She was the charismatic brothel owner put behind bars for pimping out girls to politicians who enjoyed kinky cross-dressing sex romps but whose incredible life was later immortalised on the silver screen.
Cynthia Payne rose to fame as Madam 'Cyn’ after a scandal in the 1970s and 80s which involved a peer of the realm, a member of the Irish Parliament, barristers and vicars.
She was a woman who rejoiced in the title of Britain’s Best Known Brothel Keeper – for all the wrong reasons.
Having been expelled from a convent school after "talking dirty" she had several part-time jobs before heading to London as a teenager.
But financial difficulties led her down the route of prostitution to pay for her flat and this is where her thought of a brothel came to her.
Before long, she was running “kinky parties for kinky people” at her home in Ambleside Avenue, Streatham in south-west London..
She advertised in contact magazines, but her brothel started attracting some high-flyers and older men who fancied a bit of bondage, whipping, role-playing or straight sex.
Among her reported clients were vicars, barristers, ex-police officers, politicians, a cross-dressing former RAF squadron leader and even a lord.
She charged punters £25, which was exchanged for a “luncheon voucher” – a token that entitled the bearer to have sex with any of the women in the house who agreed and who could then use it as proof of services rendered. Pensioners received a £3 discount.
But police eventually caught wind of it after they were given an anonymous tip-off. Over a 12-day period, 249 men and 50 women were observed by undercover officers entering her house.
Police raided the property and discovered men dressed in lingerie and being spanked. They discovered her clients had paid in lunch vouchers to dress up at a Christmas sex party.
Cynthia was arrested and convicted of running a disorderly house and sentenced to 18 months and fined £1,950 with £2,000 costs.
After appeals, she eventually served four months at Holloway before being released and her story made her infamous, being courted by the media and invited on chat shows
But the fame came back to bite her. While Wish You Were Here with Emily Lloyd was being filmed based on her life, police returned to investigate her activities once more in 1986. At the same time Personal Services starring Julie Walters playing Cynthia was also released.
She was eventually acquitted of controlling nine prostitutes.
Her conviction for running a brothel sparked a national debate about prostitution and led to 30 MPs signing a Commons motion protesting her imprisonment.
Cynthia stood as a candidate for the Payne and Pleasure Party in a by-election at Kensington in July 1988 in a bid to change Britain’s sex laws but gained only 193 votes.
Four years later she tried again in Streatham at the 1992 General Election as a candidate for the Rainbow Dream Ticket and picked up 145 votes.
She later auctioned off some of the artefacts from the London Voucher parties – including a 40 year old Bell and Howell 8 mm projector she used to show blue movies.
Items auctioned off also included a French maid’s outfit.
After the sale Cynthia said: “This belonged to one of my clients who liked to dress up, away from the gaze of his wife.
"He would leave it behind each night, so she didn’t know what he was getting up to.
“It’s all over now and it was all harmless fun. But in 1980 I had to spend four months in Holloway prison, which wasn’t too pleasant.”
Cynthia died back in 2015 aged 82 closing the curtain on quite an incredible life. She left nearly £1.3million in her will leaving everything to her two sons, Darrell Paine and Glen Nunn.
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The bulk of her estate was made up by the value of her home in Streatham and bought for £16,000 in 1974. Land Registry records show it was sold in October 2016 for £1,255,000.
Lancashire businessman Kevin Horkin, who became a close friend after she appeared on his cable TV chat show, said she gave him the power of attorney over her financial affairs in her later life.
Speaking to the Sun back in 2016, he said: “She always said that she was the Freddie Laker of the sex industry, meaning she was at the budget end of it.
“She held parties because she wanted to bring the people she liked together. She did it for the love of it, not money."
One of her last requests was that the pallbearers at her funeral be dressed as policemen. Her wish was granted and her coffin was also attended by women dressed in saucy French maid outfits in a nod to her mischievous tongue-in-cheek personality.
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