My nights of passion with Paul Raymond

For two decades, Pierre Perrone edited a men's magazine for the King of Soho. As the biopic The Look of Love is released, he recalls what the film's anti-hero was really like – and why they ended up in a bitter legal wrangle

Watching a preview of The Look of Love, the Paul Raymond biopic due in cinemas this week, was a strange experience for me. For two decades, from the mid- Eighties to the mid-Noughties, as well as freelancing for various media, I edited a French men's magazine for the King of Soho, though in the office, we never called him that, just PR. The Look of Love is mostly set in the Sixties and Seventies, but so little had changed in the company's cluttered Soho offices, lovingly re-created by Michael Winterbottom's production team, that the film conjured up vivid memories of my time in PR's employ.

The Look of Love attempts to tell the rags-to-riches story of one of Britain's wealthiest men, portrayed by Steve Coogan as a distant, not exactly roué, relation of his radio presenter creation Alan Partridge. Coogan has the mannerisms, the camp man bag and the tie pin down pat, and holds his cigarette very much like PR used to, but I don't remember him making as many wisecracks, while his notorious stammer has all but vanished, presumably to speed things along or on the grounds of taste. Indeed, PR was not as shallow as he appears in the Winterbottom film based on Members Only: the Life and Times of Paul Raymond, the well-researched biography by Soho specialist Paul Willetts.

When he walked out on his wife Jean, played by Anna Friel, to shack up with glamour model Fiona Richmond, portrayed by Tamsin Egerton, PR might have repeated the sins of the father who abandoned him, his two brothers and his mother. But he had more class than the way Coogan plays him, and, though he could be ruthless, as I was able to verify later on, he was a likeable boss. Until 1992, when the death from a drug overdose of his beloved daughter Debbie – played by Imogen Poots – took the wind out of his sails. The mood around PR darkened as he became more fixated on the only thing he loved, apart from her and his two grand-daughters: money.

Born Geoffrey Quinn in Liverpool in 1925, he became the more continental-sounding Paul Raymond when he launched a mind-reading act he bought for £25 from a roustabout on Clacton Pier. He soon switched to producing burlesque entertainment shows with titles like Folies Parisienne and Le Cirque Nu de Paris. Famously, the nude models had to remain static in accordance with the rules laid down by the Lord Chamberlain. However, in 1958, PR imaginatively circumvented those by launching a private members' club, the Raymond Revuebar, whose glitzy World Centre of Erotic Entertainment neon sign became a Soho landmark, and started him on his way to a considerable fortune. In 1971, he acquired the struggling "pin-up" title Men Only and turned it into a top-shelf sensation selling 400,000 copies a month. Men Only made a household name of its "columnist" Richmond, the star of the risqué sex comedies – Pyjama Tops, Let's Get Laid – PR presented at the Windmill Theatre during the Seventies. PR went on to launch more magazines, including Club International, in the UK, the US and France, and in 1990 acquired rival men's title Mayfair.

I was welcomed into Paul Raymond's World of Erotica in the spring of 1986 when I answered an advert for an assistant editor to help launch a men's magazine in France. Much to my surprise, I was the one and only applicant, quizzed by a panel of Paul and Debbie Raymond and Neville Player, the editor of Men Only, and offered the job on the spot, along with a small company flat in Old Compton Street.

Launched in September 1986, Club pour Hommes, the magazine edited by Debbie as far as the pictorial content went, with yours truly doing everything else, did well in the land of Lui and New Look.

I got away with a lot, sneaking off for hours to do interviews, prompting Debbie to comment "don't con a conner" as I tried to come up with excuses. When she launched Men's World, a large-format magazine, in 1988, I was encouraged to contribute and to take over some of her duties on the French mag. Someone had to look at all those photos and conjure up a narrative out of them, never an exact science. Watching PR feel the glossy paper in a quasi-fetishistic manner and literally weigh up a magazine showed how hands-on he remained, even as he groomed Debbie to succeed him after falling out with his son Howard.

I got into the spirit of things, dragging up to attend a Christmas party for downmarket title Escort and interviewing Samantha Fox and Brigitte Lahaie, once the star of the softcore movie Paul Raymond's Erotica, knowingly pastiched by Winterbottom in the biopic. It was often more fun than it looks in the film, which can't decide whether to go for a post-Carry On ironic approach or inflate PR's role as a challenger of taboos by having him quote Oscar Wilde, another totally out-of-character extrapolation.

However, I always found a good excuse not to join Debbie and her crowd in Chobham at weekends. The telltale signs of her drug-taking were becoming more pronounced. Her death in November 1992, in the London flat of a boyfriend she had met at the St James Club in Antigua, still came out of the blue.

A tearful PR made me editor of the French magazine which continued for another 14 years, with declining sales, in line with the rest of his titles. The showman who relished collecting the original artwork of satirical cartoons depicting him, most famously when he attempted to buy Watford Football Club from Elton John in 1987 – a plotline I thought should have been included in the biopic – became a recluse. He lost his grasp on what the ordinary man in the street wanted. He didn't anticipate the rise of the lads' mags. He also failed to grasp how the internet would affect publishing in general and the sex industry in particular. Flagship title Men Only drifted hopelessly, through half a dozen editors, including an ill-fated issue which featured a small photo of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a would-be-satirical article, printed on the eve of her death in August 1997, and had to be pulped.

In 2004, PR asked me to edit Men Only in tandem with the French title. Possibly out of a misguided sense of loyalty, I accepted, though I knew that I was on a hiding to nothing. Sales dropped to a tenth of the magazine's Seventies heyday. I lasted two years, and continued editing the French title for a few months after the Men Only episode until the French authorities began agitating. I expected PR to ask me to rename the title, as we had done previously. Instead, he started a redundancy procedure targeting me, his longest-serving editor. PR had lost the heart for fighting the French authorities but he hadn't lost the heart for a costly legal fight. The employment tribunal hearing had its comic moments and was covered in the national press. In June 2007, I won my case for unfair dismissal.

But we couldn't force PR to appear at the tribunal. He spent much of his last decade in Howard Hughes-like seclusion at his Arlington House penthouse apartment, only a few feet away from the Ritz hotel in London's Piccadilly. By the time of his death in March 2008, his fortune was estimated at £650m. Paul Raymond sold the promise of illicit, explicit fun but he just didn't know how to enjoy his money. That is why The Look of Love feels so hollow.

Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?