Larry Claxton Flynt, Jr. (born November 1, 1942) is an American publisher and the president of Larry Flynt Publications (LFP). In 2003, Arena magazine listed him as #1 on the "50 Powerful People in Porn" list.
LFP mainly produces sexually graphic videos and magazines, most notably Hustler. Flynt has fought several prominent legal battles involving the First Amendment, and has unsuccessfully run for public office. He is paralyzed from the waist down due to injuries sustained in a 1978 assassination attempt by Joseph Paul Franklin.
Life and career:
Flynt was born in Lakeville, Magoffin County, Kentucky, the first of three children to 23-year-old Larry Claxton Flynt, Sr. (August 16, 1919 - July 1, 2005), a sharecropper and a World War II veteran, and 17-year-old Edith (née Arnett; August 13, 1925 - March 29, 1982), a homemaker. He had two younger siblings: sister Judy (1947-1951) and brother Jimmy Ray Flynt (born June 20, 1948). His father served in the United States Army in the European Theatre of World War II. Due to his father's absence, Flynt was raised solely by his mother and maternal grandmother for the first three years of his life. Flynt was raised in poverty, and claimed Magoffin County was the poorest county in the nation during the Great Depression. In 1951, Flynt's sister, Judy, died due to leukemia at age four. The death provoked his parents' divorce one year later; Flynt was raised by his mother in Hamlet, Indiana, and his brother, Jimmy, was raised by his maternal grandmother in Magoffin County. Two years later, Flynt returned to live in Magoffin County with his father, because he disliked his mother's new boyfriend.
Flynt attended Salyersville High School (now Magoffin County High School) in the ninth grade. However, he ran away from home and, despite being only 15 years old, joined the United States Army using a counterfeit birth certificate. It was around this time that he developed a passion for the game of poker. Since the United States was at peace, the Army decided to honorably discharge Flynt. He returned to his mother in Indiana and found employment at the Inland Manufacturing Company, an affiliate of General Motors. However, there was a union-led slowdown and he was laid off after only three months. He then returned to his father in Kentucky. For a brief period, he became a bootlegger but stopped when he learned that county deputies were searching for him. After living on his savings for two months, he enlisted in the United States Navy in July 1960. He became a radar operator on the USS Enterprise. He was the operator on duty when the ship was assigned to recover John Glenn's space capsule. He was honorably discharged in July 1964.
In early 1965, Flynt took $1,800 from his savings and bought his mother's Dayton, Ohio bar, the Keewee. He refitted it and was soon making $1,000 a week; he used the profits to buy two other bars. He worked as many as 20 hours a day, taking amphetamines to stay awake. He frequently had to break up fistfights between drunken customers.
Flynt decided to open a new, higher-class bar, which would also be the first in the area to feature nude hostess dancers; he named it the Hustler Club. From 1968 onward, with the help of his brother Jimmy and later his girlfriend Althea Leasure, he opened Hustler Clubs in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Toledo. Soon each club grossed between $260,000 and $520,000 a year. He also acquired the Dayton franchise of a small newspaper called Bachelor's Beat, which he published for two years before selling it. At the same time, he closed a money-losing vending-machine business.
In March 1972, Flynt created the Hustler Newsletter, a four-page, black-and-white publication about his clubs. This item became so popular with his customers that by May 1972, he expanded the Hustler Newsletter to 16 pages, then to 32 pages in August 1973. As a result of the 1973 oil crisis, the American economy went into recession. Revenues of Hustler Clubs declined, and Flynt had to either refinance his debts or declare bankruptcy. He decided to turn the Hustler Newsletter into a sexually explicit magazine with national distribution. He paid the start-up costs of the new magazine by deferring payment of sales taxes his clubs owed on their activities.
In July 1974, the first issue of Hustler was published. Although the first few issues went largely unnoticed, within a year the magazine became highly lucrative and Flynt was able to pay his tax debts. In November 1974, Hustler showed the first "pink-shots," or photos of open vulvas. Flynt had to fight to publish each issue, as many people, including some at his distribution company, found the magazine too explicit and threatened to remove it from the market. Shortly thereafter, Flynt was approached by a paparazzo who had taken nude pictures of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis while she was sunbathing on vacation in 1971. He purchased them for $18,000 and published them in the August 1975 issue. That issue attracted widespread attention, and one million copies were sold within a few days. Now a millionaire, Flynt bought a $375,000 mansion.
On March 6, 1978, during a legal battle related to obscenity in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Flynt and his local lawyer, Gene Reeves, Jr., were shot by a sniper in an ambush near the county courthouse in Lawrenceville. The shooting left Flynt partially paralyzed with permanent spinal cord damage, and in need of a wheelchair. Flynt's injuries caused him constant, excruciating pain, and he was addicted to painkillers until multiple surgeries deadened the affected nerves. He also suffered a stroke caused by one of several overdoses of his analgesic medications. He recovered but has had pronunciation difficulties since.
White supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin confessed to the shootings many years later, claiming he was outraged by an interracial photo shoot in Hustler. Franklin was never brought to trial for the attempted killing of Flynt, who has made statements indicating he believes Franklin's story. Some police officials also concur. Franklin was eventually charged in Missouri with eight counts of murder unrelated to the Flynt shooting, and sentenced to death. In October 2013, Flynt stated that he is opposed to the death penalty and did not want Franklin to be executed. Franklin was executed in Missouri by lethal injection on November 20, 2013.
Flynt has been married five times. He married his fourth wife, Althea, in 1976 and they remained married until her death in 1987. He married his current wife, Elizabeth Berrios, in 1998. He has four daughters and a son.
He claimed to be an evangelical Christian for one year, "converted" in 1977 by evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton, the sister of President Jimmy Carter. He stated that he became "born again" and that he had a vision from God while flying with Stapleton in his jet. He continued to publish his magazine, however, vowing to "hustle for God." He has since declared himself an atheist.
Flynt disowned his eldest daughter, Tonya Flynt-Vega, after she became a Christian anti-pornography activist. In her 1998 book Hustled, she claims that Flynt sexually abused her as a child, often calling her names. Flynt has denied the charges, claiming to have passed a polygraph test and to be in possession of a tape recording of his daughter admitting she made up the accusations for money.
In 1994, Flynt bought a Gulfstream II private jet, which was used in the movie The People vs. Larry Flynt. In 2005, he replaced it with a Gulfstream IV. He currently resides in the Hollywood Hills.
Flynt has mentioned that he has bipolar disorder.
By 1970, he ran eight strip clubs throughout Ohio in Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron and Cleveland.
In July 1974, Flynt first published Hustler as a step forward from the Hustler Newsletter, which was advertising for his businesses. The magazine struggled for the first year, partly because many distributors and wholesalers refused to handle it as its nude photos became increasingly graphic. It targeted working-class men and grew from a shaky start to a peak circulation of around three million (current circulation is below 500,000). The publication of nude paparazzi pictures of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in August 1975 was a major coup. Hustler has often featured more explicit photographs than comparable magazines and has contained depictions of women that some find demeaning, such as a naked woman in a meat grinder or presented as a dog on a leash -- though Flynt later said that the meat grinder image was a criticism of the pornography industry itself.
Flynt created his privately held company Larry Flynt Publications (LFP) in 1976. LFP published several other magazines and also controlled distribution. LFP did not expand beyond pornography until 1986, but later its output included more mainstream work. LFP sold the distribution business, as well as several mainstream magazines, beginning in 1996. LFP started to produce pornographic movies in 1998, through the Hustler Video film studio, that bought VCA Pictures in 2003. In 2014, Flynt stated that his print portfolio made up only 10% of his company's revenue, and predicted the demise of Hustler due to competition from the Internet.
On June 22, 2000, Flynt opened the Hustler Casino, a card room located in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena. After it opened, many observers in the gaming industry speculated that, because of his past legal troubles, Flynt might not be able to get a license to operate a card room. However, the California Gambling Control Commission has confirmed that Flynt is the sole proprietor and gaming licensee of the Hustler Casino.
Other ventures either wholly owned by or licensed by Flynt or LFP, Inc. include the Hustler Clubs and the Hustler Hollywood Store. LFP also publishes Barely Legal, a pornographic magazine featuring young women who have recently turned 18, the minimum age for a pornographic or erotic model.
Flynt has been embroiled in many legal battles regarding the regulation of pornography and free speech within the United States, especially attacking the Miller v. California (1973) obscenity exception to the First Amendment. He was first prosecuted on obscenity and organized crime charges in Cincinnati in 1976 by Simon Leis, who headed a local anti-pornography committee. He was sentenced to seven to 25 years and served six days; the sentence was overturned on a technicality. One argument resulting from this case was reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981. Flynt made an appearance in The People vs. Larry Flynt, playing the judge who sentenced him in that case.
Outraged by a derogatory cartoon published in Hustler in 1976, Kathy Keeton, then girlfriend of Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, filed a libel suit against Flynt in Ohio. Her lawsuit was dismissed because she had missed the deadline under the statute of limitations. She then filed a new lawsuit in New Hampshire, where Hustler's sales were very small. The question of whether she could sue there reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983, with Flynt losing the case. This case is occasionally reviewed today in first-year law school Civil Procedure courses, due to its implications regarding personal jurisdiction over a defendant.
During the proceedings in Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Flynt reportedly shouted "Fuck this court!" and called the justices "nothing but eight assholes and a token cunt" (referring to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor). Chief Justice Warren E. Burger had him arrested for contempt of court, but the charge was later dismissed.
Also in 1983, he leaked an FBI surveillance tape to the media regarding John DeLorean. In the videos, when arresting DeLorean, the FBI is shown asking him whether he would rather defend himself or have "his daughter's head smashed in." During the subsequent trial, Flynt wore an American flag as a diaper and was jailed for six months for desecration of the flag.
In 1988, Flynt won an important Supreme Court decision, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, after being sued by Reverend Jerry Falwell in 1983, over an offensive ad parody in Hustler that suggested that Falwell's first sexual encounter was with his mother in an out-house. Falwell sued Flynt, citing emotional distress caused by the ad. The decision clarified that public figures cannot recover damages for "intentional infliction of emotional distress" based on parodies. After Falwell's death, Flynt stated that despite their differences, he and Falwell had become friends over the years, adding, "I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling."
As a result of a sting operation in April 1998, Flynt was charged with a number of obscenity-related offenses concerning the sale of sex videos to a youth in a Cincinnati adult store he owned. In a plea agreement in 1999, LFP, Inc. (Flynt's corporate holdings group) pleaded guilty to two counts of pandering obscenity and agreed to stop selling adult videos in Cincinnati.
In June 2003, prosecutors in Hamilton County, Ohio, attempted to revive criminal charges of pandering obscene material against Flynt and his brother Jimmy Flynt, charging that they had violated the 1999 agreement. Flynt claimed that he no longer had an interest in the Hustler Shops and that prosecutors had no basis for the lawsuit.
In January 2009, Flynt filed suit against two nephews, Jimmy Flynt II and Dustin Flynt, for the use of his family name in producing pornography. He regarded their pornography to be inferior. He prevailed on the main trademark infringement issue, but lost on invasion of privacy claims.
Flynt was a Democrat when Bill Clinton was president but stated in 2013 that he was "a civil libertarian to the core", though he once attempted a presidential run as a Republican. He is a staunch critic of the Warren Commission and offered $1 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the assassin of John F. Kennedy. He once tried to link the attempt on his own life to the JFK assassination. In 2003, Flynt was a candidate in the recall election of California governor Gray Davis, calling himself a "smut peddler who cares". He finished 7th in a field of 135 candidates.
Flynt has repeatedly weighed in on public debates by trying to expose conservative or Republican politicians with sexual scandals. He did so during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton in 1998, offering $1 million for evidence and publishing the results in The Flynt Report. These publications led to the resignation of incoming House Speaker Bob Livingston. In 2007, Flynt repeated his $1 million offer and also wrote the foreword to Joseph Minton Amann and Tom Breuer's The Brotherhood of Disappearing Pants: A Field Guide to Conservative Sex Scandals, which contained some cases published by Flynt.
In 2003, he also purchased nude photographs of Private Jessica Lynch, who was captured by Iraqi forces, rescued from an Iraqi hospital by US troops and celebrated as a hero by the media. Flynt stated he would never show any of the photographs, calling Lynch a "good kid" who became "a pawn for the government". Flynt has supported activist groups opposed to the war in Iraq in 2004 and 2005, and is also a strong supporter of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.
On September 7, 2012, Larry Flynt offered a $1 million reward for information on Mitt Romney's unreleased tax returns. On September 10, 2012, two full page ads appeared in USA Today and The Washington Post to promote the offer.
On April 30, 2013, Flynt endorsed Mark Sanford in the 2013 special election for South Carolina's 1st congressional district, saying "His open embrace of his mistress in the name of love, breaking his sacred marriage vows, was an act of bravery that has drawn my support."
Works about Flynt:
In 1996, Flynt published his autobiography, An Unseemly Man: My Life as a Pornographer, Pundit, and Social Outcast (ISBN 978-0787111786).
A film, The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), was based on his life which features Woody Harrelson in the title role. Flynt himself made a cameo appearance as an Ohio judge and also a jury member in the court scene of the Jerry Falwell case. The film was directed by Miloš Forman and co-produced by Oliver Stone.
Laura Kipnis' analysis of Hustler magazine in "(Male) Desire and (Female) Disgust: Reading Hustler" was reprinted in Kipnis's Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America (Duke, 1999).
A documentary, available on DVD, Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone, directed by Joan Brooker-Marks was released in 2008.
One Nation Under Sex which documents the colorful sex lives of America's most powerful leaders, was co-written by Larry Flynt and Columbia University history professor David Eisenbach and published in 2011. (ISBN 978-0230105034).
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license