing a lot of the shows with her. One morning we all jumped into limousine and were on our way to either another chat show or the airport to fly off and do a chat show in another city. It was a long way from the council flat in Chelsea. There were four of us in the back the seats, which faced each other: Christine, John Hurt, his partner and myself. Christine was in a great mood, she wasn't tired that morning. She had begun to get into a new routine and had got over the initial nerves of doing interview after interview and I think her adrenaline had kicked in.
As we sat in the back of the car Christine was telling John about how wonderful her son was and I was sitting there hoping the world would swallow me up. Christine was always telling people how wonderful her son was, it was so embarrassing at seventeen. She was telling him about what a good actor her son was, I was in a youth theatre at the time and Christine was so proud.
“He is a really good actor,” praised my mum. “He can make himself cry, just like that,” and she turned to me and said, “Go on Seymour, cry, show him - just start to cry”.
It wasn’t lost on me that this was John Hurt who had been nominated for an Oscar for The Elephant Man. I was really embarrassed - John Hurt had had the Alien from Alien burst out of his chest, and at seventeen this felt worse.
“There’s nothing worse than a doting mother,” I said under my breath.
John Hurt leant forward, looked me right in the eyes.“Oh yes there is,” he said, “a mother who doesn’t care”.
A very quick blog post that some may find interesting.
It’s a list of Lucky Gordons crimes from the Daily Mail press cutting library. I think it is interesting as it highlights some of his later crimes against women, such as the attack on Daniella Perkins with a screwdriver in 1973.
It also has Christine’s scribbles all over it, this was one of her habits, any piece of paper, inside of a book, anything - she would scribble notes all over it.
It’s been another busy week with more research done and we have already started contacting experts to help with the next step in the campaign. There is still a lot of work to do but it is getting exciting.
With everything in the news and talk of vaccinations I was thinking about a story Christine used to tell people, about the time I was desperately sick in 1975 after I was given the smallpox vaccination.
The smallpox vaccine was one of the first to be developed, using science that goes all the way back to 1796, it is a ‘live vaccine’ and that means you are given mild similar pox called vaccinia virus and as your body learns to fights off this vaccinia virus it also builds immunity to smallpox because the two viruses are so similar. In fact this vaccine worked so well that smallpox has been eradicated all around the world, saving millions of lives.
After I was given the smallpox vaccination I was very unlucky and got very sick, developing full blown vaccinia virus with a rash all over my body and a high fever. Christine took me to her doctor who gave her some very stark news. Doctor Green was a heavy set man with lots of curly black hair that he wore like a big wig. He sat behind a large mahogany antique desk, one of those with a green leather top and he told Christine that I was very ill, indeed I may not live through the night! Her son’s situation was quite desperate and there was nothing anyone could do, Christine needed to keep a close eye on me until the fever had broken, and then he sent us home.
I remember my mother sitting at the end of my bed that night, opening and closing windows to ventilate my room, keeping me cool but not too cold. Christine would tell people about that desperate night and how afraid she was for her son’s life that night. How she watched over me and that correctly ventilating the room probably saved my life.
When I was older I asked her why wasn’t I sent to hospital, if I was that sick why were we sent home?
“I’m not sure he was a very good doctor” Christine replied.
A year or two after the ventilated room we went to see Doctor Green again, his curly black hair now with a few waves of grey. I can’t remember exactly why we were there but at the end of the visit Christine mentioned how hard it was to get me to go to bed at night.
“I can give you something for that,” he said as he scribbled out a prescription. “Give him just half a tablet a night”
Christine bought the tablets and that night I had half of one and fell asleep for about 14 hours. Understandably Christine was very worried and asked Professor Dennis Evens what he thought, he was a chemistry professor who was a great friend of hers. “Oh no Chris, that’s Valium. That doesn’t sound right, and that is a very big dose of Valium. I don’t think you are meant to give that to children”.
We stopped seeing Doctor Green and, as for the Valium, “I’ll have those to help me relax,” Christine said.
