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Hanky panky in high places;NEWLN:Britain titillated by sex scandals

By
ARTHUR HERMAN

LONDON -- It's been a bumper year for sex scandals in merry old England.

The country's highest-paid executive admitted dallying with a teenage model in a purely 'physical relationship,' and his marriage broke up.

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Other sex scandals hit the captain of England's cricket team and a left-wing member of parliament, and there were newspaper allegations against a royal family in-law.

The media also discovered the country's first 'bimbos,' which pleased those subjects of the queen who dislike lagging behind the United States in any new trend.

Sex scandals, of course, are nothing new in the British Isles.

A movie is now being made of the 1963 Profumo scandal which brought down the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan.

The problem there wasn't that Defense Minister John Profumo was using a call girl. It was that he was sharing her with a Soviet naval attache and then lied to parliament about it.

Maj. Ronald Ferguson, father of Princess 'Fergie,' the Duchess of York, this autumn lost his job as vice-chairman of the exclusive Guards' polo club.

The official explanation was that Ferguson's business acumen was not up to snuff. But his ouster followed calls on 'Major Ron' to resign as unpaid polo manager to Prince Charles in several sensationalistic but widely circulated newspapers.

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The problem was allegations that Ferguson frequented the Wigmore Club in London's West End, a massage parlor where some of the uniformed massage girls said they engaged in sex for money.

The People newspaper published a photo of Ferguson leaving the club, and there were lurid accounts from young women who claimed they encountered him there.

'There is surely something nauseating about a 56-year-old man liaising with these girls, all young enough to be his daughter, but whom he would not consider socially acceptable enough to be invited to his house,' wrote Daily Mail columnist Lynda Lee-Potter.

'It may well be that for top people to be caught out doing naughty things is as old as all history,' editorialized Rupert Murdoch's News Of the World. 'But what happened to the honorable tradition of 'doing the decent thing?'' It called on him to resign as Charles' polo manager or be fired.

The major resolutely refused comment and the royal family publicly took no move to snub or ostracize him. He is still Charles's polo manager, and has a new job with another polo club.

'Sex has never upset the royal family,' said royal-watcher Harold Brooks-Baker of Burke's Peerage, 'but they don't like these kind of torrid articles in the newspapers. Today, there's no more sex in society than before, just more reporting of it.'

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The public has split in its view of the numerous scandals:

-Those who think that any individual's personal life is his own affair and should not be pried into.

-Those who feel that individuals in the public eye should keep their noses clean and are fair game to exposure.

One man who has been in the tabloid newspapers much more than he would have liked is Sir Ralph Halpern, chairman of the board of the big Burton Group clothing stores chain.

Sir Ralph, credited with Britain's top salary at $2.4 million (1.36 million pounds) last year, is also a frequent visitor at the prime minister's residence.

Halpern made the acquaintance of Fiona Wright, 18, a pinup model who also modeled some of the underwear sold in Burton shops. The tabloid press promptly nicknamed Halpern 'Five-times-a-night' when excerpts of 'The Fiona Wright Diaries' were printed.

Halpern then went public. With an attorney at his side he declared to the Daily Mirror:

'The truth of the matter about the Wright woman and myself is that I had a casual relationship with her. It was a physical relationship and only a physicalrelationship.'

But how could Sir Ralph get involved with a teenager who lived in what he called a 'scruffy' basement apartment?

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'She puts on this wonderful act ... a sort of innocent Brigitte Bardot pout,' he explained. 'I fell for it.'

It was inevitable that Fiona Wright from the provincial city of Sheffield would be tagged as among the new breed of dumb female sex symbols. But she retorts:

'I hate being called a bimbo. That really annoys me, because when I go out with older men we talk about war and things.'

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