Paul Raymond - The King of Soho
There’ll Always Be Sex
Controversial, iconoclastic and provocative, the self-styled ‘King of Soho’, Paul Raymond was once described as ‘the most successful man in modern London who isn’t an aristocrat’. His x-rated career spanned 7 decades, as he helped to make pornography, once only available from under the counters of dog-eared corner shops, mainstream.
‘There’ll always be sex’, he said. ‘Always, always, always’.
In the 1950s, thanks to a loophole in the law, private members clubs in London were almost totally exempt from censorship. In April 1958, Paul Raymond opened The Raymond Revuebar in Soho, located on the corner of Walker’s Court and Brewer Street, promising a dazzling programme of striptease and beautiful girls. The neon display outside became as much a London landmark as the statue of Eros, emblazoned with the legend ‘The World Centre of Erotic Entertainment’.
In 1961, a judge labelled the club “filthy, disgusting and beastly” and imposed a £5000 fine on Paul Raymond for keeping a disorderly house, presumably only adding to the venue’s allure and his success. He moved into publishing, acquiring ‘Men Only’ in 1971 and producing theatrical productions and movies of varying quality. ‘Exposé’, a film he made in 1975 was a menacing sex drama full of blood, gore, surgical gloves and gratuitous lesbian love scenes. The film later enjoyed the distinction of being the only British entry on the infamous “video nasty” list compiled by the Department of Public Prosecutions.
Raymond started buying up huge swathes of Soho during the 1970s after a crackdown on unlicensed sex shops and peep-show premises by the Obscene Publications Squad., By the end of the 1990s, he owned nearly 60 of the 87 acres in the district and had practically cornered the market in legitimate sex-shop outlets.
A recluse in his last years and living in a penthouse next door to the Ritz Hotel, he died of respiratory failure in 2008, age 82, leaving behind an estate once estimated at £650m.