Many years later Christine had brought a flat in Bruce Grove, in north London, I had moved in to help her fix it up so it would have been around the year 2000. Christine would have been in her late fifties. The flat needed a lot of work and we were stripping walls, painting and even dealing with damp around one of the windows with Christine holding my belt as I leaned out of a second floor window with a silicon gun. One morning I was late for work, I can’t remember why, and Chris said, ”Jump in the car, I’ll drop you off.” We were in a hurry and when we got to the top of the stairs on the landing, she slipped. Christine was a few steps behind me so I was able to stop her from falling too far but she had already bounced down a few steps. She stood up said she was fine and we carried on jumping in the car and she dropped me at work. It was a few hours later I got the call from the hospital: my mother wasn’t very well.
When I arrived, Christine was still in accident and emergency. She was sitting up in a bed with pads on her chest and wires everywhere, checking her heart and with a mask on for oxygen.
Christine told me when she got home she couldn’t breathe, and that she had really hurt herself coming down the stairs, it had knocked all of the air out of her, but didn’t want to say. The hospital had done tests and they had found scarring on her lungs. “Emphysema or something,” she said.
It was the first time she seemed fragile to me, and this time I had to make sure she took her tablets and rested in bed. Christine didn’t like being looked after or being told what to do, so it was not long before she was up and about. Looking back I think something was different and her breathing was never the same.
Twenty years later I wonder what Christine would say about the website and all the work people are doing to clear her name, all the people trying to look after her now.
It has been a very busy week.
We now have a first draft of Christine Keeler’s “Petition for Mercy”. When looking at the transcripts from the original trial, police records, and newspaper reports from her later trial, I think there is a powerful argument that Christine should not have gone to prison on 1963. Pulling all the different stands together has needed a talented legal mind and I must say I would not be here without the humbling help I continue to receive. People can indeed overwhelm you with their kindness.
I am still asked why am I bothering to do this, “Isn’t it not enough that the BBC drama was nice about your Mum?” people have asked. In truth I have lots of reasons, like the grandiose: I believe it’s important for history to understand Christine’s motivation through much of the Profumo scandal. My closest friend told me this week that he thinks I am actually doing all this for me, as a last act of love.
My daughter, Christine’s granddaughter, told me about a boy who this week said to her, “Everyone knows boys are more important than girls. Girls don't matter, my Dad told me”
Nearly 60 years later, it’s like 1963, girls don't matter. That was Christine Keeler’s story in 1963. Lucky Gordon thought he owned her. The two witnesses to her assault felt no obligation after seeing a woman attacked in the street. John Hamilton-Marshall thought it was perfectly acceptable to talk about beating a woman. Stephen Ward posted bail for Lucky Gordon on the morning of her attack and he knew the danger Gordon posed to Christine.
All the men in that 1963 story thought woman were not important - they all thought boys were more important than girls. I have lots of reasons for doing all of this.
Back In January 2019 I wrote a foreword for the touring exhibition Dear Christine - A tribute to Christine Keeler. The exhibition was curated by the quite amazing Fionn Wilson and there is a page on the website dedicated to its art, music and poetry.
I like the idea of Christine Keeler being an inspiration for art and creativity, In fact I can’t think of a greater tribute than that.
When I wrote this forword I was in a different place - my mother’s death was still quite raw, articles and stories threw pity at her and not understanding. I was still mourning. It was the first time I had sat down to write anything about Christine. It was all too personal, even the flowers in this story were part of a silly argument we had had.
And here I find myself writing about my mother. It’s been over a year since she passed, and in that time she has never been far from my thoughts.
Like it or not, my mother is a sixties icon. She was terrifically famous in the early sixties, in fact, world famous. It’s not easy to appreciate just how big a story the scandal was, now that we look back. There’s a famous picture of her sitting on a chair, a chair that people now call a “Keeler chair” and she sits back to front on it in what is now called the “Keeler pose”. It is very strange to me that a picture of my mother sitting on a chair could be so famous.
She changed her name to Christine Sloane, so I never even met Christine Keeler. I grew up in the seventies where it was mostly just me and my mother, a single parent. I remember there being a lot of love, she was a warm and devoted mother who made a point of making sure I always knew I was loved. I’m not sure you can say a better thing about a parent. There were very few men in her life while I was growing up, and I’m sure she was probably lonely. We were poor, crushingly poor. I think we were wealthy when I was very, very young, but in the early 1970s something changed and that all went away - I think a lot of her friends did as well. We stayed in squats, the odd friend’s house and eventually a council flat. Being as poor as we were made the idea that my mum was famous frankly ridiculous, so I think it was only when the film Scandal hit the screen that I began to understand how massive the events of the early 1960s had been.
