I FESTIVAL ' EPREVIEW :——_ ‘Party organiser’ turned all-purpose celeb and would-be MP,
. Cynthia Payne resides to this day at sunny south London‘s most notorious address. Trevor Johnston, aka Our Brave Boy in Streatham, digs out his luncheon vouchers and heads for an intimate audience at home with Madame Cyn.
lack vinyl basques. Riding crops. Translucent black neglige’es. Fur-trimmed ‘baby doll‘ nightwear. Leather studded manacles. Perhaps even the odd elderly gentleman on a lead. All
this and more I expected to lie in wait for me
as I sauntered through placid suburbia to pay a call on the only house in the avenue
ever to have accepted luncheon vouchers. A
swift buzz on the doorbell was the prelude to a certain interior scuffling before Madame (retired) Cynthia Payne. a vision in leopard skin, ushered me into her conservatory for a ‘personal interview.‘
A couple ofhours later and we were going through her baby photos together. Even these fading snapshots from 30s Bognor Regis showed that our Cyn had always been a bit ofa show-off. ‘Look, there‘s me making a nuisance of myself,‘ she points out as a brazen six-year-old imagines herself Mae West for dad‘s camera. Another shot has the very young Cynthia with short hair slicked back and a Magritte-black pipe thrust into the side of her mouth at a raffish angle. ‘Ooh, dear me.‘ reflects that same little girl 50 or so years on. ‘I look like quite a butch old dyke in that one . . .‘
Sitting under glass, amid a comfy array of
domestic detritus. we both sniggered away. I‘d arrived to find out just how the country‘s most famous ex-madam was to end up telling her life story to the disparate throng of the Edinburgh Fringe, and what exactly it was that you got for your luncheon voucher anyway.
I wasn‘t to be disappointed on either count. Yet instead of the loud, outrageous Cynthia Payne we‘ve all seen grasping the limelight on telly, here was another figure I hadn‘t expected. Wickedly funny. to be sure, but also slightly vulnerable. A warm personality, but beneath it all, a world-weary pragmatist. No stranger to the glare of publicity, but after such a long. strange journey through life, how else is a poor girl to make a living?
“I just had the Telegraph in,‘ she announces, ‘and what I did there was just to give him a preview ofthe show I‘m going to be doing. An Afternoon oflrznocent Cyn. Is that alright?‘ I nestled deeper in the sofa. A private preview? Absolutely fine by me.
And so it began. Occasionally checking her lines in a black ring-binder, our Cyn went through the whole shebang for me. lfyou‘ve seen David Leland‘s movie transcription of the same material in the Emily Lloyd showcase Wish You Were Here and the
rather more lurid Terry Jones-directed Personal Services, or even read the newspapers in Britain over the past ten years. the story is probably not so unfamiliar. A flighty young seaside lass let down by an older man. goes to big city and soon loses her naivety. Learning that there‘s money to be made from milking men‘s hormonal activity. she ends up organising afternoon ‘parties for tired businessmen.‘ Twice busted by the police. she makes a mockery ofour outmoded sex laws. and after eighteen months in prison emerges to have films made about her, thus ensuring new-found celeb status. Which she continues to enjoy, the latest development being a notion to run for parliament at the next election as the Pleasure and Payne Party. And, ofcourse, the aforementioned expedition to the Fringe.
Without stealing too much ofher thunder. she delivers an anecdote with practised expertise. ‘When I got raided here the first time, they sent out 40 police officers.‘ she recalls with a smirk. ‘They broke down the front door and ran right up the stairs. Actually they had to push their way past the queue. cos you know what the English are like about queueing. So they barged their way into my mirror room where there was
“The List9-15 August 1991