Raymond was the colourful wheeler-dealer who made his name – and his money – by bringing soft porn to the UK. And although your Mum might disapprove of how he made his pile, you can’t deny his success. With an estimated fortune of £650m, Raymond died one of the richest men in the UK.
The son of a Liverpool haulage contractor, Raymond started out as an end-of-the-pier vaudeville producer on the lookout for ways to circumvent the law banning naked girls from performing on stage. After experimenting with motionless models, and platforms suspended slightly above the stage, he finally made it big when he realised that the law didn’t apply to private clubs. He opened Raymond’s Revuebar, a members club featuring glitzy stage shows and striptease; it was an instant hit – and soon the membership fees were pouring in.
And he wasn’t finished there. In the 1960s and 1970s he moved into soft-core porn magazines (he has the dubious distinction of being responsible for top-shelf stalwarts like Men Only, Razzle and Escort) and even staged farces in the West End. More significantly, he also bought up vast swathes of Soho in the late 1970s after a police crackdown on dodgy establishments, creating a huge property empire for himself. With his huge fur coat and ostentatious Rolls-Royce, he became almost synonymous with the area.
Sadly his later years weren’t quite so fruitful; after a divorce from his wife and the death of his daughter Debbie, his designated heir (who suffered an accidental drugs overdose in 1992), he became a virtual recluse – he holed up in the Ritz hotel near Green Park, where he could keep a beady eye on his old manor. He even disposed of the Revuebar in 1998 (only to then put his tenant – supposedly a friend of his – out of business by doubling the rent).
In many ways Raymond was a classic British entrepreneur – determined, resourceful, and inventive, with an instinctive feel for his target market. OK, so that target market included a lot of dirty old men in brown macs. But who are we to judge? After all, some of the stuff on TV and in lads’ magazines these days would probably have made Raymond blush back in the 1960s...