Programming note: If you missed "Star Dust", my first song selection in our brand new audio Song of the Week on the UK's Serenade Radio, don't miss this weekend's music pick: it airs at 5.30pm London time, right after Sing Something Simple. which is 12.30pm Eastern/9.30am Pacific, making it a Sunday brunchy kind of show in the Americas. But, if you're elsewhere on the planet, it's repeated at 5.30am Monday - and, wherever you are, you can listen to it by clicking on the button in the top right-hand corner here.
Welcome to our weekly audio adaptation of one of my most popular books with hardcore Steyn readers, Mark Steyn's Passing Parade. Last weekend's brace of operatic plot twists prompted this from Art, a Steyn Clubber on Washington State's Bainbridge Island:
At the conclusion of today's Passing Parade, my wife and I listened blissfully to the closing stanza of 'Poor Butterfly'. With the song's end, the room fell silent... as well it should have.
Your articles, videos, and recordings are a treasure worth a king's ransom.
You're far too kind, Art. The heavy lifting was done by that particular version of "Poor Butterfly", by Miss Anita Darian. I should add that I always associate Bainbridge Island with the late Dorothy Provine - who would have given us a very different kind of big finish.
As to today's episode of Passing Parade, let's leave the ending and stick with the opening:
It began like a movie: July 8th 1961. An unusually warm evening at a grand country estate. A girl in the swimming pool. She pulls herself up out of the water. She's beautiful, and naked. A larky lad in the water has tossed her bathing costume into the bushes. And among the blasé weekend guests dressed for dinner and taking a stroll on the terrace one man reacts with more than nonchalant amusement as the girl hastily wraps a towel around her. She leaves with someone else the next day. But not before the man on the terrace has enquired after her name.
It was Christine Keeler. The house was Cliveden, country home of Lord Astor. The name of the fellow who threw away her swimsuit was Stephen Ward, to whom Bill Astor had rented a cottage on the estate for one pound a year. Ward was, formally, a society osteopath and basked in the dingy glow of reflected celebrity: his client list included Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, and, when in town, Averell Harriman, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra. The man in the dinner jacket so taken by the girl in the dripping towel was the Right Honorable John Profumo, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for War...
And so began the Profumo affair. Sex scandals are no longer scandalous, and Mr Profumo's form of redemption would these days be regarded as a chump's move. After Profumo, we spend some time with the longest lasting of China's once famous Soong sisters, Madam Chiang kai--Shek.
~Membership in The Mark Steyn Club is not for everyone, but, if you've a pal who enjoys classic fiction, we'd love to welcome him or her to our ranks via the birthday present that lasts all year even when you're sheltering in place: A gift membership in the Steyn Club, which brings with it access to our full archive of Tales for Our Time, including The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Time Machine and The Thirty-Nine Steps.
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To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and do join me next weekend for Part Seventeen of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade.