Death of Cynthia Payne…
The death of Cynthia Payne this week at the age of eighty two sees the loss of yet another of England’s great eccentrics. A sad death in so much as we will not see her like again, will not smile a knowing smile at the mention of a name and reputation such as hers. Her name and face immediately transport those of us old enough to remember to a time and place when those who had it, got it and good old Cynthia made sure they did.
Britain’s most notorious brothel keeper, ‘Madam Cyn’ shot to fame in 1980 when she was arrested and imprisoned for running a brothel with clients from the Lords, the Clergy and more than a fair share of barristers. The ensuing newspaper headlines and coverage were a thing of beauty, in an era of pin stripes and bowler hats versus blue collar Sun readers it was a glorious ‘Up Yours’ to the establishment who sweated in their collective buckets wondering what ‘Our Cyn’ might come out with.
She was as close to a film character as one could get but in Terry Jones’ 1987 film ‘Personal Services’ Julie Walters portrayal of her sealed her legend. Her eighteen month prison sentence in Holloway was soon reduced to six months and following her release she made numerous appearances on television shows, all desperate to know more about the sordid secrets of our upper class.
Unsurprisingly, she held very liberal views on sex and the business of paying for sexual services. Twice she stood for Parliamentary election with a view to changing the country’s sex laws. In 1988 she stood for the aptly named Payne and Pleasure Party in the Kensington by-election and won four hundred votes before standing for the Rainbow Dream Ticket in the Streatham constituency four years later.
She was clearly of her time, you can see that in any photograph of her. Like Thatcher in that same period, she stood tall in a male dominated world. She saw the most powerful men in society for what they really were and for an unforgettable brief moment in 1980s Britain she and her girls made sure the rest of us knew too.
Cynthia Payne 1932-2015