sexciting and sexsational

Paul Raymond, publisher and property tycoon for more than 50 years, made his fortune by bringing pornography out of the back streets and turning it into an acceptable — or at least accepted — part of British life.

Paul Raymond found here

Born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn in 1925, he left school at 15 and worked as an office boy for the Manchester Ship Canal Company. Determined to get into showbusiness he bought a mind-reading act from the clown Ravel for £25 and got his first break appearing in a variety show on Clacton pier in 1947.

NOT this Anthony Quinn (the actor aged 13 found here)

Soon he was putting on strip shows with his then wife, Jean, a stripper and choreographer. That was, of course, after fathering a son with a woman who earned her living by selling horoscopes and riding the handlebars of a motorbike as it circled the Wall of Death.

Wall of Death found here

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 — a type of entertainment then unknown in Britain. In its heyday the streets outside the club were packed with Jaguars and limousines and its patrons included top businessmen as well as gangsters such as the Kray brothers and the Richardsons. The club’s “padre”, Canon Edward Young, later became chaplain to the Queen Mother

The Queen Mother on her wedding day found here

Advertised as “Sexciting” or “Sexsational”, his shows had titles like Hot from Harlem, or “See the taunting, scantily clad Native Mating Dance”. One girl, Miss Snake-Hips, did an act with a boa constrictor. She had to be rescued from near-death once by Raymond, and a local ex-boxer he found next door, when the snake started squeezing.

image found here

Having tracked down an animal trainer who had once taught a lion to wear spectacles, Raymond asked him to find a horse that could be trained to undress one of his strippers. When Beauty started work, he had to be followed with a bucket as he was taken into the theatre. At the end of the routine the lady he undressed had to climb carefully on to his back because there was barely enough headroom for her to ride off.

Nude on Horse by Mark Seliger found here

Such immodesty attracted the attention of the police, who were obliged to spend much time on the premises; in its early years the Revuebar was raided several times, and in 1961 Raymond was fined £5,000 after a magistrate decided that allowing members of the audience to ring the Ding Dong Girl’s bells constituted an unruly house — and that, furthermore, Julia Mendez should not have swallowed the snake in public.

image found here

He became a familiar figure around Soho, with his long black fur coat draped round his shoulders, gold bracelet engraved with his initials, diamond and gold pendant worn over his tie, and a scrape-over hairdo. It was sufficiently long at the back to form a “valance around his neck“. He remained a louche and unhealthy man of vulgar tastes, though he wore good suits. Tall, with an artificial tan that mummified his skin like cracked toffee, a mane of hair like brittle silver lamé and a smear of moustache, he latterly evoked Dracula lurking in the guise of an Oxford Street spiv.

image found here

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.

image found here

Beset by court cases, in which Lord Longford always played a star part, and usually involving judges who would say things like “And what, exactly, is a G-string?“, Raymond somehow managed to stay afloat and prosper. He took full advantage of falling property prices, buying up Soho by the street. By 1980 he owned 60 of its 87 acres. The entrepreneur became, at one point, Britain’s richest man.

Sadly, in later life he became pretty much a recluse and died alone. Read more of the fascinating story of the “Captain of Skindustry” in the book Members Only: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond by Paul Willetts. 

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

50 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That wall of death looks like another good way to lose some more teeth.

    • No, you’re thinking of the Wall of Lost Teeth. It’s shaped like the Wall of Death, but located closer to the ground.

      • Hahahaha

    • Hahaha from me, too!

    • I worked for Paul Raymond at his revue bar in 1978/79. I am now almost 63. In my book which is to be released at the end of 2012 I write about my time there. You can see extracts of my book on my blog Glenda Kemp Harper past, present and future. I remember coming from SA and being fetched in a limo. A movie on my life is in the pipeline with the complete script almost complete. Read about that too.

  2. I love Anthony Quinn’s young face. And his older one for that matter.

    • I like the craggy masculinity of his older face.

      • *Poses for Nurse Myra*

      • One of my favorites as well.

