John Walsh: No one has a monopoly on the truth about the King of Porn Paul Raymond – including his son

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

For schoolboys in 1960s London, the words "Raymond Revuebar" conjured up a world of head-spinning wickedness. They – and a tacky flashing neon sign of a dancing nude – were the beating heart of Soho when it was still gratifyingly seedy and deliciously decadent.

In the grid-lanes off Shaftesbury Avenue, they promised striptease shows, a blizzard of breasts, a dazzle of diamante G-strings, platoons of semi-naked girls performing with snakes or drugged panthers. The audience allegedly featured respectable chaps like politicians, cheek-to-cheek with career gangsters and bent coppers. Behind the carnival of smut lurked the faintly comical, long-faced, long-haired figure of Paul Raymond, a Catholic boy turned stage clairvoyant turned impresario of flesh, the Murdoch of porn mags.

So when I heard, last year, that the director Michael Winterbottom was shooting King of Soho, a film of Raymond's life based on Members Only, Paul Willetts's marvellous biography, I thought: Yay. It was good to hear that Steve Coogan, star of Winterbottom's 24-Hour Party People movie, had been signed to play the sleazemeister – Coogan with his faintly reptilian charm and his petulant egomania. Anna Friel, Imogen Poots and Gemma Arterton were also involved as Raymond's wife, daughter and girlfriend Fiona Richmond. It sounded a treat.

Now look what's happened. Paul Raymond's son Howard has signed a deal with a studio to make another film about his dad – also called King of Soho, from his (Howard's) own biography. This week, he announced that he's signed up the handsome, patrician Tom (War Horse) Hiddlestone, who looks nothing whatever like Raymond, to play Raymond, and told the press, "It's about the private persona of our family, as opposed to the public persona."

Though he once had friendly discussions with Winterbottom about his movie, he's now rubbished it as a kind of Carry On spoof. "We call it Carry On Up Old Compton Street." He's also trying to get his lawyers to trademark the name "King of Soho", so that only his team can use it.

Here's the moral crux: does Raymond Jnr have more of a right to tell his father's "story" than a competent biographer like Willetts, who may be more likely to establish the truth about his subject? Is the son right to try to control a celluloid portrayal of his father, even down to patenting the title? Is he being a good son here, or a cynical, bandwagon-leaping opportunist?

The concept of the retaliatory movie isn't unprecedented, of course. A similar row broke out last month over Bob Marley. A documentary entitled Marley, by Kevin Macdonald and Chris Blackwell, was released to acclaim here and in the US. When a second film, Bob Marley: the Making of a Legend, was premiered at Cannes, its director Esther Anderson, an old girlfriend of the reggae titan, complained that lawyers representing the rival movie had tried to stop her making the film. She's now talking of suing them for using her footage without her permission.

In years gone by, retaliatory biographies weren't unknown. Cyril Connolly's widow Deirdre flatly refused to let anyone write her late husband's life – until, in the 1990s, a scoundrel called Clive Fisher decided to go ahead without her permission, whereupon she instantly commissioned an authorised biography from someone she could trust, Jeremy Lewis.

But behaviour like Howard Raymond's is not an edifying spectacle – and, of course, it's counter-productive. Faced with the choice of an intimate family hagiography of the "private" man, or the vivid spectacle of the "public" Raymond – who once had to rescue a stripper ("Miss Snake-Hips") from the near-death squeeze of a boa constrictor he'd saddled her with – I know which the public will rush to see.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Nurse

£40 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Nurse needed in salfordI a...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: architecture, suitcases and ‘pathetic figures’

John Rentoul
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading

Robert Fisk
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape