Soho in the 70s was the heart of seedy London, teeming with peep shows, strip clubs and porno cinemas. The sexual revolution of the sixties had created a new movement, where sex became cheap and easily acessable. In Soho the cornerstone was the Raymond Revue Bar, owned by Paul Raymond, the King of the flesh trade. Paul Raymond was born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn in Liverpool in 1925, his father was a haulage contractor who abandoned his family when he was just a baby. They moved to Glossup in Derbyshire during the war where he was educated by priests until he was 12. He left school at 15 then at 17 got work in various music halls in beach resorts. In 1947 he bought a mind-reading act of a retiring entertainer for £25, changed his name to the more showbiz sounding Paul Raymond and toured around all the local halls. This was a time when the variety act was in a rapid decline. People had become bored of the same types of shows year in year out, and the young Paul Raymond picked up on this and, noticing a gap in the market, decided to push the boundries of adult entertainment. The anti-obscenity laws at the time dictated that nudes could be seen on stage, but weren’t allowed to move or make any motion, basically looking like clothing store dummys. The enterprising young man decided to go one step further and whilst keeping within the law opened his festival of nudes where the women would appear naked on rotating stages! The show was a phenomenal success with people travelling from all around the country to see what they’ve never been able to see before. Paul had tapped into an audience hungry for more adult entertainment, and he was more than willing to supply the demand. In 1958 Soho was the island of Bohemia and it was here, on Walkers Court that he decided to open his very own Revue Bar. Open 7 nights a week, with 2 shows performed live on stage, usually involving loud music and simulated sex and masturbation with ladies in glitzy costumes it was an instant success, and got around the rules by becoming a members only club therefore allowing the performances to be more risqué. This gamble paid off and Raymond grew rich on club membership fees; by 1965 he had made half a million pounds. Before long he was known nationwide as the King of erotic entertainment. In his private life by now he was married to Jean who was a professional dancer who trained the girls at the Revue Bar. He also had 2 children, Debbie and Howard.
Extending his adult empire he next moved into publishing, starting up a magazine to rival Playboy called KING. Once again he had to work around the strict obscenity laws where the rude bits had to be airbrushed out. You couldn’t show pubic hair, genitals or nipples so there wasn’t much left for the diserning porn lover to enjoy, as the magazine wasn’t bought for its intellectual content or for its car and cigarette advertisements. Soon Paul Raymond jumped ship and went back to his first love, the theatre.
By 1968 theatre censorship had been abolished. There were now sex shows opening up on every dark corner in the West End. Around this time he got hold a play called the Pyjama Tops, a saucy French farce that after adding a blue joke here and some nudity there, he opened to awful reviews but amazing ticket sales. It was with this show that he first laid eyes upon Fiona Richmond (then known simply as Julia Harrison) when she arrived along with 60 other girls on 22nd July 1970 to audition for one of the naked swimmers on stage. She was 25, he was 45 and married, although living apart from his wife. Taking an instant shine to the nubile Fiona, the day after her first performance she was met backstage by him with a bag she’d left the night before in a restaurant the cast were at. Armed with a bottle of champagne they had there first date that night. One thing led to another and before long they were a couple, an open secret around Soho which eventually got back to his wife Jean. They separated soon after and later divorced in 1974 where Jean was awarded £250,000, at that time the highest divorce settlement ever payed out (Paul was at this time one of the richest men in England with a fortune estimated at 40 million). Unsurprisningly Fiona was cited as one of the reasons for the divorce, a fact which did her career and his empire more good than bad! With her as the roving sex reporter in Men Only, a magazine Paul Raymond bought and relaunched with a sexed up image, she became a legend among males the world over. Her profile increased by stunts like riding around the West End naked on a horse (an act which cost her a £20 fine at Bow Street) to promote the re-opening of the Windmill theatre, which from 1964 – 1974 had been a cinema until Paul brought it back to life, opening with the play Lets Get Laid staring John Inman and Fiona. At the same time Paul Raymond was a regular fixture on tv branding himself as the respectable face of pornography, always claiming he made his money out of entertainment, not sex. Together with all the publicity, notoriety, success and money, the sex-pot and the porn-king had become the most famous couple in England.
Both of them worked and lived in the West End and in 1973 moved from the house he rented in Walton Street into an amazing penthouse in Portman Square, the interior designed by Ringo Starr. They flew first class around the world thinking nothing of taking off to Paris for the weekend, or the Caribean to top up the tan, complimented by live-in maids, 24 hr chaffeurs and the best seats in the best restaurants, theres was a life envied and admired by all. Fiona was often seen zipping around Bond Street in her yellow V12 E-Type jag with the notorious number plate FU2, a present from Paul, who would in turn would be seen out in his Rolls Royce with the personalized number plate, PR11.
By 1976 though the cracks in their relationship were starting to increase in size. What with Paul not being the most faithful boyfriend and tired of his constant partying and 24hr lifestyle Fiona decided to split. He later dated another dancer called Diana Cochran who starred in ‘Paul Raymond’s Erotica’, a film shot in and around his Revue bar. He also put her in the show ‘Wot! No Pyjamas’ at the Whitehall theatre, co-starring alongside Fiona Richmond, who didn’t take too well to the young girls lack of theatre proffesionalism, no doubt enhanced by subtle jealousy she may well have felt!
By now the Raymond empire was not only limited to Soho but to an ever expanding publishing empire. Adding new titles all the time, Men Only and Club International were shifting at least half a million copies a month, a huge circulation for adult magazines. They gained respectability by not just focusing on naked women but also having high brow writers writing intelligent articles. Their glossy appearance enabled him to sell them through small newsagents which in turn created the need for the ‘Top Shelf’. By the late 70s however Soho was becoming a lawless place, with criminals demanding protection money from the sex businesses and the police taking bribes to stop them raiding the sex shops. People stopped wanting to live and work in Soho and because of this the property prices crashed. Paul Raymond saw that this could be a valuable asset to always expanding portfolio so decided to buy up Soho street by street. Within a decade his property empire was worth millions.
He never remarried, and spent a lot of the 80s slowly winding down his workload and passing the reigns over to his daughter Debbie. Debbie Raymond was a night person, a club person, a show person who was bought up around her fathers clubs in Soho. She was 13 when her parents split up, and went to live in America for a brief period with her mother. When retuning to London she moved in with her dad and Fiona Richmond, and from 16-26 concentrated less on her career and more on having a good time at her dads expense. By the time she reached 30 in January 1986 though she had decided she wanted to get more involved with the family business and before long she was co-editing Men Only and producing alot of his theatre shows, eager to learn and inherit the business which was now valued at 50 million. This all came to an abrupt end when on November 5th 1992 she was taken to the Royal Free Hospital and died from a drug overdose. She was 36 and left behind 2 daughters. Debbie was the apple of her fathers eye and after her terrible death he became more reclusive, spending most of his time in his Penthouse flat high above Mayfair where he still resides today. In todays day and age with lads mags outselling all the top shelf, and lap dancing clubs springing up in every suburban town, his sex empire has been scaled down a few magazines and websites. Paul Raymond sold the lease of the Revuebar to its artistic director Gerard Simi in 1997, who eventually closed the Raymond Revuebar on the 10th June,2004.
The remainder of his empire has been passed onto his Grandchildren. Paul Raymond was and will always be remembered as one of the most charismatic and successful businessman the UK has ever produced. A giant of the industry, in 50 years as a magazine publisher and impresario, Paul Raymond has brought pornography and sex in Britain out of the seedy backstreets and into the mainstream. That and the fact he made Fiona Richmond a star is something we should all be grateful for!