Paul Raymond (publisher)

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Paul Raymond (15 November 1925 – 2 March 2008), born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn, was an English publisher, club owner, and real estate developer.[1]

After opening the UK's first strip club, Raymond became very wealthy, buying property on a scale that got him dubbed "King of Soho"[citation needed], and launching Paul Raymond Publications with the soft-porn magazine Men Only, soon followed by Escort, Club International, Mayfair and many other best-selling titles.[1] He was starting to hand over control to his daughter Debbie when she died of an overdose in 1992, after which he became a recluse.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Born and raised in Liverpool, where he attended St. Francis Xavier's College, his family was abandoned by his father, a haulage contractor, when he was five.[2] The outbreak of the Second World War prompted their relocation to Glossop in Derbyshire, where he was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers. Leaving school at 15, he was an office boy for the Manchester Ship Canal before taking up the drums for dance bands.[1] Avoiding imprisonment for evading National Service by feigning a heart condition, he served as a switchboard operator and bandsman. He subsequently dabbled in the black market as a self-confessed spiv selling nylons and petrol coupons.[3] He changed his name when he tried to break into show business as a mind-reader on Clacton pier at the age of 22.[4]

Raymond toured a show featuring nude models as statues who were moved around the stage on podiums;[5] nudes could not move on stage at this time under a ruling from the Lord Chamberlain's Office which controlled what could be shown in the theatre. Raymond opened the Raymond Revuebar strip club as a private club to circumvent the Lord Chamberlain's powers,[5] in the former Doric Ballroom in Soho's Walker's Court in 1958,[6] which was at the time the first British strip club. Within two years, 45,000 members had signed up.[7]

Though originally not quite as seedy as its reputation suggests (the venue was popular with prominent people of the day like actor John Mills and comedian Peter Sellers), Raymond had regular clashes with the authorities for over a decade.[8] In 1961, Raymond was fined £5,000 following a magistrate's decision that permitting members to ring the Ding Dong Girl's bells constituted running an "unruly house".[1] The JP also objected to a performer swallowing a snake in public and described the venue as “filthy, disgusting and beastly”.[3]

He first moved into publishing in 1964 by launching the men's magazine King, but it ceased publication[1] after only two issues.[4] In 1971, he took over the adult title Men Only; his other magazines eventually included Razzle and Mayfair. Among the models featured in his magazines were Fiona Richmond, who became Raymond's girlfriend towards the end of his marriage to Jean Bradley (1951–74).[3]

In 1974, he purchased the lease on the Windmill Cinema and renamed the cinema the Windmill Theatre, a former name of the venue. Other theatres run by Paul Raymond included the Whitehall Theatre, where the sex comedy Pyjama Tops ran for more than five years along with several sequels[3] and the Royalty Theatre.

Raymond diversified beyond pornography and had many millions invested in property and real estate, most notably in Soho from the 1970s onwards,[9] through his company, Soho Estates.[10] Raymond regularly appeared on UK rich lists with an estimated wealth of £650 million by the time of his death, though one associate claimed the estate was worth billions,[11] and Forbes placed Raymond on its list of dollar billionaires.[12] He was though the victim of two attempts at extortion,[13] detailed in Metropolitan Police papers released into the public domain at the end of October 2010. The perpetrators of the second (long thought to have been the IRA), were decorators posing as terrorists who sustained a campaign against him, including a threatened bombing and shooting of Raymond himself.[14]

He began to hand over control of his empire to his daughter Debbie during the early 1990s, until her death in 1992 from a heroin overdose.[6] Raymond also had two sons, with Derry McCarthy (born Darryl) the elder from a relationship prior to his marriage (the woman having rejected Raymond's proposal of marriage).[15] He became estranged from his ex-wife Jean Bradley,[16] who blamed him for their daughter's death, and illegitimate son. Raymond had four recognised grandchildren: Cheyenne and Boston Raymond, from son Howard, and Fawn and India Rose James from daughter Debbie.[17]

Paul Raymond was frequently dubbed by the press as the 'King of Soho'[citation needed]. On January 22, 1967, Paul Raymond was initiated as member number 644 of the Grand Order of Water Rats for his contribution to entertainment in the UK. A recluse in his last years, living in a penthouse near the Ritz Hotel,[7] Paul Raymond died of respiratory failure in 2008 at the age of 82.[18] His granddaughters Fawn and India James stand to inherit his estate once estimated at £650m. Fawn plans to devote herself to charity work.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

A film about the life of Paul Raymond, directed by Michael Winterbottom, was released on 26 April 2013, with Steve Coogan playing Raymond, Anna Friel playing wife Jean and Imogen Poots as daughter Debbie. In addition to a cast of well-known UK talent, a small number of current Paul Raymond Publications' employees and editors appear as extras or in pseudo-cameos. The film's working title, The King of Soho, has been trademarked by one of Raymond's sons, for the title of his own biopic of the late mogul, so the producers of the Winterbottom film decided to change the title.[20] It was released as The Look of Love.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Obituary: Paul Raymond, Daily Telegraph, 3 March 2008
  2. ^ Dennis Barker Obituary: Paul Raymond, The Guardian, 3 March 2008
  3. ^ a b c d Obituary: Paul Raymond, The Times, 3 March 2008
  4. ^ a b The Real Paul Raymond, Channel 4 publicity
  5. ^ a b Jenny Booth "Paul Raymond, porn baron who became 'the King of Soho', is dead", The Times, 3 March 2008
  6. ^ a b Catharine Arnold Review: "Members Only: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond by Paul Willetts", The Observer, 5 September 2010
  7. ^ a b Amol Rajan "Paul Raymond, the king of the Soho sex trade, dies aged 82", The Independent, 4 March 2008
  8. ^ Paul Willetts "Why Paul Raymond, the porn king of Soho, was a hero", Daily Telegraph, 1 September 2010
  9. ^ Simon Sheridan & Pierre Perrone Obituary: Paul Raymond, The Independent, 5 March 2008
  10. ^ Property and porn, Property Week, 3 November 2000
  11. ^ Ben Laurance and Martin Tomkinson "Paul Raymond heirs to clean up in Soho", The Sunday Times, 9 March 2008
  12. ^ #1014 Paul Raymond, Forbes, 5 March 2008
  13. ^ Paul Willetts "Letter: Give us the money – and two tickets to Pyjama Tops", The Guardian, 30 October 2010
  14. ^ Stephen Bates "Paul Raymond and Bob Guccione were threatened with blackmail", The Guardian, 29 October 2010
  15. ^ Kathy Brewis "The real Paul Raymond", The Times, 17 August 2008
  16. ^ Kate Walsh "Son to contest porn baron Paul Raymond's will", The Sunday Times, 4 July 2009
  17. ^ Porn baron Raymond dies aged 82, BBC NEWS, 3 March 2008
  18. ^ Helen Weathers "How my ruthless father tore our family apart, by Paul Raymond's son", Daily Mail, 8 March 2008
  19. ^ Tim Walker, "No Porn for Fawn James as she helps charity", Daily Telegraph, 23 Mar 2010
  20. ^ Steve Coogan porn king biopic to be renamed, BBC NEWS, 6 July 2012
  21. ^ UK Screen review of The Look of Love UK Screen

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]