“There will always be sex, always always always.”
To some Paul Raymond was at the vanguard of the newly liberated post-war Britain but to others he was just a man who became filthy rich peddling filth. He was eventually known as ‘The King Of Soho’ and it was exactly fifty years ago when Raymond’s Revuebar opened on April 14 1958 in the former Doric Ballroom in Soho’s Walker’s Court. It was London’s first legal nude show with dancers who could actually dance. Before this date, especially at the notorious Windmill Theatre down the road no exposed flesh was allowed to jiggle, wiggle or shudder but Paul Raymond had the simple idea of making his Revuebar a member’s only club and charged a mere guinea for life membership. It became the first location in Britain with a sign legally offering STRIPTEASE, thus it became an infamous Soho landmark.
Within two years The Revuebar, according to The Spectator, included amongst his members “ten M.P.s, eight millionaires, more than 60 knights, 35 peers, and enough businessmen and captains of industry to drain dry the Stock Exchange and the Savoy Grill.”
However in 1961 a judge labelled it “filthy, disgusting and beastly” and fined Raymond £5,000 for keeping a disorderly house. Apparently the judge was particularly shocked that the members of the audience were actually allowed to ring Bonnie Bell the Ding Dong Girl’s bells (her costume consisted of nothing but three bells) and that Julia Mendez the Snake Girl was wont to swallow her snake in public.
Paul Raymond was actually born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn in 1925, and was brought up in a strict Irish Roman Catholic family in Liverpool. Academic studies were not exactly his forté and he preferred studying at the university of life. During the war, he was sent down the mines as one of the ‘Bevan Boys’ – teenage National Service conscripts ordered to work as miners. This had been completely against his will and before his medical he consumed vast quantities of saccharin in sliced bread in a vain attempt to feign a heart murmur. Quinn only lasted two weeks and subsequently enlisted in the Royal Air Force, where for two years he was a drummer boy with a military band.
After the war he bought a mind-reading act from a clown called Ravel and teamed up with a girl called Noreen O’Hagan. By the time she discovered she was pregnant, Raymond had already moved to London to make his fortune, arriving, apparently, with just 1s 6d (7.5p) in his pocket. He quickly shed his Geoffrey Quinn persona and changed his name to Paul Raymond and in 1952 he married a young choreographer of showgirls called Jean. They went into business together with a touring variety show that featured naked girls all of whom, of course, had to stand absolutely still (I’m not sure where Jean’s choreography was useful here?). It was rumoured that Raymond would surreptitiously supply pea-shooters to some of his customers so that a well-aimed missile might produce some exciting jiggles for the rest.
Not long after opening the Revuebar in Soho, it was profitable enough to provide the money to start producing sex magazines and he eventually published Men Only, Escort, Club International and Razzle. By 1970 Raymond completely dominated the market, saying “There will always be sex – always, always, always.” There was always property as well, and because at the time Soho was run down and seedy, the land was relatively cheap, and Raymond was astute enough to start buying up freeholds in the area. By the time he finished he was said to own an estimated 100 acres of prime real estate in central London with an estimated value of between £600 million to £2 billion. He is said to be the only person to have built a significant private London estate in the 20th century.
As Paul Raymond’s porn, and subsequently his property, empires helped the money pour in, Raymond grew his hair, sported heavy gold jewellery and wore a fur coat, seemingly whatever the weather. His affairs became more public especially his relationship with the former swimmer and soft-porn actress Fiona Richmond. Fed up with the public aspect of the affair, Jean, after an acrimonious and bitterly-fought case, divorced him in 1973. Richmond at the time was appearing in Raymond’s magazines and films such as Hardcore and Let’s Get Laid but also starring at the Whitehall Theatre (which Raymond now owned) in farces such as Yes, We Have No Pyjamas.
In 1992 Raymond’s daughter Debbie, a tough-talking, chain-smoking and hard-drinking woman, was being groomed to take over Raymond’s entire company and was already editor-in-chief of his magazine division when she tragically died of a heroin overdose at the age of just 36. Debbie had been the only thing that mattered in his life other than his wealth and the distraught Raymond became a complete recluse hardly ever leaving his apartment which overlooked Green Park behind the Ritz. He eventually died in March 2008.