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

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook  

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot