PDF Members Only: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond

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While nude tableaux had been popular since Queen Victoria's day, it was illegal for the performers to move. The Lord Chamberlain could close down a show if he considered it obscene. Raymond swiftly exploited a loophole in the licensing laws by making his club "members only", although he endured battles with council officials, the police and moral watchdogs throughout his career.

RAYMOND, PAUL

When Raymond opened his Revuebar in , it proved an instant success. At a time when it was fashionable in London to be northern, this middle-class Catholic schoolboy from Glossop reinvented himself as a hard-boiled spiv, gaining credibility with the Krays, Frankie Fraser, Peter Sellers and Diana Dors.

He'd never had it so good. Raymond's genius was to package mainstream pornography as a lifestyle accessory. The self-appointed "king of the keyholes" understood the voyeuristic aspect of male sexuality, providing a titillating, rose-tinted world populated by statuesque strippers with names like Creme De Cocoa and Tempest Storm.

By the time he died he owned most of Soho. But there were lapses of judgment.

Members Only: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond

An attempt to emulate the Bunny club drew the threat of legal action from Hugh Hefner. Raymond sold up to John Aspinall and shamefully left the club as normal one evening, minutes before his entire staff were fired.


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An attempt to cash in on the emerging gay scene with a transvestite revue floundered until it was rescued at the eleventh hour by one of Raymond's proteges — Danny La Rue. Showbusiness disasters make good copy, and Willetts provides a string of anecdotes, such as the lion-taming act that featured in one of Raymond's early national tours.

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This involved two girls posing nude in a lions' cage, while Nikolai the lion-tamer put three elderly big cats through their paces. The routine nearly ended in tragedy at the Nottingham Empire when Rana the lioness lashed out with one paw. With admirable sang-froid, Nikolai stared her down and completed the performance, as his white glove turned crimson and the girls remained motionless on their pedestals in poses of frozen immobility that would have impressed the Lord Chamberlain himself.

Another life-threatening act involved Miss Snake Hips, who performed with a nine-foot-long boa constrictor.

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Book review: Members only. The life and times of Paul Raymond - The Scotsman

When, on her opening night at the Revuebar, the boa got aggressive and started to squeeze, Miss Snake Hips had to be rescued by former heavyweight boxer turned doorman Nosher Powell. One gimmick, which featured naked girls swimming in a giant fish tank, nearly ended in tragedy when a performer passed out after being overcome by chlorine fumes. Raymond emerges as a cold fish whose principal interest was not sex but money.

Physically unprepossessing, he was nevertheless successful with women. For almost forty years, Paul Raymond was one Britain's most scandalous celebrities.

Porn king Paul Raymond's Liverpool schooldays

Best known as the owner of the world famous Raymond Revuebar, he was a successful theatre impresario, property magnate and porn baron. With his pencil moustache, gold jewellery and taste for showgirls, Raymond was both the brash personification of nouveau riche vulgarity and exemplar of the entrepreneurial spirit that enabled a poor boy from Liverpool to become Britain's richest man. This fascinating study is as much a history of London's square mile of vice as an account of one man's life Thoroughly researched and extremely well written, this is an impressive book.

Not since John Dickie's Cosa Nostra have I read anything that exerts such hypnotic fascination for its sometimes repellent subject. Writing about club life-where the traffic of people from high and low life alike is huge and where so many deals are conducted by handshakes-presents great challenges for any historian. Willetts, whose previous books include a biography of the novelist and Soho vivant Julian Maclaren-Ross, has done a magnificent job. The career of Paul Raymond, brilliantly documented in this new biography by Soho chronicler Paul Willetts, is testament to that old adage that nothing sells like sex Willetts's tone of amused detachment towards his subject is pitched just right, making for some truly hilarious passages.

Members Only: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond

A triumph of research and patient industry, full of arresting incident and sub-celebrity walk-ons It documents a fascinating turning point in social history - the transition between grim post-war Britain and the swinging Sixties Web development by Firsty Group. This website requires cookies to provide all of its features. For more information on what data is contained in the cookies, please see our Cookie Notice. To accept cookies from this site, please click the Allow Cookies button below.

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