Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Look of Love.

Paul Raymond.

Soho is an area in London’s West End that is quite nostalgic for me. In the early summer of 1965 exams had just finished and talk was of leaving school and getting out into the world to earn your living, in a climate of full employment. But before friends parted company for what was probable the last time it was decided to arrange a day out in what was the most sleaziest part of our capital city, an area that attracted allsorts even a ‘no it all’ group of schoolboys. In this truly vibrant area you would encounter young, and not so young, women hanging out of windows and doorway’s attempting to entice a randy group of young schoolboys to part with their pocket money, these wonderful ladies were kindly offering to do what they could to improve our minimal sexual experiences! Needless to say these kind offers were not taken up. But after being offered a group discount, well it was the middle of the afternoon; it was decided to visit what was fondly known in the parlance of the day as a strip joint.  It consisted of a small stage, some rows of uncomfortable chairs, mainly frequented by some dubious looking gentleman in cloth caps and long overcoats, and a small unlicensed tea and coffee bar at the rear where we sat with the girls while they waited to take there turn on the stage and remove a good portion of their skimpy garments to what seemed an endless recording of Roger Millers King of the Road. Incidentally you will not be surprised to learn that we had a great time, not because we got to look at naked ladies but it was the terrific banter we had with the girls who turned out to be not much older than we were. When the first stripper returned to the stage most of us took our leave, not wanting too much of a good thing! In December of the same year on a night out in Leicester Square, for a few drinks and something to eat, I met my future wife.

Jean dances with her ex-husband at Debbie's wedding.
It was this part of London that made Liverpool born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn, better known as Paul Raymond, a multi-millionaire and according to Michael Winterbottom latest movie The Look of Love (2013) he had a great deal of fun accumulating a vast fortune believed to be in the region of 650 million pounds. The film begins around 1958, when Raymond opened his first private members club, Raymond Revuebar Strip Club, in a former ballroom in Soho’s Walkers Court and ends with a family tragedy in 1992.  It tackles his marriage breakdown to Jean Bradley and his subsequent relationship with the infamous British sex symbol Fiona Richmond. We learn how he built up his glamour empire, Paul Raymond Publications and his Soho real estate portfolio. But the overriding subject of the film is Raymond’s profoundly loving relationship with his daughter Debbie to the detriment of a relationship with either his two sons. Winterbottom shows this in some detail and with great affection.

Paul snorts out his business empire with his daughter.

It’s a funny and highly entertaining movie that does not leave a lot to the imagination but does it inoffensively. Reflecting an era that had oodles of style it gets the detail just right and has a great soundtrack that echo’s the sounds of the day. Although Raymond was a complete sod, Steve Coogan’s wonderful portrayal made him into a human character, someone you help having a sneaking admiration for. As well as Coogan the film has a great cast including Anna Friel as Jean, Imogen Poots as Debbie and Tamsin Egerton as Fiona Richmond.

Fiona Richmond.

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