There was a cost in so many ways and she paid a price for all that fame. She could be sad, she could be angry or frustrated, but in all my life I never saw her afraid, even when she was sick. She was no coward.
All of that was more than 50 years ago and today there is an art exhibition and, honestly, I’m not sure what she would make of it all. Like all of us, she was still a bit vain and didn’t like pictures where she wasn’t young and beautiful. She could be dismissive of art when she didn’t like it or didn’t understand it, but she could always appreciate beauty in nature and life.
I have a painting up in the hall of three sunflowers - she brought it as a gift from a thrift shop ten years ago. I think a proud parent probably put it in the shop, because it is terrible, but there was something about it that she liked. For her, the three sunflowers meant family (Me, my wife and our daughter) and family meant something beautiful. So, as terrible as it is, I have it on my wall to remember her.
I think she probably understood art better than me.
I’d like to thank everyone who is paying tribute to my mother. She was a very brave woman.
What a lot of people may not realise is that these two witnesses, Fenton and Camacchio, both confirmed that Lucky Gordon had assaulted her. So Christine went to prison because she denied that the two witnesses were at the scene of crime, two witnesses who would have supported her story anyway.
Take an extreme example. You are attacked in the street then thankfully a stranger comes to help and the attacker runs away. The stranger, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to get involved. So when the police arrive you tell them what happened but you also say, “It was just me and nobody else was here.” Six months later you are the one in prison.
My mother used to tell me, “I was the first person to go to prison for not saying there was a witness who saw a crime,” and I bet she was the only person.
Once a week he would get his state payment and he would spend it all on a small amount of luxury food like smoked salmon, olives and taramasalata and sometimes he would visit us and we would eat. I think that made him happy.
Then one day Merid was watching a TV show, it was a show about Ethiopia and man came on claiming to be Merid Beyene, the grandson of Haile Selassie the last emperor of Ethiopia, claiming to be him.
Christine told me Merid asked for help, for somebody to confirm he was the real Merid Beyene but nobody would help, because that was all secret: “We can’t tell anyone we rescued an Ethiopian prince”
Then in 1991, not long after, Merid died of a heart attack. Christine seemed to think the pressure of losing his identity, of not being believed, was probably too much.
All these years later and thanks to the internet, with a little research I found some newspaper articles that covered his death but tell a different story:
“He escaped the persecution of the royal family in the 1974 coup because by chance he was out of the country at the time.
I can’t tell you which story is true, the one Merid told Christine, or the one in the papers. It occurs to me what if this isn't Merid’s story anyway? What if it’s the imposter’s story!
So remember the next time you are at the deli counter of your supermarket and there’s slight man in cheap shoes buying olives, he could be a down on his luck prince.
In 1976 Chris and I went to Brazil. Chris was always more comfortable bringing me everywhere with her and that meant I went with her to see a famous healer who had ‘magic hands’, he could reach into somebody’s body and pull out whatever poisons were making them sick and not leave a scar or even a mark on their body. It was all really exciting, there was lots of noise and flashing colours all around and a thick sweet smell in the air. It was nighttime and there was a crowd of people in a circle watching the man with the magic hands, he was wearing white. I remember Christine holding me tight.
Somebody was lying on a table in front of the man with the magic hands who was standing above them. Then with all the noise and the thick smell in the air he seemed to reach into their stomach and rummage about. There was a small pool of blood around his fingers as he was working and then he pulled out a piece of grisly flesh, lifted it up and showed everyone. It was disgusting. That night left me with a strong and vivid memory that I could never forget.
Chris would often tell friends the story and when I was still very young. I asked her what she thought about that night. “It was all rubbish, he had some giblets or something in his hand before be started - I could see them,’ and then she said, “Wish you had seen it.”
There was a pause, everything slowed down, I remember thinking through what she had said. “I was there,” I told Chris. I was there. I remember the smells, the colours, the little pool of blood around the wound, there not being a wound after he had wiped away the blood, but she told me how she couldn’t take me, and how there was no way they would let children go to that sort of thing.
“Then where was I?” I said.
