Mandy Rice-Davies, a key figure in the “Profumo Affair,” a scandal of sex and politics that rocked Cold War Britain, has died. She was 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 rattled Britain's establishment, almost toppled the government and fascinated the nation.
At a trial that stemmed from the scandal, Rice-Davies was told that aristocratic party host Lord Astor denied her allegation of an affair. “Well, 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.
She once said that “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.”
However, Rice-Davies agreed to revisit the scandal to help Andrew Lloyd-Webber with background for his 2013 musical “Stephen Ward” — named for the society osteopath who introduced Keeler to Profumo and was put on trial as a pimp.
Despite her status as a symbol of 1960s hedonism, Rice-Davies said the decade's reputation for sex was overstated.