'Steve Coogan's film about my dad is a Carry On movie,' says Howard Raymond. 'Ours is serious'
Paul Raymond died in 2008, but his son is still defending him. Luke Blackall reports
The life of the pornography baron and property tycoon Paul Raymond was so colourful that it should perhaps come as no surprise that he is still in the headlines more than four years after his death.
First came the stories of his reclusiveness and family rows, and then the fevered speculation as to which of his descendants would inherit the staggering portfolio of money, businesses and central London property.
Last week there were reports of a successful legal challenge mounted by his son Howard against the makers of a biopic about his father, to be called The King of Soho, directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring Steve Coogan. Howard Raymond had already registered the name, and his plans to document his father's life on screen were well under way.
Last week, Raymond, who is also writing a book and planning a stage play about his father, welcomed the news that the Winterbottom film was to change its name. The 52-year-old said he might watch it "on television" but feels that it will bear little resemblance to the one he has helped to write. "Well there is no comparison really. They're doing, for want of a better word, a Carry On movie and we're doing a serious picture," he says.
Raymond's film, which stars the rising British actor Tom Hiddleston in the lead role, aims to set the record straight about his father.
It set Howard on the course of collecting stories about his father from family and former colleagues, which will form the basis of his book The King of Soho. He was keen to correct untruths about his relationship with his father and stories about disputes over his will.
"[My father] never really wanted a book or a film," says Howard. "This was quite an issue at the time, because we knew that there was going to be a lot of crap coming out so as a family we sat down and kind of said, 'well, we'll tell the story as it was' – which is an extraordinary story to tell... [but] we're not doing a hagiography, we are telling it as it was."
The next step is the stage show. "We're very keen to get a West End play out," he says. "It would be wonderful. We've gone past tentative talks, so we're going to sit down with the writers. But it all takes time."
It's an appropriate medium for the story of a man who made his name in the world of live entertainment. From the start of his career in the late 1950s to his death in 2008, Paul Raymond constantly attracted publicity for pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable in the world of "adult" entertainment. His reputation as a nightclub owner (the Raymond Revue Bar was one of the most famous in its day) and as a property owner, meanwhile, earned him the nickname in the trade as "The King of Soho".
Howard Raymond now finds himself armed with so many stories about his father's life that he struggled to choose which ones would make it into the book and film. "There were arrangements with the Secret Service," one of them begins. "The Revue Bar was a safe house for the KGB for a while, so lots of secrets were passed and stuff like that."
But for all the fun, the portrait Howard paints of his father is one burdened with conflict and contradictions, particularly where his Catholic faith collided with his pornography business.
"I think we had printed 800,000 copies of Men Only," Howard recalls. "And there was a girl wearing a cross on the centrefold. He went berserk. And all (the pictures) had to be taken out by hand, so we had these all apprentice printers taking six pages out the magazine."
This is the conflicted character of a man that his son says he wants to portray, a man capable of good and bad, rather than a focus on just the potential levity of a man surrounded by nude women.
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