“Don't know where you were, but you can’t have been there?” She said.
It doesn't change the story if I was there or not, one of us just forgot a little detail, and I was only five.
Anyway, I was there and I always won at Scrabble.
I have spent the last week going through the October 1963 press cuttings about Christine Keeler’s preliminary hearing for her trial for perjury, reading the differing stories the men connected to the trial told either the police, the press or the court. In truth I am left feeling a bit unsettled by all the mendacity and malice.
I don't want to upset anyone when I write this blog, but Christine’s life involved rape and sexual violence.
Growing up with Christine Keeler as my mother was mostly normal, getting up in the morning, sitting around watching television in the evening, but sometimes even just sitting around watching television could unlock something important about Chris and the person she was and hold a mirror up to what she went through. One night watching a TV movie in 1986 is still with me today.
It’s a film called Easy Prey and it stared Gerald McRaney who I recognised from detective show I liked called Simon & Simon, he played the part of Christopher Wilder, a serial killer known to have raped 12 women and murdered eight but there were probably many more.
The film focused on one of his victims, Tina Marie Risico, who was 16. Wilder posed as a photographer looking for models and tricked the young Tina into his van, abducting and raping her. Tina’s response to the situation saved her life, she didn’t fight, she remained calm. It was so unlike the other women who had screamed, cried or fought, the women Wilder had gone on to murder. There was something about young Tina and Wilder decided to take her with him, to keep her alive.
Either the film or Christine explained how this young girl had already been a victim of abuse.
The blurb on IMDb says of the story, “A young girl with Stockholm Syndrome becomes a companion of a dangerous man posing as a photographer to pick up his victims”
That wasn't the film we watched, that wasn't the film Christine watched, the film she so passionately identified with.
Wilder goes on to abduct another young girl, Dawnette Wilt. In the film young Tina tries to tell her not to fight, let him do what he wants: “You need to survive”.
I don't remember this being a story of a girl with Stockholm Syndrome, it was the story of a girl who wanted to survive. As the film come to an end, the police are closing in and catch their man, at an airport or train station and Tina survives.
That was when Chris started her lecture. I had heard it before, but this time we had watched a film as an example I could follow.
“Seymour, that girl was clever, she’s alive. Seems, - She used to call me Seems - if some man takes you and throws you into to the back of his car, just survive. If he is going to rape you, let him, don’t get murdered, it’s just sex...’ She laughed as she said it, but it was one of those strange laughs that people use when they are sad or afraid.
“If someone is going to put their dickie in you and you can’t stop them, then survive, you only have one life, and there are people who say ... men who say fight until you are dead, and Seems, that’s bullshit.”
I was a 14 year old boy, becoming a man, and found it difficult to identify with her words.
At the time we were living at the Worlds End Estate and there was a neighbour across the way, he had always made Chris feel a little uneasy. He always appeared at his front door when Christine was coming or going with plenty of small talk: “Morning, nice day, do you think it will rain?” Then one morning when I was at school and Christine was on her own, there was a knock on the door, it was the neighbour, and as Christine opened the door he tried to force his way in.
Chris told me “He was going to rape me and I knew it, but I shouted, OH MY BOYFRIEND!”
“It stopped him just a second, and he looked over my shoulder down the hall, and I pushed him back and slammed the door in his face”
Within a few months he was in prison for another sexual assault, and we would never see him again. It was only then she told me about what had happened.
I asked her if she had called the police. “No, you wouldn’t understand”
As for the film we watched, I’m not sure how close it was to the real story of Christopher Wilder and young Tina Marie Risico, and I haven’t seen that film since I was 14 with Christine and I’m sure I won’t watch it again. I did a little reading on the story and 16 year old Tina gets a bad press about helping Wilder abduct his next victim, but can you imagine what that was like for her, being that young girl afraid for her life who doesn't have the power to change the road she found herself on. Are we still blaming the victim for surviving? Because that wasn’t the film Christine and I watched.
I can’t be sure how many times Christine found herself in the situation where she just needed to survive. I know Lucky Gordon raped her on two occasions and I have a memory from when I was very young of a boyfriend pinning her down beating her while she begged, “Not in front of my son.”
Today I have a daughter, Christine’s granddaughter, what do I tell her?