Tag Archives: scandal

John Profumo and Christine Keeler by Tim Coates

“He provided popsies for rich people.”

The Profumo scandal occured in the early 1960s. When I grew up, people were still talking about it. I knew the ‘bare bones’ of the scandal–and I’m deliberately avoiding the use of the word ‘facts’ here–I knew the salient details, and I recently decided that I wanted to know more.

John Profumo was Secretary of State for War from July, 1960 until June, 1963. He attended a party hosted by Lord Astor at Astor’s Clivedon estate in July, 1961. While there, he met Christine Keeler who was in the company of Dr. Stephen Ward–a London Osteopath. Profumo, a married man, had sexual relations with Keeler at Ward’s home. After the relationship between Keeler and Profumo ended, she lived with a man known as ‘Lucky’ Gordon. Gordon fought with another man named Edgecombe over Christine Keeler, and the incident resulted in the slashing of ‘Lucky’ Gordon’s face. Christine Keeler then lived briefly with Edgecombe but soon left him. He tracked her to Ward’s home and tried to shoot his way in. He also shot at–and missed–Christine. She was slated to serve as a main witness in the trial against Edgecombe for the slashing of ‘Lucky’ Gordon. At this point, Keeler contacted British newspapers to sell her story.

This is a brief–but generally agreed upon–outline of events, but the details of the Profumo /Keeler scandal complicate the situation, and naturally, no-one agrees on a solid, definitive version of events. However, by the summer of 1963, Profumo resigned his office, and Ward committed suicide.

“John Profumo & Christine Keeler” by Lord Alfred Denning is one version of the events that took place. Lord Denning, a judge, was asked by Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan to “examine the circumstances leading to the resignation and report particularly on any danger to national security.” This book serves as an official report of the Profumo scandal, and is meant to serve as an investigation of the events and the government agencies that were involved.

For many years, I delayed purchasing this book as I was a bit concerned that it would be a rather dry read. This was not so at all. In fact, by page 2, Denning’s report states that Ward is “utterly immoral,” and I knew right away that I was going to read a very biased account of events. This did not detract from the book’s readability in any way. However, this book remains most interesting, at least to me, in the fervent denials within its pages. The author presents many issues that remain controversial. The scandal grew in part because there was reason to believe that a Russian agent was also involved with Keeler. Also, Profumo denied the relationship strenously on numerous occasions, and many other officials stood by him–only to end up looking rather silly when he resigned. Furthermore, Profumo actually helped the organic growth of the scandal by suing various newspapers for libel. Questions remain. Did Stephen Ward tell Christine to question Profumo about when the Americans intended to give Nuclear weapons to Germany? Was Captain Eugene Ivanov a Russian agent? Was Ivanov also Keeler’s lover? Was Christine Keeler given money to leave the country? Was the Prime Minister aware of Profumo’s relationship with Keeler at any point? Denning–although quite aware of Profumo’s many denials–choses to believe Profumo in many instances–taking his word for things–while completely dismissing Ward as any sort of a reliable source whatsoever. According to Denning, Keeler did not have an affair with the Russian agent–thus making null and void any claims of possible security violations.

As I got deeper and deeper into this book, I found myself wondering how Ward ends up as a suicide. He thought he’d covered himself by contacting the Security Service and discussing Ivanov’s interest in America’s arming Germany with Nuclear weapons weeks before the fateful meeting between Profumo and Keeler. But his own frantic efforts to avoid investigation and prosecution led to an inevitable spiral towards his own doom.

There are two chapters of particular interest–both of which deal with rumours that circulated following the Profumo affair. Interestingly enough, these chapters raise some rumours that were based in truth (S&M parties, the borrowing of government vehicles, etc). While all rumours are denied, nonetheless, they do, at the same time, show the reader that the book scratches the surface of some of the more lurid issues of the Profumo scandal.

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Sexplicity Yours: The Trial of Cynthia Payne by Gloria Walker

“It was a kind of contained outrageousness.”

Following a police raid by the Vice Squad during her Christmas party in 1978, Cynthia Payne (Madam Cyn) was convicted of “running a disorderly house,” and exercising control over prostitutes for gain. After serving 6 months, she was released. She served additional prison time after she was charged and convicted again in 1980. She was already quite a bit of a celebrity in England by then, and a book called An English Madam by Paul Bailey detailed Cynthia’s brothel keeping career. It was ostensibly to celebrate the creation of the film Personal Services–based on Bailey’s book–that Cynthia threw her infamous raided party in May 1986.

