Jan 5, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 17 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Philip Larkin began one of his better-known poems with the arresting observation that Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three / (which was rather late for me)— / Between the end of the Chatterley ban / And the Beatles’ first LP. Larkin was born in 1922, and so would have been in the middle of middle age in 1963: too old, probably, to benefit from the evolving public morality of the era; too young to have known the douceur de vivre that the pre-1914 generation liked to talk about.
Most Americans might make the same rough calculation, perhaps mentioning the Kennedy assassination (November 1963) as a signpost of the times, along with the Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show (February 1964). But The Scrapbook would push things back a few months to the summer of 1963 and the Pro-fumo Affair, which very nearly brought down the British government of the day and was the first British political scandal to be avidly chronicled in the American press.
By today’s standards, the scandal was comparatively tame. A rising politician, Minister of Defense John Profumo, had engaged in an extramarital affair with a showgirl named Christine Keeler, who counted among her lovers the Russian naval attaché in London. It was the Soviet connection that raised red flags, as it were. Speaking to the House of Commons, Profumo denied any “impropriety” in his relationship to Keeler. But his deception was exposed a few months later, and he resigned in disgrace: partly for the indiscretion of sharing a mistress with a Soviet diplomat, but largely for lying to Parliament. In politics, then as now, it’s not the crime but the cover-up that gets you into trouble.
What made the Profumo Affair unique in its time, and probably appealed to its American audience, was the extent to which it was counter-intuitive: It revealed that underneath the staid exterior of old England was a swinging new England of randy politicians, loosened standards, and high society hijinks. But of course, as with all such symbols of an era, the Profumo Affair was both more and less than it seemed: Society did undergo a revolution of sorts in the 1960s, but not everything changed.
The Scrapbook was reminded of all this the other day by the news that Mandy Rice-Davies had died, age 70. Rice-Davies was one of the secondary figures in the Profumo Affair: She had been the London roommate of her fellow showgirl Christine -Keeler, and was reportedly the mistress of Viscount Astor, at whose stately home the various Profumo-Keeler-Ivanov-etc. assignations had taken place. When, as a trial witness, she was told that Lord Astor had denied their affair, she famously responded: “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”
In contrast to her old roommate’s, Mandy Rice-Davies’s subsequent life was comparatively happy and prosperous. The first of her three rich husbands was an Israeli businessman, with whom she opened a series of clubs and restaurants in Tel Aviv. She acted in movies with the likes of Lou Ferrigno; she sang and recorded songs; she published a novel; at her homes in the Caribbean, she was always available for interviews.
One comment late in life, however, struck The Scrapbook as poignant—and revealing, too. “If I could live my life over,” she once explained, “I would wish 1963 had not existed.” She was always at pains to point out that she and Keeler had been -dancers and good-time girls—precursors of Philip Larkin’s Swinging London, to be sure, but nothing more: “I have to fight the misconception that I was a prostitute, and I don’t want that passed on to my grandchildren. There is still a stigma.”
Dec 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 16 • By LEE SMITH
Last week’s announcement that the White House intends to restore normal diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba is part of Barack Obama’s larger project to overturn what he perceives to be wrongheaded, or at least outdated, foreign policies. From Obama’s perspective, the Cold War ended nearly a quarter of a century ago, so let’s catch up to the new reality.
As Germans celebrate reunification, they are reluctant to confront a Russia that is once again seeking to divide the continent Nov 24, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 11 • By JAMES KIRCHICK
Oct 20, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 06 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Apart from the death of a journalist, no more poignant event is ever recorded in the media than the demise of a onetime “antiwar activist.” This was confirmed in the pages of the New York Times and Washington Post last week, where the passing in Budapest of Fred Branfman, 72, was duly noted.
10:35 AM, Jun 4, 2014 • By MARION SMITH
Twenty-five years have passed since a lone man stood in front of Chinese tanks and dared to defy Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. His bold challenge to the Chinese Communist Party was one of history’s most profound reminders of the insatiable human desire to live free even in the face of terrifying state power.
Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The political debate over what to do about global warming rages on, largely because liberals refuse to have an honest discussion about their plans to deal with it. The heart of their every proposed “solution” to climate change is a radical economic program that would threaten the livelihood and well-being of millions, based on computer models of dubious accuracy trying to project weather patterns decades into the future. Via Bloomberg News, last week we got an unsettling glimpse into just how extreme the economic plans of the climate commissars really are:
12:21 PM, Jun 19, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Today, speaking at the Brandenburg Gate, President Obama paid appropriate tribute to the brave East Germans who rebelled 60 years ago against Communist dictatorship:
8:46 AM, Apr 8, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
And now the last of them is gone. Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Pope John Paul II—three who won the Cold War and, it isn't too much to say, saved the West (at least for a while!)—are no longer with us. Their examples remain.
Mar 25, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 27 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Good news for a change from Phnom Penh: Ieng Sary, brother-in-law of and cofounder with Pol Pot of Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge movement, died last week. Or perhaps it wasn’t really good news. His heart (who knew he had one?) gave out before the Cambodian-U.N. tribunal had a chance to finish its proceedings and convict him of mass murder.
Why the Bolshevik Revolution wasn't 'strangled in its cradle.'Feb 4, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 20 • By ANDREW STUTTAFORD
When everything changes, what should be done?
Over 30 years after Ayatollah Khomeini lit the Islamic fire, the West is still fumbling its way to a proper response. Imagine, then, the challenge posed by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. A key partner in the Allied war against Germany had just been hijacked by a fanatical cult intent on remaking the world, and the world had no clue what to do in reply.
Oct 15, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 05 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
In noting the death last week in London of Eric Hobsbawm, The Scrapbook observed its usual doctrine of de mortuis nil nisi bonum.
Beijing is flooding the region with investment. Should America be worried?10:00 AM, Jun 18, 2012 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
China’s interest in South America is easily explained: The Asian giant has a voracious appetite for commodities and raw materials, including Argentine soybeans, Brazilian iron ore, Chilean and Peruvian metals, Ecuadorean and Venezuelan oil, and Uruguayan beef. Therefore, Beijing has expanded trade ties with governments across the resource-rich continent, from Caracas to Montevideo.
4:42 PM, Jun 12, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Today's the twenty-five year anniversary of Ronald Reagan's powerful Brandenburg Gate address in Berlin, Germany. Watch here:
12:05 PM, Dec 18, 2011 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Former Czech president Václav Havel died Sunday morning in his home in the northern part of the Czech Republic. Havel was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic, serving in the latter office from 1993 to 2003. But Havel will be best remembered as the leader and soul of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in 1989.