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Tuesday, March 04, 2008 

In praise of.... Paul Raymond.

For those of us unlucky enough to not grow up with every possible variety of pornography available at just a click of the mouse, your first real encounter with the female form in all its glory, at least not in the embarrassing clutches of other members of the family via the goggle box, tended to be with one of the now almost archaic top-shelf publications, and often one published by Paul Raymond.

Whether purloined from older brothers, a father or even from the almost cliched woodland which for some reason never failed to occasionally contain a copy of Britain's most restricted literature, one of these magazines for the hormonally-challenged teenager was the equivalent of gold dust. Although Raymond also published the less salubrious likes of Razzle and Escort, it was the higher-class mags of Club International, Men Only and Mayfair that were the ones truly to savour. Up until recently, and with the internet almost certainly to blame, as well as perhaps the diminishing concern due to the lads' mags which are almost the equivalent of the porn of yesteryear, these magazines didn't really go in for the gynaecological excesses that the state-side Hustler did and does; rather, they were usually slightly more explicit versions of Playboy, featuring the same luscious and beautiful women that doubtless did and always have done more hardcore stuff on the side, but whom in those pages were simply softcore models for hire and who did very well out of it indeed, one suspects. Alongside them were the more ludicrous "readers' stories" of their sexual exploits, with Alastair Campbell since outed as one of those who supplied their wares when desperate for petty cash, but they tended to be ignored when compared to the glossy finish of the photographs which the magazine was originally purchased and loved for. They were, and always have been, I would argue, relatively harmless, unlike the more hardcore pornography of today which tends to both make the young that absorb it more disappointed once they actually get into a sexual relationship, and also to believe that their every sexual whim, catered for in such pornography, is their right to be given to them. I might be romanticising it slightly, but it does now almost seem completely tame by comparison.

Raymond, unlike one of his up until recent rivals in Richard "Dirty" Desmond, didn't have any aspirations towards expanding his empire into newspapers, hopefully because he realised or believed that the two shouldn't mix. He instead invested in property in Soho, kept his ground-breaking Revue bar which was almost always advertised on the back page of the magazines open until 1997, and kept himself to himself after the tragic accidental drug overdose of his daughter in 1992. Accounts seem to differ over whether he was a wideboy who flaunted his wealth with those that suggest that he was far more austere, even shy, and unlike Hefner, whose relationships with his "girls" are well-known and others in porn such as Al Goldstein who have routinely boasted about how many of those they've employed that they've slept with, his ex-wife seemed to suggest she didn't believe that he had sex with any of the girls who accompanied him when he went out. Raymond by most accounts seems to have been an almost model businessman, albeit one involved in an industry which is always going to be far more controversial than say, bean counting.

With the online revolution ever accelerating, it seems unlikely that a figure such as Raymond could possibly rise to the same heights as he did by relying on softcore and traditional methods. Although it doesn't use the latter, the likes of perhaps Suicide Girls, which revolve around empowerment of those that would never have featured in Raymond's magazines, except perhaps in the readers' wives sections, and is defiantly against the more extreme sections of the online world, is probably the closest reflection that we're ever going to get.

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