Johnny Edgecombe

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Johnny Edgecombe
Born (1932-10-22)22 October 1932
St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Died 26 September 2010(2010-09-26) (aged 77)
London, England, UK
Nationality Antiguan
Other names John Arthur Alexander Edgecombe
Occupation jazz promoter, drug dealer
Known for Profumo Affair

John Arthur Alexander "Johnny" Edgecombe (22 October 1932 – 26 September 2010) was a British jazz promoter and criminal, whose involvement with Christine Keeler inadvertently alerted authorities to the Profumo Affair.

Early life[edit]

Edgecombe was born on 22 October 1932 in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda, the youngest of eight children. He often accompanied his father on his schooner running gasoline from Trinidad to Antigua. In 1942, his father took United States citizenship and disappeared.[1]

The young Edgecombe worked his passage aboard a British ship carrying sugar to Liverpool. From there he moved to Cardiff, where he stayed for some years, lodging at a mission for seamen. Searching for his missing father, he hid on a ship bound for Texas, but on arrival was arrested and put back on board for the return trip. When he docked in Britain, magistrates jailed him for 28 days as a stowaway. After leaving prison, he made his way to London, where he became involved in petty crime, serving three months for an attempted jewel theft. He ran a drinking and drugs den in premises rented from Peter Rachman, and reportedly acted as a pimp to his girlfriend.[1]

Profumo scandal[edit]

It was in this "shebeen" that he first encountered Lucky Gordon, who threatened to tip off the police about the drinking den. Edgecombe closed it down, and moved into the jazz scene, driving musicians to gigs, and dealing dope.[1]

In September 1962 he met a nightclub hostess, Christine Keeler, and moved into her flat in Sheffield Terrace. Keeler was involved with several men, and it was this web of relationships and jealousy that triggered the events that led to what became known as the Profumo Affair. Keeler told Edgecombe that "Lucky" Gordon had assaulted her and held her captive after she ended their relationship. Edgecombe confronted Gordon with a knife in the Flamingo Club on 27 October 1962, and Gordon required 17 stitches in the face.[2] Edgecombe asked Keeler to help him find a solicitor before surrendering to the police, but she refused and said that she would give evidence against him.

On 14 December, Edgecombe took a taxi to the Marylebone flat of osteopath Stephen Ward, where Keeler was in hiding. When she refused to come out, he fired several shots at the door.[3] His subsequent arrest set in motion the unravelling of Keeler's relationship with Secretary of State for War John Profumo and Russian naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov, with Keeler's non-appearance at his trial at the Old Bailey in March 1963 finally giving the British press the excuse it needed to publish the story.[4]

Edgecombe was acquitted of assaulting "Lucky" Gordon, but jailed for seven years for possession of a firearm with the intent to endanger life.[5] He served five years.

On his release Edgecombe became a jazz promoter, running a club called Edges, and worked as a film and television extra. He published his version of events, Black Scandal, in 2002. He died of lung cancer and kidney cancer in London, aged 77, on 26 September 2010.[4]

Cultural references[edit]

Edgecombe is portrayed by Wayne Robinson in Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical Stephen Ward the Musical, which opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 19 December 2013.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Obituary: Johnny Edgecombe fired the gunshots that precipitated the Profumo affair of the 1960s". London: Daily Telegraph. 4 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  2. ^ "'The Flamingo Club in Wardour Street and the fight between Johnny Edgecombe and ‘Lucky’ Gordon', Nickel in the Machine, June 2009". Nickelinthemachine.com. 2009-06-07. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  3. ^ "The Profumo Affair - a summary". 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2010-10-07. 
  4. ^ a b Martin, Douglas. "Johnny Edgecombe, British Scandal Figure, Dies at 77", The New York Times, 9 October 2010. Accessed 11 October 2010.
  5. ^ Olden, Mark. Obituary: Johnny Edgecombe, The Guardian, 30 September 2010

External links[edit]