Cynthia claimed she was retired from the “biz” when in May 1986, the party at her home in London was raided. The case of Regina vs Payne was brought to trial, and during a short period in 1987, England was titillated by the salacious details of Cynthia’s parties. Sexplicitly Yours: The Trial of Cynthia Payne is a detailed record of the court proceedings.

It seems that Cynthia’s attitude towards parties–was–as everything else in her life–a little ununsual, for Cynthia hosted sex parties. Men, Cynthia knew from her past, were invited to parties at her home, and there they were entertained by stripteases (amongst other things) and introduced to various swingers and young working ladies. The prosecution’s entire case rested on the issue of whether or not Cynthia controlled prostitutes and if she profited from these parties. (Was there or was there not an entrance fee? Did she receive a percentage of any money her female guests earned?)

The police conducted an undercover operation beginning in 1985–when PC (Police Constable) Stewart made contact with Cynthia. He was invited to attend her parties, and he subsequently attended a total of three. The last party he attended was the party raided in 1986. The prosecution’s police witnesses detail the partygoers’ various states of undress at the moment of the raid, the numerous compromising positions of guests, and the long queues of attendees waiting to utilize the bedroom facilities.

The defence, on the other hand, claimed that the only naughty partygoers were indeed the undercover policemen, and the court (and the reader) is regaled with stories of transvestite policemen, groping, and the naughtiness concerning the “French maid.” The defence maintained that if Cynthia’s home was subject to raid, then partygoers all over the country could be subject to the same treatment.

The trial is detailed in almost comical fashion by Gloria Walker and Lynn Daly–female reporters who found that covering the scandalous trial was “great fun.” They took notes as each of the prostitutes testified, and recorded not only the testimony, but also Cynthia’s charming responses (including her Luncheon Voucher Programme), and the public’s reaction as they heard the testimony. Witnesses included an 85-year-old party goer, a PC from the Obscene Publications Branch, a retired police superintendent (a great fan of Cynthia’s ), and former Monty Python member, Terry Jones. The book also includes some photographs of Cynthia and copies of cartoons which appeared in British newspapers during the trial. My only criticism of the book is that the reader needs to know a little bit about Cynthia’s background in order to get the most from the book. I can also highly recommend the films Personal Services and Wish You Were Here. Personal Services details Cynthia’s adult life and her bordello which catered to the kinky rich. Wish You Were Here is an excellent film based on Cynthia’s teenage years.

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An English Madam by Paul Bailey

“I provide a useful service.”

The book An English Madam by Paul Bailey is based on the life of Cynthia Payne–the infamous British Madam who gained a fair amount of notoriety after the police raided her Christmas Party in December 1978. Guests–in various states of undress–were discovered in most of the rooms in the house. Men lined the stairs waiting for bedrooms to become available. Police removed pornographic films with inventive titles along with various leather whips and straps, and these items later appeared in court as evidence against Cynthia Payne–or Madam Cyn as she is also known. Vouchers were also confiscated, for it seems that male guests who paid an entrance fee of twenty five pounds were awarded these vouchers in exchange for alcohol, food, entertainment, and the ‘company’ of a female guest of their choice.

The raid and subsequent trial resulted in a prison sentence for Cynthia, but it also brought her into the headlines. Cynthia’s charming frankness, ready wit, and outspoken attitude towards sex both entertained and shocked those at the trial. Bailey’s book explores Cynthia’s childhood, her difficult teenage years, and her career as a prostitute and a brothel madam. The book plots Cynthia’s course through the many relationships she maintained with men–including the highly unusual one she enjoyed with retired RAF Squadron Leader Mitchell Smith. One chapter is devoted to the various would-be admirers who applied for posts in her household. Through it all, Payne frankly admits her past with a refreshing and unabashed candor.

There are two films about the life of Cynthia Payne. The excellent Wish You Were Here focuses on her childhood and teenage years. The second film Personal Services details Cynthia’s adult life up until the raid conducted at a Christmas Party. Many of the characters in An English Madam appear in Personal Services. For further reading, Sexplicitly Yours: The Trial of Cynthia Payne by Gloria Walker and Lynne Daly details the trial resulting from a 1986 raid on yet another of Cynthia’s parties. This newsworthy party was ostensibly thrown to celebrate the filming of Personal Services.

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