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Monty Python's Terry Jones leads tributes at funeral of Cynthia Payne

Published 09/12/2015

An actor dressed as policemen takes a selfie before carrying the coffin of Cynthia Payne to her funeral service
An actor dressed as policemen takes a selfie before carrying the coffin of Cynthia Payne to her funeral service

Monty Python star Terry Jones led tributes to "wonderful English eccentric" Cynthia Payne, Britain's best known madam, as friends and family gathered for her funeral.

Payne, nicknamed Madame Cyn, became famous in the 1970s and 80s after police raided a sex party at her home to find elderly men using luncheon vouchers to pay for lewd entertainment.

The former brothel keeper, who claimed vicars, MPs and lawyers were among those who considered her "the best hostess in London", died last month at the age of 82.

Men wearing police uniforms and women dressed in French maid outfits were among the congregation at her funeral in Streatham, south London, where one of the floral tributes spelled the word "sex".

Mourners, including writer David Leland and Monster Raving Loony Party leader Alan "Howling Laud" Hope, were asked to wear colourful clothing for the service, which saw the coffin enter the crematorium to the song I Am What I Am.

A brass band which accompanied the cortege played Bring Me Sunshine by Morecambe and Wise as the hearse was led through the graveyard for the burial.

Jones, who directed the 1987 film Personal Services starring Julie Walters, which was inspired by Payne's life, said: "She was a lovely girl and a big presence. She lived life to the full."

Leland, who wrote Personal Services, told the congregation he attended one of Payne's parties and found a sign in the bathroom which read: "No f****** in the bathroom. Last time the sink came off the wall."

He recalled another occasion when he went to make a cup of tea in her kitchen and found a lawyer called Lionel on the floor wearing a French maid uniform and eating cat food.

Mr Leland said: "Whatever it was you wanted, Cynthia was there to accommodate. She may have said 'You silly bugger', but she never passed judgment. That earned her an enormous amount of respect from people.

"People liked her and people loved her."

Phil Walder, of the British Humanist Association, who conducted the service, described Payne as the "original Spice Girl".

"She was promoting girl power long before that band got together," he said. "Anyone who knew anything about Cynthia's life knew she made lots of people very happy," which prompted laughter from the congregation.

He said Payne was a "precocious girl" who was expelled from a convent school. Her mother died when she was 10 and her father worked away on cruises.

Recounting stories from her life, Mr Walder said Payne was introduced to Cherie Blair at an event at 10 Downing Street and met Shirley Bassey in Cannes. She also hung up on George Michael, whose father wanted to meet her, because she did not know who the singer was, Mr Walder said.

Payne's former agent Jenne Casarotto said: "I had huge fun with Cynthia. She was a wonderful English eccentric. They really are a dying breed. She was a force of nature."

Payne stood trial in 1980 and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, reduced to six months and a fine on appeal, for running a brothel.

As well as inspiring Personal Services, her life was immortalised in the film Wish You Were Here, which launched the career of actress Emily Lloyd.

She leaves two sons, Glenn and Darrell, and five grandchildren.

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