Porn pioneer Larry Flynt lived to see his filthy fantasies transform America

By Jonathon Van Maren

Larry Flynt, one of the last public American porn kings, died at the age of 78 years old of heart failure at his Hollywood Hills home on Wednesday, February 10. A paraplegic since an assassination attempt in 1978, Flynt’s porn conglomerate had been an even cruder imitation of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire — Hustler magazine, Hustler clubs, and several Hustler TV channels, as well as a panoply of other pornographic products. Flynt called himself the “smut peddler who cares,” and throughout his career he poured poison into America’s groundwater in the name of free speech and getting filthy rich.

Flynt ran a string of strip clubs across the American Midwest in the 1960s before launching his Hustler Newsletter in January of 1972, originally a circular about his clubs. Following the model of Playboy without the laughable pretensions of being a gentleman’s magazine, Flynt decided to launch a national porn magazine in July 1974. By November, he was publishing unprecedented pornographic material, including photographs of female genitalia. Over and over again, he ended up in court fighting for the right to publish porn that even Hefner refused to print.

Flynt finally got rich the following year, when he purchased (for $18,000) paparazzi photographs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sunbathing and published them in August of 1975, selling over a million copies within several days as he pandered to the worst instincts of the American public and took their money in exchange for smashing taboos and destroying privacy. Flynt was so flush he managed to buy a mansion with the money he made selling flesh. Whether the women who ended up in Hustler wanted Flynt to put their bodies on display for the paying public was of no consequence.

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