Saturday, April 10, 2010

Centrefold of the Month 11: Franny Leigh- April 1972

Here we have Franny (thats Franny) from the fourth ever issue of Paul Raymond's Club International from April 1972.

She's a splendid, darkly exotic-looking girl. Much of the text accompanying the pictures is about how she (purportedly) loves Morocco. Maybe she did, maybe she was part North African. Maybe she just looked North African and the editor thought this would make a good theme. Anyway, she would make an excellent addition to a harem we think.

Her photographs are very much in the Penthouse style with her self-absorbed in her own loveliness and not looking at the viewer.

It could certainly be said, that despite Bob Guccione's claim to have shown girls' labia first in Penthouse Frannie is giving a glimpse of hers in the shot below. Penthouse wouldn't follow suit for well over a year.

The photographs were by Terry Sparks

Agent Triple P likes a girl in a bubble bath

Agent Triple P likes a naked girl with wine too


Paul Raymond (real name Geoffrey Anthony Quinn) was born in Liverpool in 1925. He changed his name when he went into the entertainement business as a mind reader on Clacton Pier with the woman who was to become his wife; who he originally hired to be his "glamourous assistant". She was involved in booking showgirls for travelling variety shows and soon they started to run their own. But by the late Forties/early Fifties these were in decline and some producers livened them up by including nude women. The Lord Chamberlain (who, bizarrely, was responsible for these things in Britain at the time) had ruled that whilst nudes were permissable on stage they weren't allowed to move. This led to strange static tableaux, most famously at the Windmill theatre in London (which Raymond later bought). Raymond followed suit by offering nude tableaux in his shows (the 1951 version was called the Festival of Nudes-it was the year of the Festival of Britain) for which he paid a couple of his dancers an extra 50p a week to pose. Cheekily, he advertised "moving nudes" by putting his otherwise static girls on swings, turntables or even platforms which were winched across the stage.

Paul Raymond with his Revuebar dancers in 1972

However, he later discovered that the Lord Chamberlain's ban did not apply to private clubs, so in April 1958 he opened the Raymond Revuebar in Soho, which put on glamourous stage shows complete with, really moving nude girls, something that hadn't been seen in Britain at that time. The money from this provided the foundation for his property Empire and led to him becoming one of the richest men in Britain. "The richest man in London who isn't an aristocrat" claimed one newspaper. Amazingly, much of the property in central London is still controlled by a small number of old aristocratic families, principally the Duke of Westminster (who Agent Triple P had lunch with once and who is a very nice chap).

How to join the Revuebar

The Revuebar, even more cheekily, had "bunnies" on duty which were precise copies of the ones from the Playboy clubs.

Raymond shows off his new magazine to his "Bunnies"

Furthermore, in 1964, using profits from the Revuebar, he launched a Playboy-type magazine called King. Raymond even named his publishing company Bunny Publications Ltd. Although the first issue appeared in late 1964, the second didn't appear until March 1965.

The second issue of King and the last Raymond was responsible for. Actress Vivienne Ventura on the cover

This was not a success, however, and after the second issue he sold it to an internal team and a group of celebrity investors, including: Peter Sellers, Bryan Forbes, Bob Monkhouse and David Frost. Ironically, in 1968 King was absorbed by Raymond's later publishing arch-rival Mayfair which in turn Raymond acquired it in 1990.

The first issue of Club International fronted up by Francoise Pascal in a pretty racy cover for 1971

In 1971 he bought the venerable old digest-sized magazine Men Only (launched in 1935) and re-launched it as a Penthouse clone. The following year he launched a brand new title, Club International using former Penthouse Pet of the Month Francoise Pascal as its first centrefold and cover girl.

The first issue of Club in the US in 1975

In the early seventies he launched Club and Club International into the US market using, as had Penthouse before him, a lot of material shot for the his UK magazines. Raymond became the only UK based publisher with a top five best-selling men's magazine. In fact Club and Club International would hold the number four and five positions after Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler.

Raymond's daughter and heir to his Empire, Debbie, died in 1992 and after this he became more and more of a recluse. When Raymond died in 2008 he left over £650 million pounds to his granddaughter who has said she will be devoting most of the money to charity.

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