“A Tribute To The Naughty Vicar’s Daughter”
Julia Rosamund Harrison was born in 1945 in a large country rectory in Hillborough, Norfolk, the same place that Lord Nelson lived as a child. Her mother, Mona Harrison, was a convent school teacher and her father Reverend Jack Harrsion was the local clergyman (who once played professional football for Rotherham United). When she was 5 her family moved to Dorset where she had an idyllic childhood spent with her with older siblings Anthea and Roger, getting up to all the usual pranks, setting fire to the chicken house and playing hide and seek around the giant vicarage. Her first taste of fame came at 16 when she entered and won the “Hostess of the Year” competition that all the youth clubs in Dorset took part in. Her prize was to tour all the local youth clubs giving little speeches about the aims and ideals of the youth club movement, plus chatting to members and basically playing Queen Bee in front of all the boys!
In 1962 the film Tom Jones was being filmed in Dorset. One of its stars was Diane Cilento who advertised for a nanny in the local newspaper. Julia applied and before she knew it she was in Bayswater looking after her 7yr old daughter and socializing with Diane’s then boyfriend Sean Connery (she was by now pregnant with Jason Connery). At this point “Dr No” hadn’t been released and he was still a relatively unknown actor. After spending a summer looking after Diane’s daughter she made a decision to go back to school to do her A levels as opposed to going to Spain with Diane and Sean. As a thank you for all the hard work she done, soon after retuning home she received a couple of tickets for the London Palladium premier of “Dr No”, sitting on the front row surrounded by all the great stars of the time. Little did she know then that in a few years she would be one of the biggest stars in the UK, and going to film premiers would become a regular social fixture! At 17 while her parents were away on a long hot summer holiday in France she decided to turn the vicarage into a guesthouse, renting out some of the rooms and supplying bed and breakfast for the sum of £7 a week. By the end of the summer she’d made about £300 and with this money decided to blow it all on a long trip around Europe. After A-levels in French and Latin came an unsuccessful bid to get into RADA, then a 2 year bilingual secretarial course which she hated. “Something to fall back on in life” her mum had said, but the shear tedium of typing and shorthand bored her to tears. The good thing to come out of the course was it was the first time she’d lived away from the safety net of the vicarage. Freedom and adventure was what she craved and this is what she got while at college sharing a crummy bed-sit by the sea with a couple of other students. She did odd jobs and survived mainly on handouts and scraps from the locals. It was at this time when she lost her virginity to her first boyfriend Rob, and also entered a local bathing beauty contest, which with her bony body and skinny limbs she didn’t win, although the pictures that were taken of her were later used for the cover of The Weymouth Holiday Guide, the first of many magazines that would later feature her in all her glory!
The next chapter in her life started after answering an ad in the Daily Express; “Air Stewardess wanted for British Eagle International Airlines” In 1965 being an air stewardess was considered a glamorous and exciting lifestyle, and she flew to the 4 corners of the world seeing places and faces that many girls her age would only read about. But by 1967 it was time for a change again and there was a new, more exciting career calling her. In the mid of the swinging sixties and the sexual revolution she hooked herself into a bunny suit, hoisted herself onto three-inch stiletto heels and joined the Playboy Club as a croupier. The club had not long opened and to be a bunny was an extremely sought-after and well paid job with a starting salary of £40 a week. She mixed with stars like Sammy Davis Jr, Telly Savalas and Dave Allen. She even started a school for croupiers with her then boyfriend teaching dice, American black jack and roulette. The authority that the management and the Bunny Mother wielded annoyed and frustrated her, so she stayed long enough to save enough money to buy a car and to earn a batch of black marks for not brushing her bunny tail! By this time she was 25 and she went back to flying, followed by a short spell as an assistant mother to 40 “Pets” at the Penthouse Club (Playboys arch rival) and finally, three weeks on the dole. And it was at that point out of desperation out of being out of work and for new challenges, that she answered an ad in the Evening Standard which read “Swimmer wanted for Pyjama Tops at the Windmill Theatre”. The PJ tops was a feeble comedy who’s one unique feature was a real swimming pool incorporated into the set. Across this pool a girl would be required to swim back and forth. On the 22nd July 1970 she was one of 60 girls that Paul Raymond, the strip club king, auditioned for the job (she did a length of breast stroke with her legs crossed)! After the first lot of rehearsals she went to Paul Raymond, apologized for the inconvenience and said she didn’t think this was the job for her. He persuaded her to try it for a week, and after getting support from her parents