There was a time in London when Christine knew everybody. After being released from prison in 1964, everyone wanted to meet her; she went to all the parties and even had affairs with the famous like Warren Beatty and Maximilian Schell. In fact Christine’s fling with Maximilian Shell ruined my memory of the 1979 film The Black Hole, when she told me how the baddie in it used to be a boyfriend. At nine years of age my mother’s old boyfriends were gross, but he had also been the bad guy, he was the mad scientist who tried to kill everyone - I was so embarrassed.
She had an affair with George Peppard. Christine would say how maybe that could have gone somewhere, but he drank too much and she told me all of this after an episode of his TV show The A-Team. It was the early 1980’s, so I was young enough to be a bit disgusted.
“Mum, he’s an old man with white hair”
“We were all much younger then”
It didn’t ruin The A-Team in the same way as The Black Hole had been ruined, after all he was a hero in the show. I didn’t tell any of my friends that Hannibal from The A-Team was an old boyfriend of my mother’s. I don't think any of them would have believed me, also I always knew that these were her stories and not mine to tell.
At that time in London, the mid 1960’s, she knew everyone, Clint Eastwood used to drink in The Star Tavern in Belgravia, apparently “He was very quiet” and I am delighted she didn't say anything that ruined my enjoyment of the Dirty Harry movies!
With movies, Chris always enjoyed a good horror film and the more ridiculous it was the better, such as when the young girl in the film would say, “I’m just going into the dark basement...on my own.” She would shout at the television “No, no you wouldn’t do that, it’s stupid,” laughing, and then when the young girl’s head would come rolling across the basement floor, “Stupid, see how stupid that was!” She loved it.
One night in the early 1980’s she was all excited because she wanted us to watch a film on the TV called The Fearless Vampire Killers, made in 1967 by Roman Polanski and staring Sharon Tate. I loved the film. I was ten and it had vampires, beautiful young ladies and it was funny, but after the film Christine was a little sad: “The girl in that film used to be a friend of mine. When she lived in London we used to go to dinner parties and nightclubs, we were on the same scene together, and she was lovely, she was so nice.” Chris went on to tell me some of Sharon’s story, about Charles Manson and how she had been killed and her baby too, and how awful it was because she was so nice.
Sharon Tate had moved back to America with husband Roman Polanski but on 8th August 1969, at their house in Beverly Hills, members of the Charles Manson ‘Family’ murdered Sharon, her unborn child and friends Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger. Her murder is thought of as a turning point in American culture, a moment in history. Quentin Tarantino recently made a connected film called Once Upon a Time in America, a fantasy “what if?” story, what if those killers went to the wrong house that night, and they were punished so Sharon Tate, her child and her friends survived, putting right a terrible wrong.
I loved it, maybe a little bit because it was a light on Christine’s era when she had fun and the people she had partied with. While Christine liked a good horror movie, I’m not sure what she would have made of it.
It is said that Christine became a recluse after 1963 and tried to hide from the scandal, but that’s just not true, she was at all the parties, making new and interesting friends, and everybody wanted to meet the famous Christine Keeler.
Christine told me she was at a party with lots of famous actors, and Stanley Baker, from the 1964 film Zulu, said to her, “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.”
Last week I posted my first blog, and the level of interest and quality of conversation took me by surprise and it made me feel a real sense of pride in this website. So thank you to all of you and the comments are really worth a read.
The Covid story rumbles on, bringing sadness and disruption but even with so much else going on I have had a number of people make contact to offer support or tell me their stories about the Christine they had met or knew.
I have even Heard from people who want to help me to clear her name, as one old friend of hers put it “It haunted her all her life”. So we shall see.
Of course there has been the odd person to reach out and let me know, how wrong I am, and how horrified they are that I am fighting for Christine and not fighting for Stephen Ward, who was after all the real victim. I understand the point, Stephen was indeed a victim, there were lots of victims, but sadly this argument tends to end with, “Well your mother did sleep around a lot”.
Christine once said to me, or I was in the room when she said it to a friend, how she hadn’t been with that many sexual partners up to that fateful trial in 1963, she had boyfriends and the odd lover, but back then I guess a lot of people could only see see women as either Mothers, Daughters, Nuns or Prostitutes.
When I was much younger, maybe 18, I found myself at a parents’ dinner party in Chelsea. I was asked by a middle aged sharp faced woman “I bet you think there is nothing wrong with prostitution” I was too young to understand that I was meant to be embarrassed, or that I was being insulted. Instead I said something along of the lines of: “As your birthday approaches do you have sex with your husband after to thank him for your present or before to get a better one.” Her husband nearly hit me. I’m glad I said it but I don’t really believe it, but it was something Christine had instilled in me. Sort of.
I grew up at a time where Stephen Ward was the victim, and his trial was a pack of lies, but Christine was a prostitute, that part of the worst miscarriage of British justice was probably okay. As time went on, when Christine wasn’t being called a prostitute as often, they used new phrases like “Call Girl” or “Good Time Girl”, and I still have no idea what a ‘Good Time Girl’ is.
This was Christine’s argument, “The truth is Seymour some men see ALL women as prostitutes, the Mothers, the Daughters, the Nuns”
I was just too young to really understand.
The BBC drama finished at the end of February in the UK, and there does seem to be a change in the way we talk about Christine, there is more sympathy for the young girl caught in history back in 1963. Then something more important happened as a pandemic rolled across the world.
For me I was given the time to think about my mothers passing and how she would feel if she was still living in this new world. I was maybe grateful that she wasn’t here for Covid as in the end she suffered with her breathing, she would have been very vulnerable and scared. I was also given more time to think about my mothers place in history and her unfair treatment. I started this website not just to talk about why I think she shouldn’t have gone to prison but also to celebrate her and how she has inspired art and music but most of this time was spent on her timeline, what happened when, and what if anything it meant.
I came across a Blog posted by a firm of solicitors in the North East of England it was about Christine and how the drama viewed her sentence for perjury as unfairly harsh, it was this solicitors view that her sentence was fair, Christine had lied and a prison sentence was to be expected.
I wrote a polite and long email, I talked about the long history of violence and rape she had suffered from Lucky Gordon, I talked about how in the court transcripts there was no dispute that the crime had taken place, the only dispute was who was there. I talked about how unfair it was that such a young woman was forced to take a plea deal because public opinion was so against her and she had everything to lose.
You may imagine a stuffy old solicitor writing this blog, about the importance of punishing those who commit perjury, but she wasn’t. A few months have past since my email and still no reply, this doesn’t mean I have won any argument, quite the opposite. I was taught, when people ignore you, its because they don’t care.
I plan on updating this as often as a I can, talking about some of the more unpleasant questions I have been asked but also some of the great support i have been given.
May you stay safe wherever you are, and all the best.