  3. Why did he change his name I wonder. Geoffrey Quinn sounds even racier than Paul Raymond to me.

    • I prefer Paul Quinn or Geoffrey Raymond. Though perhaps Geoffrey Raymond sounds too much like a gay hairdresser

  4. Queenwilly appears from time to time down at our local pier. PM me if interested.

    The King

    • Of course I’m interested, what’s her act?


  5. I love that a strip club had its own chaplain.

  6. a true pioneer. i adore the motto of the “Hustler” stores – “Relax. It’s just sex.”

    i owe this gentleman a swing of the tassle…

  7. Now that’s a blast from the past, Nurse!
    I learned the art of the tassle from a girl who danced at one of Raymond’s clubs.

    • Nursemyra, I must complain. Your clientèle is becoming far too staid. No one has offered to introduce Dinahmow to the You Tube Uploads page! Not that I know anything about that!

      I was inspired by the tassle scene in Gigi. And developed my own version – – –

  8. No wonder the guy decided to die alone. He’d seen too much.

  9. Wasn’t there some horrible Greek tragedy element involving his daughter?

    • Yes you’re right, she died of a drug overdose. It’s mentioned in the article I linked to at the top of the page

  10. We had our own scandalous snake lady, Glenda Kemp. Boy did she make waves on our shores.
    BTW, you may be interested to read this:

    • That’s a great article Cindy, thanks for the link

  11. The wrongness is significant, but I do like the idea of the horse stripping the stripper, and their riding away together into the spotlight. Now I’m inspired to save up – and by my own mind-reading act.

  12. I mean, by my own mind-reading power, I will buy a mind-reader, by and by.

  13. One of his more serious girl-friends was Fiona Raymond – a rare beauty and a vicar’s daughter. They spent a lot of time together on Raymond’s boat called Veste Demite – the (slightly incorrect) Latin for “get ’em off“!

    • Her name was Fiona Richmond and, among other things, she’s known for driving around London in her yellow E-type Jaguar with the licence plate “FU 2”.
      Probably worth a post of her own, Nurse.

      • Well of COURSE it was Richmond! I got so excited just thinking about her that I lost control of my typing fingers!!!

  14. I remember reading about that Fiona Richmond – I bet she was very naughty

  15. Those Kray Brothers really got around.

  16. Ah, British society’s “Great Leap Forward.”

  17. “The police, who were obliged to spend much time on the premises….” Naturally. I imagine close inspection of the performers’ assets was a vital part of their investigations.

  18. 2/3rds of Soho? No wonder he was loaded. It my not be Eaton Square but it must be worth an absolute fortune

  19. So much good stuff there (a horse that will undress ladies?) but I especially love that he was a Wall of Death guy- so classic. There was a run of people taking lions in sidecars on the Wall of Death too- Fearless Cuthbert and Tornado Smith being two of the best drivers. Such good, old fashioned family entertainmnet.

    • I didn’t know about the lions, that must have been a sight to behold

  20. Wall of Death? No thanks. I’m sure there are plenty of safer sounding walls to ride my motorbike on. Is there a Wall of Safety?

  21. Amazing that he stuck to his field all the time!

  22. I remember ‘Men Only’, not that I ever bought one, couldn’t reach that top shelf when I was 10 years old….

    • Pull the other one

  23. He was also a sad man because his daughter Debbie died before him…

    • Yes, zmkc pointed that out too

  24. I feel sure that if i was fifty years younger i would have been a regular in that club. lol

    • that would make you -15 wouldn’t it?

  25. The picture of the queen mother is just lovely.

  26. Er, I’m not sure what happened, my last comment was meant for this post.

    Like I was saying, I want to see the lion wearing spectacles!

  27. Will this suffice?

  28. Is it a sign of old age if you can actually remember somebody in one of your posts when they were still alive?

    Please please please go back to writing about people who died in the sixties or earlier.

  29. Bless this man.

  30. Oh, bad form. Snakes should only be swallowed in private.

  31. …and I’m back to let you know that Steve Coogan is set to play Paul Raymond in a biopic to be directed by Michael Winterbottom. Just saw that today, and thought – “where did I read about him?” and here it was.

  32. hi does anyone know what happened to the boat veste demite and where it is now or does anyone have any pictures of it. strange question i know but would love to have seen it


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: