On Location: Paddington Bare (part 1)

As I’ve noted several times before in this semi-regular On Location series for the Mary Millington blog, I  really enjoy visiting venues around the UK which boast a certain classic ‘porn pedigree’. What I especially relish is when the current property owners don’t a clue that a notorious British porn movie was once filmed behind their walls in the 1970s.  Subsequent refurbishments over the past three decades might have removed every last trace of sleaze from their premises, but the memory of what was filmed there 35 or 40 years ago still lingers on in the mind of a keen porn researcher…

I’ll admit that back in 2013, when William and Kate emerged from St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington to present their baby, Prince George, to the throng of waiting photographers, one of the first things that came to my mind was how the same building had been used as a exterior location for a Lasse Braun porn film, 1977’s delightfully entitled Tit Friction. For over a century, Paddington has been one of London’s spiritual homes to vice, porn and corruption. Just like Earls Court in the 1970s and 1980s, Paddington was once blighted by a strangely transient population living in bedsits, flats and seedy hotels; all anonymous addresses for petty criminals, racketeers and prostitutes who changed from week-to-week, or sometimes day-to-day. I was recently told by a 1970s’ pornographer that whenever he needed a location for an 8mm porn production he didn’t look to the heart of Soho, instead he simply found an empty flat or hotel room in West London. ‘The rooms were easier to find, cheaper and there were never any questions asked in Paddington,’ he gleefully admitted.

Queens Gardens W2Just a few minutes walk away from St Mary’s Hospital and Paddington Railway Station  is Queens Gardens W2, an elegant square of six-storey Grade II Victorian town houses, laid out around a private central park. It’s uncommonly quiet here, away from the incessant traffic rumble of Praed Street and Craven Road. Most of the perfectly whitewashed houses are single dwellings or duplex apartments now, selling for anywhere between £1.5 and £6 million apiece. However, Queens Gardens wasn’t always so prim and proper. In the 1970s, the area was neglected; many of the buildings had been divided into flats and vice was rampant.

At 26-33 Queens Gardens stood the shabby Julius Caesar Hotel, one of the only hotels in the Paddington/Bayswater district to boast an underground swimming pool and solarium. The hotel was popular with businessmen, working girls and pornographers. One such man was George Harrison Marks, who knew all about wangling good deals from out-of-season hotels. The veteran glamour photographer had previously secured the services of the Weston Manor Hotel just outside Oxford during a chilly October in 1976 to shoot Mary’s breakthrough movie Come Play with Me. George was on friendly terms with several hoteliers (or more accurately, late-night hotel bar staff) throughout London and the home counties – he would happily regale any audience with outlandish tales of his life in the sex industry, until the wee small hours.

Arabian KnightsThroughout the 1970s George had been shooting hardcore loops for a number of European porn producers including Germany’s Charlie Brown (whom he disliked intensely) and the Color Climax Organisation in Denmark. George was suitably vague with me when I asked him about the  business deal he’d had with Color Climax, preferring to ‘forget’ the titles he’d shot for them, although he did admit that the powerful Danish company had paid him exceptionally well.  One of the later pornos he filmed for Color Climax was Arabian Knights, a lavish (by 8mm standards) production about an English businessman who, after sealing a big deal with a wealthy Sheik, gets his choice of buxom beauties from the Arab’s harem.

Arabian Knights frolic

Unfortunately, the budget didn’t stretch to filming in Saudi Arabia, instead it was shot wholly on location around the pool in the basement of the Julius Caesar Hotel. Arabian Knights two days of shooting took place over a particularly cold weekend in January 1979. Marks’ cast of seven top-heavy girls were booked into rooms at the hotel and included cheerfully busty Mancunian Nicky Stanton, with whom the director worked regularly between 1978 and 1980. Arabian Knights is also notable for being the only hardcore movie appearance of brunette model Jada Smith, who had been gracing the pages of David Sullivan’s publications since issue #42 of Whitehouse magazine, first credited as ‘Gail’, before being re-launched as ‘Rosemary England’ just three issues later.

Julius Caesar Hotel

Another unmistakable –  and quite unexpected –  face in the film is well-known character actor Milton Reid (1917-1987) as the Sheik’s bare-chested manservant. For many decades Milton was the ubiquitous presence in over a hundred mainstream British films including Hammer’s Captain Clegg (1962), Carry On Henry (1971) and Return of the Pink Panther (1975). The fact that within the space of a year Reid had graduated from The Spy Who Loved Me to supporting roles in hardcore pornography might seem incongruous, but the actor liked to work, no matter what the production. 

Milton Reid Arabian KnightMarks had known Reid since the late-1960s and the director had already cast him once in Come Play with Me, before shunting him sideways into an extremely explicit trio of Schoolgirl Holiday (shot in London in the spring of 1978 for Color Climax), Arabian Knights and big-boobed lesbian fantasy Bustman’s Holiday (1979), the latter also shot at the Julius Caesar. Milton’s shady involvement in hardcore porn was revealed when the Sunday People ran an exposé about the shooting of Arabian Knights at the hotel, supposedly after a disgruntled staff member tipped off journalists. The subsequent publicity greatly affected Reid’s career and he only worked sporadically afterwards. I have some of his private correspondence in which he bitterly complains of how the tabloid press virtually killed off his  TV and film career overnight. With few acting jobs coming his way, poor Milton upped sticks from Shepherds Bush in 1981 and travelled to India, where he died in relative poverty in the late-1980s, although the exact circumstances of his death remain a mystery.

Julius Caesar restaurant

The Julius Caesar Hotel fared somewhat better than Milton. After falling into decline in the 1980s and 1990s, it has recently enjoyed a multi-£million facelift by the Derby Hotel Group of Barcelona. Now called simply, ‘The Caesar’, this 4-star hotel is one of the most luxurious in Paddington, boasting 140 rooms, a gymnasium, a very large à la carte restaurant and even a lively tapas bar. I have visited the hotel several times over the past 12 months and it is, without question, now a stunningly beautiful venue, although the subterranean swimming pool where Milton, Rosemary and Nicky fondled, frolicked  and fucked 35 years ago is long gone. The room now plays host to wealthy diners politely sipping Louis Roederer champagne and munching on tomato and mozzarella salad.

All words and original photos strictly © Simon Sheridan 2014-2015

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