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Soho Sex King part 1 of 5

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Published on Dec 7, 2010

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An impresario, publisher and property tycoon for more than 50 years, Paul Raymond made a fortune from bringing pornography out of the back streets. His publishing empire produced a vast range of magazines, including Men Only and Club Confidential. His nude stage shows, such as Pyjama Tops and Let's Get Laid, enjoyed record-breaking runs in the West End. His nightclub in Soho, Raymond's Revue Bar, the self-styled "world centre of erotic entertainment", was for years a landmark of London nightlife.

Paul Raymond was born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn in 1925, the son of a Liverpool haulage contractor. He left school at 15 and worked as an office boy for the Manchester Ship Canal Company.

He bought a mind-reading act for £25 and got his first break appearing in a variety show on Clacton pier in 1947. His partner was Gaye Dawn and the pair were billed as Mr and Mrs Tree — pronounced mystery. He split with Dawn when she became pregnant.

He went on to become a producer of nude, low-budget variety revues touring the country. A ruling prohibited any movement of nudes on the stage, so the shows featured tableaux in which the girls posed naked to the waist.

With the profits he opened the Raymond Revue Bar in 1957 as a private members club and presented lavish, colourful stage shows that included both male and female nudity.

In 1961 a judge labelled the club "filthy, disgusting and beastly" and fined Raymond £5,000 for keeping a disorderly house.

As he commented wryly, "There will always be sex — always, always, always."

He was married to Jean Bradley, a dancer, in 1951, by whom he had two children, Debbie and Howard. Raymond indulged in a series of affairs but after a long-term relationship with the porn actress Fiona Richmond, his wife sued him for divorce in 1974.

He bought the Whitehall Theatre, where he staged the sex comedy Pyjama Tops, starring Fiona Richmond and the comedian Chubby Oates. The play ran for five and a half years and prompted a string of sequels such as What, No Pyjamas? and Come into My Bed. Raymond also produced shows at the Windmill and Royalty theatres.

In the early 1970s Raymond launched Men Only and Club International, two porn magazines with a quota of factual and lifestyle articles. Although spurned by the main distributors, their glossy appearances enabled him to sell them through small, local newsagents. The "top-shelf" magazine was born.

The Longford Commission into Pornography was constituted in 1971 under the auspices of Lord Longford, who frequently criticised Raymond's activities both in the media and in the Longford Report of 1972. Unfortunately, Longford's chairmanship of the inquiry lent itself to remorseless mockery and photographs of him entering the Raymond Revue Bar with a thoughtful expression on his face were circulated widely and became fodder for cartoonists.

Raymond took full advantage of falling property prices and bought up Soho by the street and by 1980 owned 60 of its 87 acres. Later his property portfolio extended to Hampstead, Kensington and Notting Hill.

In 1996 he sold the Revue Bar to his long-term business associate Gerard Simi. He continued to own the freehold, however, and in 2004, saw its potential as prime real estate and raised the annual rent from £150,000 to £275,000. When Simi was unable to pay, the bailiffs moved in.

After her divorce Jean Raymond ended up living in a two-bedroom flat in Nottinghamshire on a £40-a-week state pension. When she died of cancer in 2002 Raymond did not attend her funeral. His first son, Derry, was brought up on £1 a week maintenance that his father provided, later raised to £1.50.

Raymond's affair with Fiona Richmond ended and, estranged from his second son Howard, his only close relationship had been with his daughter Debbie, who had put herself forward as his business associate and heir apparent. An alcoholic and cocaine addict she died of an accidental drug overdose in 1992, leaving two daughters.

Already withdrawing from public attention and suffering from ill-health, Raymond spent his final years as a recluse, rarely venturing outside his penthouse flat behind the Ritz Hotel.

Adapted from The Times, 3 October 2008

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