Fiona Richmond: From raunchy Queen of Soho to frightfully posh sculptress

Fiona RichmondFiona Richmond, model and actress, pictured at her flat in London in 1976 (Image: Reveille/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Nothing much actually happened on stage, or on film, just a lot of flashing, dashing about and being caught in bedrooms with nothing on, but it was considered fairly shocking at the time to see a naked woman moving about. Before the Sixties, women could take their clothes off on stage, but move? I should think not. Fiona, it turned out, was a vicar's daughter, well brought up and well spoken. That was one reason the general public found her so fascinating. She faded from the scene and has not been in the papers these last 30 years.

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But in 2018, when I was on holiday in Grenada in the West Indies, staying at the Calabash hotel, its owner Leo Garbutt invited me for lunch one day to meet two old friends of his, Julia Harrison and her partner Peter.

They were both frightfully English and pukka. Peter, tall and handsome, went to Shrewsbury and Oxford and has the charm, looks and voice of Michael Palin.

Julia, a sculptress, was equally well bred. She was 71, but looked much younger; slim and attractive, amusing and lively. It was only at the end of the lunch that Leo happened to mention that in a previous life Julia had been on the stage - under the name Fiona Richmond. I could 1 not believe it.

But then, I had never met Fiona Richmond in the flesh, which would have been quite easy if I'd attended any of her shows at the Whitehall Theatre.

A few months ago, I went back to Grenada and this time I arranged to watch Julia work in her studio and chat about her previous life.

Julia Rosamund Harrison was born in 1945 in Norfolk where her father was the local vicar. The rectory where she grew up had been the childhood home of Lord Nelson and was enormous, with 20 bedrooms. Fiona went to the local comprehensive, and aged 16, in a hint of things to come, she was elected Hostess of the Year at a youth club.

Her job was to tour local youth clubs, be charming and stagger about in the highest heels her mother would allow.

Fiona RichmondThe general public found Fiona fascinating (Image: Andy Beaton /Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

In the sixth form she applied for a holiday job as a nanny to an actress who turned out to be Diane Cilento, then the girlfriend - later wife - of a young actor called Sean Connery.

Sean was rather taken by Julia and later sent her two tickets for the premiere of his first Bond film, Dr No.

"I wanted to move to Spain as their nanny but Sean insisted I should finish my schooling," she recalled. "He took me to the station, put me on the train home, kissed me goodbye and I nearly passed out. Next day I was back at school studying for my A-levels."

Julia decided to skip university and, having failed to get into RADA or any sort of acting college, she became an air hostess for British Caledonia and BOAC. Then a friend suggested she should apply for a job at the Playboy Club.

"This was in 1967 and being a Bunny was considered a sought-after, well-paid job, earning £40 a week," she told me.

"I applied as a joke, not expecting to get it. I am quite shy. I found I could easily take my clothes off on stage, but I hate going into a room full of strangers. I passed their tests and they decided I should be a croupier, even though I only got eight per cent in my mock maths exam."

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Fiona with Paul RaymondFiona with King of Soho Paul Raymond (Image: PA/PA Archive/PA Images)

Julia served two years as a Bunny - and kept the uniform, which still fits. "It was a laugh, and the girls were good fun but I hated being bossed around, being treated like a school kid, and wearing ridiculous clothes in which you couldn't sit down.

"You had to shave your legs and pad your bra and wear a boned costume two sizes too small. Glamour is always either uncomfortable or painful.

"For the girls, it was more like a Hitler Youth camp than a fun palace."

In 1970, she was on the dole when she saw an advert for the Whitehall Theatre. A swimmer was needed for a show called Pyjama Tops. She was interviewed by Paul Raymond, then becoming known as the King of Soho. Born Geoffrey Quinn in Liverpool, he came to London where he bought strip clubs, theatres and men's magazines.

Julia was told the swimming had to be in the nude, but it amused her rather than appalled her. And it was a West End

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