Suzy Chang

Esther Sue Yan Chang, the daughter of two Chinese immigrants, was born in New York City in 1934. She adopted the name Suzy Chang and by the late 1950s was working in London as a model and actress. During this period she got to know Stephen Ward, Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.

In 1960 Chang travelled to the United States with Maria Novotny. It is believed that both girls worked at the Quorum Club in Washington, run by Bobby Baker, and became involved in relationships with leading politicians. This included both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Recently released FBI files claim that Stephen Ward was involved in supplying these girls. The FBI investigation also suggested that a "Hungarian madam in New York" was also involved in what was called the "Bowtie" case.

Suzy Chang was refused permission to stay in the United States but FBI documents show that she returned in 1961 and over the Christmas period at the end of 1962.

On 23rd June, 1963, Dorothy Kilgallen published an article in the New York Journal-American: "One of the biggest names in American politics - a man who holds a very high elective office - has been injected into Britain's vice-security scandal." This was a reference to the John Profumo and Christine Keeler affair. Kilgallen went on to describe one of the girls as "a beautiful Chinese-American girl now in London." She added that the "highest authorities" had "identified her as Suzy Chang."

Suzy Chang, who later adopted the name Suzy Diamond, went on to marry three wealthy husbands. Tracked down in 1987, she admitted knowing John F. Kennedy. "We'd meet in the 21 Club. Everybody saw me eating with him. I think he was a nice guy, very charming... What else am I going to say."

In 1999 she gave an interview where she denied she was a prostitute in her youth. She also admitted to knowing Stephen Ward, Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, but insisted that Ward was not a pimp.

Primary Sources

(1) Suzy Chang, interview (1999)

For a while I had a sugar daddy. But never was I a prostitute, any more than poor Stephen Ward was a pimp. And let's face it, do you think Kennedy would need to buy a prostitute? I knew Jack a long, long time... Well, I only ever met him on two occasions and both were public. What I remember is he was very nice to me, always kind.

I don't think our relationship was something you can call sleeping with someone. I don't think I had an affair with him or went to bed with him. I never have been in a bedroom with him, OK? We flirted, I think. I used to drink a lot of wine and I'm near-sighted, but I didn't think he was attractive. I flirt with a lot of people but I don't like old men. I think he was too old for me. You must remember at that time there were very few Oriental girls in London.

(2) Anthony Summers, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993)

June 1963 brought brand-new woman trouble, the sort that could not be shrugged off. As the Kennedys wrestled with the mounting civil rights crisis, Edgar quietly opened a new file code-named "Bowtie." It was to grow to more than a thousand pages, and its subject was a scandal that on the surface appeared to be another nation's problem.

Britain's Minister for War, John Profumo, had confessed to having slept with a woman simultaneously involved with the Soviet Naval attache in London, Yevgeny Ivanov. He resigned, but the crisis continued. The government of Prime Minister Macmillan, who had backed Profumo to the end, was shaken to its foundations. The press, meanwhile, fueled the controversy with daily revelations about the orgies and adulteries of the British establishment.

In Washington, President Kennedy was paying more than ordinary attention. "He had devoured every word written about the Profumo case," noted Ben Bradlee. "He ordered all further cables on that subject sent to him immediately." Bradlee assumed the President was merely fascinated by the sexually exotic aspects of the story. But it was more than that. According to persistent reports, he himself had dallied with two of the young women linked to the scandal.

As he combed the reports from London, Kennedy must have been especially concerned about references to a twenty-two-year-old prostitute of Anglo-Czech parentage named Mariella Novotny. In early 1961, she had been in New York and, she said later, was procured for the President-elect by Peter Lawford. They had sex several times in Manhattan, once in a group involving other prostitutes. As in the Profumo case, there was a potential security angle. Novotny's name was being linked to an alleged Soviet vice ring at the United Nations....

On the evening of June 29, as the President dined with Macmillan, Charles Bates (FBI agent based in London) had sent Edgar coded telegram 861, marked VERY URGENT. Of twenty lines, seventeen have been excised by the censor. What remains reads: "... [Name censored] talked about President Kennedy and repeated a rumor that was going around New York..." A second document provides more background. A report addressed to William Sullivan, by then Assistant Director in charge of Counter-Intelligence, offers-between the censored chunks-information that:

One of [name blanked out] clients was John Kennedy, then presidential candidate. [Name] stated that Marie Novotny, British prostitute, went to New York to take [name's] place, since she was going on pre-election rounds with Kennedy.

Before it was silenced, the New York Journal-American had referred to a second mystery woman, "a beautiful Chinese-American girl now in London." The highest authorities, said the paper, "identified her as Suzy Chang."

(3) Christine Keeler, The Truth at Last (2001)

When the FBI investigated they were able to involve Mariella with a Hungarian madam in New York. What alarmed them further was my association with Eugene. You could see how two and two could add up to a very big number indeed with all this information. I believe the Americans were convinced that a worldwide sex-for-information network, an elaborate blackmail operation, was going on. And that the most powerful man in the world, their president, had sampled the pleasures of these female sex spies. Certainly, Bobby Kennedy did not conceal the concerns of himself and his brother.

The Bowtie files talk of Stephen's American connections such as Averell Harriman, the former US ambassador to London, and the billionaire Paul Getty. There is mention of the "Man in the Mask" party. Mariella's story was published on 29 June 1963, and she talked only of Chang and "a US government official who holds a very high elected post".

At 3.05 p.m. that same afternoon, the President's brother called Courtney Evans, a senior deputy of the FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, to tell him about the story and order an investigation. According to a memo, "the Attorney General stated that the President had expressed concern regarding this matter'. The FBI, which had been concentrating, foolishly, on the air force guys, now went all a flutter. Memos were circulated between Hoover and his deputies about the possibility of "an espionage-prostitution ring operating in England with American ramifications".

Bowtie files show that FBI agents were sent out all over America, where Suzy Chang and Mariella had worked. 'They identified Chang as Esther Sue Yan Chang, the daughter of two Chinese immigrants who lived in New York, but who had herself been refused a visa to live in America.