Paul Raymond, the king of the Soho sex trade, dies aged 82 - This Britain - UK - The Independent

Paul Raymond, the king of the Soho sex trade, dies aged 82

He was called the "King of Soho": a multimillionaire pornographer loved and loathed in equal measure for his entrepreneurial commitment to all things erotic and insalubrious.

Paul Raymond, who died yesterday at the age of 82, was credited with revolutionising attitudes towards the sex industry during a career which spanned more than half a century and saw him rise from childhood poverty to amass a vast property and publishing empire worth an estimated £650m.

A mild and avuncular figure in person, Raymond's career attracted widespread opprobrium and became a symbol of Britain's apparent decline into lasciviousness. He defended it as the work of an honest bon viveur, a man whose job it was to match supply with demand. To his detractors – and there were many – that was precisely the problem.

Yesterday tributes were paid to the man who brought the first striptease to Britain. Mark Fuller, owner of Mayfair's Embassy nightclub, said: "Paul was a great mentor of mine. He will be sadly missed."

Born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn in November 1925 and swiftly abandoned by his philandering father, an Irish haulage contractor based in Liverpool, Raymond moved to Glossop in Derbyshire at the outbreak of war, where he was raised by his mother, grandmother, and three aunts. Educated by the Christian Brothers, he dropped out of school at 15. Years later he would boast of never having a read a book.

To avoid military service – bending the law without breaking it would be the making of him – he volunteered to work as a Bevin Boy in the mines, an effort which lasted a week. Two years later the police found him, but he again avoided prison, serving briefly in the RAF as a bandsman.

After adopting the stage name Paul Raymond, he toured sparsely attended northern halls, giving variety performances that returned little or no income.

All that changed when he introduced two tap dancers to his routine. A ruling by the Lord Chancellor forbade any nudes moving on stage, so to comply with it Raymond placed women on podiums which were wheeled across stage while they remained stationary. It was genius – and legal.

But it was his leasing of the Doric Ballroom in Soho – later renamed the Revuebar and the first venue in Britain to stage live striptease shows – in 1958 that would ensure his star's ascent. By designating it a private club rather than a theatre he was able to circumvent the law without breaking it yet again – this time with revolutionary results. More than 45,000 members signed up within two years, many of them at the club door, and its neon sign reading "Striptease" would become a landmark.

Notoriety came immediately. Within the first two years, police raided the premises repeatedly. Revuebar regulars Bonnie Bell the Ding Dong Girl and Julia Mendez the Snake Girl soon fell foul of a judge, who labelled the venue "filthy, disgusting, and beastly" before ordering Raymond to pay a fine of £5,000 for keeping a disorderly house.

But the genie was out of the bottle, and Raymond – by now a fixture in the tabloid press – used his swelling income to launch hugely profitable top-shelf magazines including Men Only, Razzle, King, Club International and Escort.

Well over 6ft tall, and sporting a fake tan, Raymond was never far from the glitz of London's social scene. A lifelong Catholic, his neck would always be adorned by a gold cross, while his chauffeur drove a golden Rolls-Royce. He took advantage of a slump in property prices at the end of the Seventies to buy freeholds in Soho, promising to convert it into a new Covent Garden. Rumour has it that he died with 60 of Soho's 87 acres to his name.

His holdings are thought to include freeholds of Soho House, Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, Sugar Reef and the Whitehall and Windmill theatres. In the late Sixties he converted the latter to a dining theatre, La Vie En Rose.

In later years, commercial success coincided with family failure. His marriage to Jean Bradley, a nude dancer, was dissolved in 1974 after an affair with Fiona Richmond, an acress in risqué films and plays. He invested increasing responsibility for his business in his daughter Debbie. But in November 1992, after two failed marriages, she died aged 36, after extensive alcohol, cocaine and heroin abuse.

Raymond never truly recovered from her loss. Inhibited by deteriorating health, he became a recluse in a penthouse next to the Ritz Hotel in London. The battle over his vast fortune will now begin.

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Teaching Assistants urgently r...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:We are looking for a ...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the UK ...

KS1 Teacher

£80 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Key stage 1 Teacher - Gloucest...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week