New film puts pioneer of London's sexy Soho back in spotlight

Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:48pm EDT
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By Edward Baran

LONDON (Reuters) - A new biopic about 1960s British "porn king" Paul Raymond came under fire from critics on Tuesday for coming perilously close to depicting the late strip club-owner, porn publisher and property magnate as a national treasure.

British comedian Steve Coogan stars as the man who turned London's Soho neighborhood into a byword for strip clubs and sex throughout the swinging sixties in "The Look of Love", which premiered in London on Monday to mixed reviews.

Director Michael Winterbottom's film depicts Raymond who fought the authorities in 1958 to set up his Raymond Revuebar, the first London club where naked women could dance.

Raymond expanded his empire into property and pornographic publishing, earning a fortune that made him the richest man in Britain by 1992.

A former colleague, Oscar Owide, manager of Soho's Windmill Table Dancing Club, said Raymond would always be remembered as the forerunner of the strip clubs in Soho, luring sleazy characters, prostitution and earning middle class opprobrium.

Once known as London's sex district, Soho is now the hub of London's media world, home to trendy advertising agencies, exclusive private members' clubs, fashionable shops and a variety of hip bars and restaurants.

"Soho was known in those days to be sleazy but it was never really sleazy. It was sexy and it was rude but it was like a village. It is much more sophisticated now," Owide, 81, told Reuters TV in an interview.

"You still have your back alleys with a few of the naughty clubs but it has changed. There are some beautiful shops now in Soho and hotels being built...It is changing but not for the worse, for the better."   Continued...

Director Michael Winterbottom and actors Anna Friel, Imogen Poots, Steve Coogan and Tamsin Egerton (L-R) pose during a photocall to promote the movie "The Look of Love" at the 63rd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 10, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Peter