Dec 19, 2014 5:16 AM

Key Profumo scandal figure Mandy Rice-Davies dies

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the "Profumo Affair," a sex-and-politics scandal that rocked Cold War Britain, has died at age 70.

Her PR firm, Hackford Jones, said Friday that Rice-Davies died Thursday evening "after a short battle with cancer."

Rice-Davies was a 19-year-old model and nightclub dancer in 1963 when her friend Christine Keeler had an affair with War Secretary John Profumo. Keeler had also slept with a Soviet naval attache, and the resulting collision of sex, wealth and national security issues rattled Britain's establishment, almost toppled the Conservative government and fascinated the nation.

The scandal led to pimping charges against Stephen Ward, a well-connected osteopath who had introduced Keeler to Profumo at a country-house party thrown by aristocrat Lord Astor.

During Ward's trial, Rice-Davies was told that Astor had denied her allegation that he had slept with her. "He would, wouldn't he?" she replied from the witness box. The phrase became famous and Rice-Davies' sparky spirit endeared her to the public.

Rice-Davies later performed on stage and in cabarets in several countries, ran a chain of restaurants in Israel and married three times to wealthy men.

"If I could live my life over, I would wish 1963 had not existed. The only reason I still want to talk about it is that I have to fight the misconception that I was a prostitute," she once said.

However, Rice-Davies agreed to revisit the scandal to help Andrew Lloyd-Webber with his 2013 musical "Stephen Ward," which depicted Keeler, Rice-Davies and Ward who took a fatal drug overdose the night before he was found guilty of "living off immoral earnings" as victims of British Establishment hypocrisy.

Lloyd Webber said he would miss a "life-enhancing," well-read and intelligent woman.

"I will always remember discussing with her over dinner subjects as varied as Thomas Cromwell's dissolution of the monasteries and the influence of the artist Stanley Spencer on Lucian Freud," he said.

Despite being seen as a symbol of 1960s hedonism, Rice-Davies said the decade's reputation for sex was overstated.

"In those days, there were good girls and there were bad girls," she told The Associated Press last year. "Good girls didn't have any sex at all, and bad girls had a bit."


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