Christine Keeler – RIP
The loneliness of the long-distance celebrity – what we still need to learn about loving our children
In the summer of 1963 I had just left school and was working on a farm next door to Stapleford Aerodrome, near Romford. As we harvested potatoes we would see, from time to time, small single-engined aircraft taking off and landing and each time there was the speculation; might Christine Keeler or Mandy Rice-Davis be on board?
They were the sensation of that time and with the death recently of Christine Keeler we are reminded that these days they would have been treated as celebrities, worthy of consideration in all sorts of ways and appearing on The One Show, no doubt and I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here. The oxygen of publicity would have been theirs and they would have done well, simply for being celebrities. The sad truth is that, long after the public events with which they were connected had been forgotten – the disgrace and resignation of the Minister for War, the suicide of a society pimp and the fall of the Conservative government – Christine was sacked from her job as a school dinner lady when her change of name was discovered along with her past, simply for being who she was, a once notorious prostitute.
Sad, not because she was unable to cash in on her notoriety, but because she had not been helped in her growing up and the adult world had imposed itself upon her before she was ready to cope with the adult world. Her father abandoned the family early on; a step-father, she claimed, had abused her, and she left school without qualifications. There was a first-born child, who died at six days, fathered by an American airman when she was seventeen, then a job in a restaurant in London which led to an introduction to a cabaret club in Soho from which it was an easy step to the involvements about which we heard so much at the time: as The Times obituary put it, a lifestyle that included sex parties involving beautiful young women and leading figures from politics and the aristocracy.
I remember the excitement of that time – I was not much younger than Keeler. Now I want to ask how most parents would react if they saw their daughters treading such a path and I think of the terrible truths that emerge nowadays, from enquires in places like Rotherham where children were denied the loving supervision that most of us have received from concerned and loving parents. Some people claim that things have changed; the hypocrisy of public figures may be diminished, but the need of children for good parenting has not and the story of this sad and notorious woman should serve as yet another a reminder of this important truth.