A woman who ran a brothel for 14 years has claimed that she was responsible for saving thousands of marriages during her time as a madam. Vivien Walden, 66, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, started in the sex industry as a 17-year-old, when she quit her secretarial job to become a stripper in London.
Three years later in 1969, she started to offer sex to customers in the strip club and quickly became a full-time prostitute.
But unlike many women who have spent years in the business, Vivien only has good memories of her career and says she is proud of her work.
The pensioner is now campaigning to have prostitution legalised in England.
Vivien, who claims she used to deal with hundreds of clients every day at her brothel, including A-List names, never planned to be a sex worker.
Growing up in a Jewish family, her mother had high hopes for her daughter to become an actress.
But after visiting a strip club with colleagues at her 9-5 office job during one lunch break in 1966, she became convinced that lap dancing would be a more glamorous option and spoke to the manager, who hired her on the spot.
A few years later she decided to start selling her body to customers for some extra money on the side.
Vivien was initially a stripper but soon became a prostitute and then a brothel owner
She told MailOnline: ‘You couldn’t get a bigger stage than the ones I was on in Soho.
‘The form of prostitution that follows stripping is being a hostess in clubs -you had to stay in the club for a certain time, make sure they were plied with champagne and then you could make your arrangements with the guy and do your own private thing.’
It was at one of these strip clubs that Vivien met her first husband Billy Walden, who she stayed with until he passed away from cancer in 1987.
She said: ‘From there I met my first husband, Billy Walden, who was a professional footballer and played for West Ham.
‘Then from there, because I’d worked my body anyway, my husband opened clubs [in Manchester] and expected me to work there to earn the maximum amount of money I could, which I did. It made no difference to me.
‘He encouraged me – he always used to say to me that if I was a prostitute I’d be the best in the world.’
While many would see this as a strange relationship, Vivien maintains that she loved working as a prostitute and says it made her feel empowered.
She said: ‘It’s empowering, without a doubt. It gives you the pleasure without feeling the sting.
‘You’re getting fun because nothing was ever done and not enjoyed and you’re getting money.
‘Once they leave, they don’t need to come back and you’ve been well rewarded for the sex you’ve had, which is hopefully pleasurable.
‘Often the girl is worshiped while also being paid for it.’
Over the years that she worked as a prostitute, Vivien claims that numerous famous men used to come and visit brothels she managed, supposedly safe in the knowledge that the women wouldn’t sell the story to the newspapers.
She also claims that a large percentage of men who paid for sex were either married or virgins.
When she finally opened her own brothel called The Toucan in Manchester in 1995, Vivien made a point of catering for all desires and claims she was one of the first businesses in the UK to start offering mature prostitutes.
She said: ‘In my main brothel there were 28 girls. I had Russian girls, Brazilian girls, continental girls, Italian girls and Polish girls.
‘But it wasn’t how it is now. The girls were always vetted. I had to see their passports, had to see that they were clean, all my clubs were run professionally. I was a very good madam.
‘The girls would range in age from 18 years old to women in their 40s. A lot of men prefer mature women, which I was probably the first to bring in.
‘A good-looking, attractive mature woman, who knew her stuff. Nobody else was providing that service but men want that.
‘Younger men and older men want to relate to somebody their age. It isn’t just for sex, it’s everything that goes with it as well.’
In her largest brothel, Vivian would see more than 100 clients coming through the door every day.
In the lobby, they would be offered a menu which showed what services were on offer, along with a list of prices.
The prostitutes paid their rent for the month and then everything they made on top they could take home.
Vivian said: ‘If you’re in a brothel, the price works by sexual acts and there are prices for it, but if you’re a hostess or an escort there’s a set price for your time, no matter what you do.
‘There were prices on a menu that the guys could chose to have but that’s the girl’s personal business when she went into the room.
‘The girls paid the rent for being in there but what they actually earned was none of my business as long as they paid the rent every shift they were on, which was probably hundreds a day.
‘It could go from £50 to up to a few hundred pounds.’
In 2009, Vivien’s career as a madam came to an end when the brothel was raided by police and she was arrested.
She was bailed and appeared in court two years later, where she pleaded guilty to running a brothel, and was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and 150 hours’ community service.
After receiving the sentence, Vivien decided to put her career as a madam behind her and focus on trying to change prostitution law in England, as well as writing a book on her experiences.
She said: ‘It’s so important to legalise prostitution, for so many reasons.
‘If anyone wants to expose themselves, they shouldn’t be doing it on the street to a young girl.
‘Not only that, it also keeps marriages intact for many reasons.
‘For example, we used to have an invalid room in my brothel where guys could be wheeled in if they were invalids and often they were wheeled in by their wives.
‘Often the wife is so harassed, busy and tired with having to care for them that she can’t provide the sex, so it was left to my girls to look after them accordingly.
‘I will help whatever way I can to get it legalised. It’s a humane, wonderful service that can only help people.