LONDON — Christine Keeler, the central figure in the sex-and-espionage Profumo scandal that rocked Cold War Britain, has died at 75.
Her son, Seymour Platt, posted on Facebook that Keeler died Monday at a hospital near Farnborough in southern England.
Platt said on Facebook that his mother died late Monday night after suffering for several years from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
“As many of you know my mother, Christine Keeler, fought many fights in her eventful life, some fights she lost but some she won,” he said. “She earned her place in British history but at a huge personal price. We are all very proud of who she was.”
Keeler was a model and nightclub dancer in 1963 when she had an affair with British War Secretary John Profumo.
When it emerged that Keeler had also slept with a Soviet naval attaché with ties to Russian intelligence, the collision of sex, wealth and national security issues caused a sensation and helped topple the Conservative government.
Profumo eventually resigned in disgrace after lying to the House of Commons about his relationship with Keeler. He threatened at the time to sue anyone who suggested there had been any inappropriate behavior with her.
The stunning sex scandal shed light on a previously well-hidden world of sex and alcohol fueled orgies among the political elite.
The scandal also made Keeler famous. A photo of Keeler naked, straddling the back of a chair, is among the most famous U.K. images of the 1960s. She spent the rest of her life trying to escape her unwanted notoriety.
Born in 1942, Keeler left school at 15 and shortly after started working as a showgirl on Greek Street in the heart of London’s Soho district, known at the time for its strip clubs and sleazy entertainment.
Keeler met men like Profumo after befriending a high-society osteopath, Dr. Stephen Ward, who introduced her to a number of powerful figures.
Ward was put on trial and took a fatal overdose the night before he was convicted of living off immoral earnings.
Keeler was imprisoned for nine months after admitting perjury and conspiring to obstruct justice.
More than two decades later, she expressed regret: “I was just a 19-year-old girl having a good time. I loved every minute of it. But if I had known then what was going to happen, I’d have run off and not stopped until I had reached my mum.”
Keeler moved on after the scandal. She was married twice and had two sons, even as pop culture breathed new life into the Profumo affair.
In 2013, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical “Stephen Ward” — in which Keeler was portrayed by Charlotte Spencer — premiered in London.