and friends decided to stick it out. After the opening night Paul Raymond invited all the cast and crew down to his Revue Bar in Soho to celebrate, then later onto Churchill’s restaurant. It was here that Julia had a few too many cocktails and accidently left her bag with all her belongings in. Outside the Windmills stage door the next evening was Paul Raymond standing there with her bag and a bottle of champagne. The courting began and before long they were both involved in a passionate affair which would last 6 years and change both their lives forever. In 1971 she moved in with him, and although she didn’t need to work, she still occasionally filled in as a swimmer at the Pj Tops and also worked in a Knightsbridge sporting club. Paul Raymond’s ever expanding sex empire now included a well known men’s magazine called Men Only. Before its updated launch came up he wanted to invent a female character who would be a regular fixture in the magazine, traveling around the world road-testing men and chronicling her experiences for the readers. “If you want the job you’ll have to phone up the editor and go see him” Paul told Julia. So along she went to the Men Only offices on the Embankment to meet Tony Powell the editor, dressed in blue hot pants and white boots with silver heels. Needless to say she got the job! They now had to come up with a name for this traveling sex starlet. Paul Raymond wanted a name that sounded upper-class, so he chose ‘Fiona’. She chose ‘Richmond’ and ‘Fiona Richmond’ was born. Straight away she disappeared for 5 days to 5 different cities: Barcelona, Copenhagen, Paris, Rome and Amsterdam. Although she didn’t start off writing the articles as it was assumed then that women couldn’t write sexy, the first relaunched Men Only issue that went out in June 1971 (vol 36 #1) was an incredible success, and judging by the hundreds of fan mail that Fiona received it seemed that her first European Report evaluating the prowess of the continental bed-mate was partly to cause for this (later in life she claimed that all the exploits were made up just to titillate the readers, who lapped it all up). The Femme Fatale Fiona Richmond was created. As well as traveling around the world and penning her exploits (which later were written by her and not a ghost writer) she carried on with her theatre work and in 1972 had top billing as Fiona Richmond for the PJ Tops show in Brighton, later transferring to the West End with her still as the main star. Due to the phenomenal success of Men Only, the PJ Tops would have sell out audiences every night. The pervy guys would be there to ogle at her naked curves. The couples would be there to laugh at the saucy humour. Everyone was a winner! More shows followed including ‘Wot no pjs”, “Yes we have pjs and Space in my pjs (see the theatre section). For 2 months In 1974 after her theatre show she’d also host a late night phone in for LBC which was notorious for her saucy advice and risqué (for the time) discussions. The phone-ins produced a huge response and predictably the profanity button which cuts out the heavy breathers and inserts a jolly jingle was used pretty frequently! A trio of saucy films followed, starting with Expose in 1976, then Lets Get Laid and Hardcore in 1977 (see the film section). All the films were financed by Paul Raymond as another vehicle for his then girlfriend. She also found time between her shows, films and travels to pen some erotic stories based on her fictional exploits. With names such as From here to Virginity and The Good the Bad and Beautiful, they were all big sellers although at book signings the queues were always quite empty. It was one thing buying a saucy novel, but to get the writer to sign and dedicate it was a touch too embarrassing for the dirty mac brigade! With the Men Only’s sales going through the roof, especially in the USA, and with her earnings from the stage, her books and films, this made Fiona a wealthy young lady, no longer needing financial support from Paul Raymond she was a financial success in her own right and bought a country town house in Winchester and a London 2 bedroomed mews house in Bayswater (which had at least one mirrored wall to each room)! She also bought land in the Canary Islands and a house for her parents in Cornwall.
After splitting up with Paul Raymond after 6 and a half years she met and fell in love with a regional TV presenter. At the height of her notoriety in December 1975 Fiona appeared on Southern TV. The interviewer James Montgomery quizzed her about marriage. Fiona said “I don’t actually see myself as a housewife…and until now I’ve not wanted to be tied down to one man”. 7 years later after sporadic dating they married and had a child, Tara, in 1985. After marrying she decided to retire from the London scene, hang up her sexy underwear and go live in the country to bring up her daughter. Appearing less and less in the public eye, due to her saucy reputation if a silly newspaper needed a silly or leery story then she would oblige. She occasionally turned up for the Women of the Year award luncheons at the Savoy hotel and at various theatre show opening nights, but that was about it. Fiona now runs two boutique hotels in Hampshire and Grenada with her partner Peter Pilbrow, she leaves behind an incredible legacy and array of fans from her “amazing body” of work…!
- Mark Cox