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A Pivotal Year

It appears that the latest offering from Andrew Lloyd Webber: Stephen Ward, the Musical, has crashed and burned after four months in London.

On hearing this I was reminded of 1963,  the year I completed High School and matriculated to University;  the year Bob Dylan became big; and Beatle Mania began. 

The year had started with a mystery the Bogle-Chandler deaths in Lane Cove National Park in Sydney that confounded Australia. Then came Buddhist immolations and a CIA supported coup and regime change in South Vietnam that was the beginning of the end for the US effort. 

Suddenly the Great Train Robbery in Britain was headline news there and in Australia. One of the ringleaders, Ronnie Biggs was subsequently found in Australia but stayed one step of the authorities for many years.

The 'Space Race' was underway with the USSR holding their lead by putting the first female Cosmonaut into obit. The US was riven with inter-racial hostility and rioting.  But the first nuclear test ban treaties were signed and Vatican 2 made early progress, the reforming Pope John 23 unfortunately dying midyear.

Towards year's end, on the 22nd of November, came the Kennedy assassination, the same day the terminally ill Aldus Huxley elected to put an end to it.

But for sex and scandal that year the Profumo affair was unrivalled.

Stephen Ward, the eponymous focus of the musical, was described at the time as ‘the spider at the centre of a web of evil’ in the Profumo affair. 

He committed suicide by an overdose 1963 on the eve of being convicted on a charge of living off immoral earnings. 

John Profumo was a British cabinet minister, Secretary of State for War in the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan. Profumo had been targeted by a Soviet agent as a possible source of strategic information. Christine Keeler was the bait and Ward was the perhaps unwitting facilitator.

At the height of the scandal there were fresh revelations almost daily, involving all sorts of colourful characters: West Indian drug runners and jazz musicians;  Russian spies; Royals and members of the British aristocracy; actors and entertainers.  It had the potential to bring down the British Government and to damage the Monarchy. But the real interest for me was simple:  I thought Christine Keeler was hot.

It amazed me that Christine was/is only three years older than me and her equally notorious friend Mandy Rice-Davies only a year my senior. Time would tell that I chose the wrong one to set on a pedestal.  Mandy has used her notoriety to good effect; has kept herself smart and remains a minor celebrity, not so Christine.

The Profumo scandal was the Bill Clinton - Monica Lewinsky affair of my teen years.

 

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