An English Madam by Paul Bailey

“I provide a useful service.”

The book An English Madam by Paul Bailey is based on the life of Cynthia Payne–the infamous British Madam who gained a fair amount of notoriety after the police raided her Christmas Party in December 1978. Guests–in various states of undress–were discovered in most of the rooms in the house. Men lined the stairs waiting for bedrooms to become available. Police removed pornographic films with inventive titles along with various leather whips and straps, and these items later appeared in court as evidence against Cynthia Payne–or Madam Cyn as she is also known. Vouchers were also confiscated, for it seems that male guests who paid an entrance fee of twenty five pounds were awarded these vouchers in exchange for alcohol, food, entertainment, and the ‘company’ of a female guest of their choice.

The raid and subsequent trial resulted in a prison sentence for Cynthia, but it also brought her into the headlines. Cynthia’s charming frankness, ready wit, and outspoken attitude towards sex both entertained and shocked those at the trial. Bailey’s book explores Cynthia’s childhood, her difficult teenage years, and her career as a prostitute and a brothel madam. The book plots Cynthia’s course through the many relationships she maintained with men–including the highly unusual one she enjoyed with retired RAF Squadron Leader Mitchell Smith. One chapter is devoted to the various would-be admirers who applied for posts in her household. Through it all, Payne frankly admits her past with a refreshing and unabashed candor.

There are two films about the life of Cynthia Payne. The excellent Wish You Were Here focuses on her childhood and teenage years. The second film Personal Services details Cynthia’s adult life up until the raid conducted at a Christmas Party. Many of the characters in An English Madam appear in Personal Services. For further reading, Sexplicitly Yours: The Trial of Cynthia Payne by Gloria Walker and Lynne Daly details the trial resulting from a 1986 raid on yet another of Cynthia’s parties. This newsworthy party was ostensibly thrown to celebrate the filming of Personal Services.

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