The Look of Love is a very different film covering the life of the pornographer Paul Raymond who dies in 2008. his daughter who died from a cocktail of drugs and drink, his wives, other children and his illegitimate son. I was the only person in the cinema as the elderly couple who were present when I arrived had their rickets exchanged for the film they had wanted to see, Love is all you need which was showing at the same time!
Paul Raymond became one of the wealthiest if not the wealthiest individual in the UK although he made his billionaire fortune from property buying up much of Soho when it was full of sleaze, immigrants and eccentrics. It is an area of London I know well because it was also the centre of the Jazz when in the later 1950’s I was introduced to traditional jazz and blues by a colleague at work and visited regular at the weekends, usually Fridays/Saturdays, the Cy Laurie Club which was opposite the Windmill Theatre just around the corner from Piccadilly Circus.
Wikipedia claims that Raymond opened the UK’s first strip club which I am not sure is accurate but his story remains fascinating and I suspect with aspects which we shall never know. His background was Liverpool Derbyshire and Manchester his was prosecuted for avoiding National Service with a fake heart condition and imprisoned. He became a post war spiv and a musician before trying the stage as a fake mind reader. While The Windmill was the centre of nude young women posing without moving in tableau Raymond took the same idea on tour and then presumably with appropriate backing and appropriate influence with the authorities took over a Ballroom in Doric Court Soho where he opened Raymond’s Revue Bar in which he challenged the Lord Chamberlain who licensed all theatre by creating a private club and putting on shows where the nudes moved. Along with the Sunset strip and other clubs with membership in the Soho area he commenced to push the boundaries although performers were not officially allowed to have direct physical contact with the audiences. While he clashed with the authorities from time to time his venue as was the Windmill club became places where comedians often had their start with the best known Peter Sellers but it was also the haunt for others such as personalities such as the actor John Mills.
He was not widely known outside of London until the 1970’s when he relaunched Men Only using Fiona Richmond to publish accounts of her exploits with photos He had a son from an early relationship which he refused to recognise even when he was contacted by the then young adult and the individual was not included in his will.
He lavished affection on his daughter and created a new show to enable the young woman to singer but then ended the show when it drained funds. It is not clear when the daughter commenced to take drugs with drink, a combination which came to end her life prematurely. His marriage to Jean Bradley lasted from 1951 to 1974 when he abandoned her for Fiona Richmond who in turn left him.
Raymond tried to save the Windmill Theatre after it became a sex film theatre and also took over the Whitehall Theatre famous for the Farce and his show pyjamas Tops lasted for five years. He also became involved with the Royalty theatre. He was generous to charities and became initiated into the Grand order of Water Rats, living in a penthouse house near the Ritz Hotel until his death at the age of 82.
I liked the film which was changed during production to ensure it could not be criticised as just a celebration of man’s life and yet most viewers will still come away from the film with a degree of admiration that he was able to accumulate such wealth from the exploitation of the basic human like for seeing naked bodies of each other and appears to have got away with a life of drink, drugs and multiple sexual; experiences. He went much further of course as his performers and his magazines became more explicit to meet the ever increasing appetites of the public. However he is unlikely to have foreseen the way what he started in the UK would develop through the Internet and international crime
I know I have made the point before but back in 1985 when the personal computer and Internet revolution has just commenced I forecast at the Henley senior management course that the public would pay to watch other human beings doing the basics and every day of life and thus it came to pass even more quickly than I anticipated. As with many idea I lacked the know how and the will to turn them into wealth.
One aspect of the film which revealed what I regard as a great truth is that at first Raymond attempted to ensure that his daughter had no involvement with his business and life style sending her to an expensive private school, no doubt with a misguided belief of the kind of other young woman and their approach to experience she would encounter. It was of no surprise to me that having adopted this approach after her singing career failed to take off, the film indicates because of a lack of talent, that he came to reply on her to run his business before it appears this and her own lifestyle became too much for her.
I thought Steve Coogan did well in the role although I did feel he was more Alan Partridge than perhaps the real Paul Raymond. As recent as 2008 the Daily Mail disclosed that Paul’s first wife lived quietly in a Nottinghamshire village with a portrait of her ex husband framed in a toilet seat and who she continued to blame for the death of their daughter. She married a musician Jonathan Hodge.
The main article disclosed that the eldest boy’s mother had been a dancer Noreen 0’Horan who other sources have confirmed she had declined his offer to marry her and which perhaps explains why he had only that one contact when the son was aged 25 years. The media reported that following is death there was a battle involving the children and grand children over the distribution of the estate. A little known fact is that Margaret Thatcher invited him to Downing Street as an example of the successful entrepreneur. And the celebrated Fiona Richmond. The daughter of a Church fo England Vicar? She remarried and created two boutique hotels one in Grenada and the other in Romsey Hampshire. A romantic Place for Lovers the Onion Store Hotel offer accommodation for a minimum of two nights for around £155 a night including breakfast. Credit and debit cards are not accepted.