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.