Obituary: Ann Summers sex shops founder Michael Caborn-Waterfield
'Gentleman adventurer' was creating scandal and sensation long before he founded the Ann Summers sex shops
Published 08/05/2016 | 02:30
Michael 'Dandy Kim' Caborn-Waterfield, who died on Wenesday aged 86, was a colourful character in post-war London, a gentleman adventurer who had a relationship with Diana Dors, smuggled guns into Cuba, served time in a French jail and set up the first Ann Summers sex shop. In 2000 he fled to Dublin hoping to escape his notoriety and taxes, but was eventually outed.
In his memoir Fast and Louche: Confessions of a Sinner (2002), Jeremy Scott described Waterfield as "an amusing, good-looking man", who "seemed to take nothing entirely seriously, including himself. But he shared with Lord Byron a reputation of being dangerous to know."
Whether or not the reputation was justified in Lord Byron's case, it certainly was in Waterfield's.
Michael George Kimberley Caborn-Waterfield was born on New Year's Day 1930, the son of Vivian Conrad George Colnaghi Caborn-Waterfield, a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm who died in 1944. Kim was educated at Cranleigh, from which he ran away aged 16 to a racing stables where he briefly pursued an ambition to become a jockey.
When that did not work out, he became an actor and a trader in black-market nylons. Reputed to have several West End stage-doormen on his payroll, by the late 1940s he had three cars and a flat in St John's Wood.
On New Year's Eve 1948 he was holding court in the Cross Keys pub in Chelsea when he set eyes on the 17-year-old starlet Diana Dors. "I glanced away from my friends to see a boy with the most disturbing eyes that seemed to pierce right through me," she recalled in her 1981 autobiography. "His dark good looks were almost beautiful ... I half-smiled in his direction, but abruptly he turned away as if he hadn't seen me." As he had expected, his lack of interest intrigued her and they became lovers.
The relationship ended after two years, though they remained good friends, and she went on to marry Dennis Hamilton, a door-to-door salesman with whom Waterfield would become involved in a fracas at the Embassy Club in 1955, resulting in a conviction for "insulting behaviour".
In the meantime Waterfield had become the leader of a smart Chelsea set, throwing parties attended by the likes of Lord Lucan, his good looks and natty dress sense (a friend recalled his collection of 25 handmade suits) earning him the nickname "Dandy Kim".
A succession of women fell under his spell. In his memoir Serendipity ... a Life (2012), Peter Watson-Wood recalled how after seducing one such unfortunate - the daughter of an American millionaire - Waterfield had swept her off to Gretna Green for a quick marriage: "The American tycoon had to part with very considerable money in order to rescue his beloved daughter from this unsuitable union. Kim did the decent thing and, with the bank seriously topped up, he told the girl it wouldn't work out after all and she should go back to daddy."
He also went out with the actress Samantha Eggar, though he claimed to have resisted the charms of the ex-wife of Randolph Churchill (née Pamela Digby, later Pamela Harriman, the US ambassador to Paris), whom he described as "a true redhead ... aflame, mop, collar and muffs".
In the mid-1950s he took up with Barbara Warner, daughter of the Hollywood mogul Jack, and in 1956 was found guilty in absentia by a French court of the theft of £23,000 in francs from Warner's home on the French Riviera and sentenced to four years in jail. During the trial Waterfield was described as "seductive, witty, courteous, unscrupulous and the possessor of a criminal record".
During a case which threw up a number of mysteries that remain unresolved, Barbara Warner claimed that Waterfield had forced her to reveal the whereabouts of Warner's safe by threatening that "if I didn't help him to find it, he would tell my father about things that happened the previous year". In 1960, after running guns for the Cuban dictator Batista, opening a water skiing school in Tangiers (from where he claimed to have been spirited back to Britain by the Kray twins after the French authorities tracked him down), Waterfield was eventually extradited to France, but only served 12 months of his sentence.
According to Douglas Thompson in The Hustlers (2007), Jack Warner's lawyer had been informed about "sensitive" documents that Waterfield had stolen along with the cash. So "potentially explosive" were these papers that pressure had been applied "at the highest level", and as a result Waterfield was freed and the order for him to repay the stolen money was rescinded.
After his release Waterfield bought a manor on the Dorset-Wiltshire border and became a keen rider to hounds with the South and West Wilts Hunt. Back in London he returned to the Chelsea social scene, cruising the King's Road in his Bentley and hosting parties frequented by, among others, Stephen Ward, the society osteopath, who turned up with Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler. In 2001 Waterfield would sell a collection of portraits by Ward, who had committed suicide in 1963, including studies of Keeler and a naked Rice-Davies and a pornographic sketch, which he claimed to have bought to protect a friend.
By the late 1960s Waterfield was ready for a new venture. By his own account was given an idea by the society lawyer Lord Goodman, who had been impressed by a sex manual Waterfield had published under the nom de plume Terence Hendrickson and "wondered if I could do the same with goods aimed at the woman's market".
In 1970 he opened the first Ann Summers sex shop near Marble Arch, naming the enterprise after a former girlfriend who was working as manager of his Dorset estate. He felt that his own name and notoriety might be bad for business.
The ex-girlfriend (Annice Summers) agreed to help with the new venture and for 12 months Ann Summers and "her" shops - a riot of multicoloured plastic "massagers", exotic lotions and inflatable partners (puncture repair kit extra) - were a sensation. In the face of horrified opposition from church groups and councils, the "convent-educated" Ann became famous as the standard-bearer for the sexual revolution. In 1971 the London Evening Standard named her Woman of the Year.
But later the same year she resigned, saying that she had become concerned about some of the products sold under her name, as well as the fact that the financial rewards Waterfield had promised had not materialised. She went on to spill the beans - revealing that she had simply been a front person for the enterprise while Waterfield had been the brains. "It was disastrous for the business," Waterfield said. "Until then it was perceived as being naughty-but-nice. Her revelation condemned the Ann Summers shops to seediness." A postal strike did not help, either.
The name was resurrected later that year by the Gold brothers, soft porn and property tycoons who turned it into a high-street chain. Waterfield went on to fall out with the Golds and in 2013 lodged a High Court claim for more than £500,000 in damages, alleging that he had been defamed in Please Let it Stop, the 2008 autobiography of Jacqueline Gold, the chief executive of Ann Summers, who, he claimed, had suggested that he had had an "adulterous relationship" with Princess Margaret and was in the habit of illegally landing his helicopter in Hyde Park.
In 1972 he married Penny Brahms, a model and actress who had co-starred with Joanna Lumley in the 1971 sex comedy Games That Lovers Play, and with whom he had a daughter, although the marriage did not last. In 1976 he proposed a Miss Topless World beauty pageant, which did not, in the end, come off.
A friend recalled that Waterfield, a "restless spirit", had a somewhat cavalier attitude to banks and when he was short of funds had a habit of "evaporating" into thin air. For a time he lived in Australia. In 2000 the Daily Mail reported that he had "eschewed his natural milieu of a flat in Chelsea's Kings Road to pursue the life of a 'tax exile' near Dublin".
"At first," the paper reported, "he denied he was Dandy Kim. But very few 70-year- olds sport shoulder-length white hair, tight jeans, denim shirt, suede boots and cut-glass accents." Later he moved back to London.
His daughter survives him.