Ironically Larry Claxton Flynt was born November 1st, 1942, in Lakeville, Kentucky-roughly 175 miles from where we are based in Louisville KY.-who knew? Okay, was Larry Flynt a patriotic warrior for free speech, or was he a depraved misogynist who ruthlessly exploited women for his gain? A savvy businessman who built a publishing empire from scratch, or a shady opportunist who skirted or outright trampled over any boundaries to get what he wanted?
Larry Flynt was complicated at best. He would have been a fascinating interview, for sure, but I won’t get the chance to chat with him. Flynt died in February after decades of health challenges following an assassination attempt on March 6th, 1978.
Yes, he was SO annoying to most people’s sensibilities that even Joseph Paul Franklin, a self-proclaimed militant white supremacist, and serial killer, unsuccessfully attempted to kill Flynt. Why? Franklin claimed many years later he was outraged by an interracial photo in Hustler Magazine. Franklin is shown below.
As an aside, Franklin EVEN tried to kill our recent blog entry of Vernon Jordan during his killing spree from 1977-1980 but also was thankfully unsuccessful.
Flynt is equally famous as a smut peddler and free speech defender, which takes moxie. Here’s how:
Flynt didn’t set out to build a publishing empire. He started his career as a businessman by buying his mother’s bar in Dayton, Ohio. He turned it into a flourishing business, then purchased several more.
Then he decided to launch a new bar called the Hustler Club. His new club featured nude dancing hostesses. The concept took off, and he launched several more clubs in different cities. Below is the earliest cover we could find from October 1972 & the Hustler cover from February 2021-the month and year of Flynt’s passing.
Flynt made perhaps the most pivotal move of his business life: he started a two-page, black and white newsletter for customers of his clubs. The Hustler Newsletter had become so popular that he expanded it to 32 pages within a few months. By the time the recession hit in the mid-70s, the newsletter was poised to launch into a full-fledged magazine with national distribution. When his clubs started foundering, the magazine Hustler took off, and a publishing empire was born.
Flynt was savvy and agile enough to pivot from one enterprise to another when the timing was right. That takes moxie.
Moxie knows no shame, but maybe it should.
Hustler was hardly the first magazine featuring nude women, but Flynt set out to make it one of the raunchiest. While rival publications like Playboy set out to put a highbrow gloss on exploiting women’s sexuality, Hustler reveled in lowbrow, explicit depictions of women.
It’s hard to miss the misogynistic overtones, too. Sadly, regular features suggested or even celebrated rape, masochism, and pedophilia! WTF*%&*%&*%&%*!!!!!!
And like his counterpart Hugh Hefner, Flynt also reveled in exploiting famous women. He paid paparazzi for photos of former first lady Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis sunbathing nude and published them in his magazine. Below is a newspaper clip regarding its incident.
It takes moxie of some sort to expose the naked body of the widow of an assassinated American president, I suppose? I’m not sure I like the use of “moxie” in this context, however. But whatever it is, Flynt had it!
Moxie challenges the powers that be.
Flynt’s content was intended to offend and outrage people, and it certainly did. From Hustler’s inception, Flynt was regularly sued by various people. He was sued and convicted on obscenity charges as well as charges related to desecrating a flag (he wore the U.S. flag to court as a diaper.) God only knows why! Here is a pic below of the same incident.
After publishing a cartoon suggesting Falwell lost his virginity in an outhouse to his mother, Jerry Falwell sued him. However, the court found that Falwell was a public figure and could not recover damages for emotional distress caused by parody. Sadly, in the 21st-Century age of the internet, this cartoon is easily accessible & we have it below for your perusal.
Flynt won that lawsuit and went on to become friends with Falwell! The saga was made into a movie called “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” featuring Woody Harrelson in the title role.
“If you’re not going to offend somebody, you don’t need the first amendment,” Flynt maintained. Instead, Flynt needed cover from the First Amendment to get away with publishing what he did.
While I’m grateful that the First Amendment covers many forms of expression, I’m not too eager to pull back the covers and see just what it is hiding in Flynt’s case; I will leave the rest to your imagination!
How do you think Larry Claxton Flynt will or maybe even WON’T be remembered: freedom fighter, smut peddler, or both?
Larry Flynt’s Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Flynt
Hustler Magazine Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hustler
First Amendment Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution
Joseph Paul Franklin’s Wikipedia Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Paul_Franklin