Music History #16: "Nothing Has Been Proved"
“Nothing Has Been Proved”
Written by Neil Tennant & Chris Lowe (1989)
Performed by Dusty Springfield
With kitchen sink ballads like “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” and “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” Dusty Springfield reigned as Britain’s queen of sophisticated pop drama in the 1960s. But by the late ‘70s, mental illness and substance abuse had derailed her career. Then, in 1987, the Pet Shop Boys collaborated with Dusty on the hit “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” and introduced her to a whole new generation. Two years later, the trio got together again to record “Nothing Has Been Proved” for the soundtrack of Scandal, a movie about the Profumo Affair. The song, featured over the closing credits, went to #16 on the UK charts.
Dusty’s video for the song mixes archival footage with scenes from the movie.
As the 1960s dawned in England, the established order of post-war society was being challenged and subverted on many fronts. Penguin Books was prosecuted for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a novel by D.H. Lawrence that used the f-word and had several explicit—for the time, at least—sex scenes. Political and social satire was exploding in magazines (Private Eye), on television (That Was The Week That Was) and in the theater (Beyond The Fringe). Author Ian Fleming rocked the paperback trade with his fictional super spy James Bond. And of course, a pop culture curiosity called The Beatles was about to completely turn the country upside down.
That said, in 1963, it was still deeply shocking when a public figure like a politician got caught with their pants down.
Long before Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Elliot Spitzer, there was John Profumo.
The son of a prominent barrister, Profumo was an Oxford-educated veteran of WWII, recipient of the OBE (an award for distinguished service or achievement in the British Empire), and a highly-regarded British politician who had served in various government positions beginning in 1945. In 1960, he was appointed the Secretary of State for War.
He was happily married to a well-known actress named Valerie Hobson, and they had a young son. His life was altogether settled and respectable.
Then, at a party in 1961, Profumo met a stripper named Christine Keeler, and the wheels were set in motion for one of the biggest political scandals of the 20th century.
The Showgirl and the Socialite
Keeler was born in Middlesex, England in 1942. After an unhappy childhood with an abusive stepfather, Keeler left home at 16 and settled in London. A few years later, she started working as a topless dancer. At Murray’s Cabaret Club, she befriended another stripper, Mandy Rice-Davies and, through her, met the man who would become the catalyst of the Profumo Affair, a doctor named Stephen Ward.
Ward was a prominent socialite, known for his extravagant parties that mixed rich and powerful members of London society with actors, musicians, and writers. He also had a thing for pretty girls from lower-class backgrounds. He dated Rice-Davies and Keeler, and soon they’d both moved in with him.
At one of his parties, Ward introduced Keeler to Profumo, and soon the two started having an affair. What the Secretary of War didn’t know was that Keeler was also sharing a bed with, among others, Yevgeny Ivanov, a senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy. Suddenly, an extramarital affair turned into a national security risk.
British military agency MI-5 had recruited Ward in a scheme to bring down Ivanov with sexual blackmail. When MI-5 approached Profumo for his help, he learned that his mistress was in the middle of the whole mess. Shortly after, he broke it off with her. But the damage had been done.
Profumo’s affair might’ve remained a secret if it hadn’t been for a shooting incident at the home of Rice-Davies. Among the many men that she and Keeler had been involved with, there were two gangsters. The result was not so much a love triangle as a love quadrilateral. Add in jealousy, drugs, and guns, and the situation came to a head when one of the gangsters came looking for Keeler and blasted the door of the flat.
That disturbance brought the police, which tipped off the press that there might be a bigger story afoot. Reporters soon sniffed out Keeler’s affairs with both Profumo and Ivanov, and the story hit the papers.
Profumo’s downfall came in March 1963, when he lied to the House of Commons, saying there was “no impropriety whatever.” It was the “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” of the 1960s. To make matters worse, Profumo threatened the press with libel and slander suits if the allegations were repeated. But the press kept investigating. On June 5, Profumo admitted that he had lied. In shame, he resigned.
Profumo, his wife and their 8-year old son soon disappeared from public view, taking up residence in the country. Profumo poured himself into social work. He has refused to ever speak about the affair with the press.
In 2006, his son David wrote Bringing Down The House, a frank memoir about his father and the effect his indiscretions had on his family.
Though it was never proved that his affair with Keeler had led to any breach in national security, the resulting scandal played a big part in forever changing how we view politicians.