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?
Contributor “DC” poses the question - was this picture of Christine Keeler taken by Stephen Ward just as she was getting ready to meet Profumo?
The blogger behind the “Wimpole Mews blogspot“ claims to be the person Christian is looking at.
There are lots of conspiracy theories around the profumo story, it is one of the reasons why the story is still talked about today:
Why are Lord Denning’s papers on the Profumo scandal still secret and closed until 2048?
Who was the Man in the mask at the feast of the peacocks orgy? - Mandy Rice-Davies said it was Dr Savundra. Mandy wasn't even there, but Christine was.
Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert and his mystery £30,000 a number that sloshes through the story - was this really MI5 hush money?
The deaths of woman connected to the affair?
Like Christine used to tell me “There is only one way to keep a secret, tell no one”
The campaign to get my mother a pardon rumbles on and I hope to report progress soon. Again I would like to thank everyone for their continued support.
I found an old notebook of mine from sometime in the mid 1990’s. I had decided that I was going to help Chris write her book. Chris had been working on the story again as she wasn't happy with the previous versions.
There was the 1983 Nothing But... that she had worked on with respected journalist Sandy Fawkes. Now I only vaguely remember Sandy, but when I was ten she became the most interesting person I had ever met. It was one of those nights when the adults were all talking and I would sit and just listen.
When Sandy was travelling around America, she had met a good looking guy in a bar, "a cross between Robert Redford and Ryan O'Neal." They had had sex and then traveled together for the next few nights. Days after they parted company she saw the same man on the news and watched in horror as the story of serial killer Paul John Knowles (The Casanova Killer) unfolded. After his arrest he confessed to 35 murders, 20 of which were eventually linked to him. Sandy went on to write about her experience in Killing Time and again in Natural Born Killer.
At ten I just thought it was so cool. “What was it like?”
“The sex?” she said
And everyone laughed, because I was ten.
I have Chris’s copy of Nothing But... and she has scribbled, underlined and made notes all the way through. She wasn’t happy with it, but she didn't have a lot of choices back then, she was broke.
Then there was Scandal! the book that came out at the same time as the movie in 1989. I don't know if it was rushed, but it flies through the story, ends abruptly and Christine still wasn't happy. It wasn't right, bits were missing, people were missing, it just wasn't right. It didn't matter as the publishers went into receivership soon after its release and the book vanished.
Sometimes it’s hard telling a story that nobody wanted to be connected with - you would always be afraid you would be sued, and indeed the publishers were sued or court cases threatened for mentioning names.
In 2001 she went to print again with The Truth at Last, this time writing with Douglas Thompson, and she was much happier. Older, wiser, less easy to railroad. I remember we waited up all night for the papers to come out the next day so we could read the reviews.
In 2012, after John Profumo died, they updated it and called it Secrets and Lies. The definitive and final version came out at the end of 2019. with more on Lucky Gordon's criminal record and a foreword from me.
It has been said that Christine wrote four or five versions of the story, but that’s not true. It was always the same story, different only in small details.
I have missed out the best one, the version that Christine and I worked in the mid 1990’s. I was going to write her story but I was clear with Chris, “This book shouldn’t focus on the past because, that’s all boring.”
So I started taking notes:
“Seems, [she used to call me Seems] I wake up 8am, working on film and on the book,” she said. I don't know what film this was.
“I pop out to buy papers, have a coffee, read and bathe, and then I feed the birds. I like to pop out and do a bit of shopping, do a crossword in the evening and watch a true life film. I used to be a night owl, but in older age I’m buggered by 11pm”
“Chris, you hate going to bed early!” I said.
That’s as far as we got, I think we both gave up.
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.