Larry Claxton Flynt, Jr. (born November 1, 1942) is an American publisher and the head of Larry Flynt Publications (LFP).
LFP mainly produces pornographic videos and magazines, most notably Hustler. The company has an annual turnover of approximately $300 million. Flynt has had several legal battles involving the First Amendment, and has run for public office a number of times. He has bipolar disorder and is paralyzed from the waist down due to injuries sustained from an assassination attempt.
Larry Claxton Flynt was born on November 1, 1942 in Lakeville, Magoffin County
, to Claxton Flynt and Edith (Arnett) Flynt. Flynt's family was destitute, he claims Magoffin County was the poorest in the nation at the time . He has a younger brother named Jimmy Ray Flynt
born June 20, 1948. His father was a soldier and went to fight in the Second World War
, so he was raised by his mother until 1945. In 1952 his parents divorced and he went to live with his mother in Hamlet, Indiana
. His brother Jimmy went to live with his maternal grandmother. After two years spent with his mother he returned to live in Lakeville with his father because he did not get along with his mother's new boyfriend.
Aged nine he had his first sexual experience, which involved violently sexually attacking then killing a chicken, an event which both he and many pundits have identified as being important in shaping his attitudes towards sex and women . During his freshman year he ran away from home and, despite being only 15 years old, he joined the army using a counterfeit birth certificate. It was around this time that he began his passion for the game of poker. During this time the United States was at peace and the army decided to prune the ranks, he was among the ones discharged. He returned to live with his mother and found work at Inland Manufacturing Co, an affiliate of General Motors but there was a union led slowdown and he lost his job after only three months. He returned to live with his father and for a short period became a bootlegger, but had to stop when he learned the sheriff's deputies were looking for him. After living on his savings for a few months he decided to try joining the army again and using his counterfeit birth certificate he successfully enlisted in the Navy. He went on to become a radar operator on the USS Enterprise. He was the operator on duty when the boat was assigned to recover John Glenn's space capsule. He was discharged in July 1964.
In early 1965 he took $1,800 from his savings and bought his mother's Dayton
bar called the Keewee. He refitted it and soon he was making $1,000 a week from it which allowed him to buy two other bars. At that time he was working up to twenty hours a day, taking amphetamines
to help stay awake. All his bars were located in working-class neighborhoods of Dayton
, so he frequently had to intervene to break fights between drunken customers. One time he almost killed a customer with his firearm. This risky situation led him to open a new higher class bar which would be the first in the area to feature naked hostesses who danced; he named it the Hustler Club
. From 1968 onward with the help of his brother Jimmy and his girlfriend Althea Leasure
, he opened Hustler Club
. Soon each one of them earned him between $75,000 and $100,000 each year. He also got the franchise for Dayton
of a small newspaper called "Bachelor's Beat" that he would publish for two years before selling it at the same time that he closed his vending machine business which was losing him a lot of money.
In March 1972 he created the "Hustler Newsletter", a small 4 page black-and-white publication detailing information about his clubs. The new publication was so well received by the customers that by May 1972 it had 16 pages and in August 1973 it consisted of 32 pages. Toward mid-1973 the Arab Oil Embargo
occurred which caused the United States
to sink into recession
. This had a catastrophic impact on the Hustler Club
, as people tightened their spending. Heavily in debt, Flynt had to find financing or he would risk bankruptcy. He decided to turn the "Hustler Newsletter" into a national sexually explicit magazine. To finance the start of the new magazine he decided to use the money he had collected in his Hustler Club
for taxes that he normally must transfer to the government. In July 1974, the first issue of Hustler
was published. Although the first few issues went unnoticed, profits began to skyrocket, allowing him to pay his tax debts. In November 1974, Hustler showed the first "pink-shots", photos of open vaginas
. Flynt had to fight to publish each issue as many people, including his distribution company, found the magazine too sexually explicit and threatened to have it removed from the market. Shortly thereafter, Flynt was approached by a paparazzo
who had nude pictures of former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
taken in 1971 when she was 41 years old. He purchased them for $18,000 and published them in the August 1975 issue. That issue brought widespread attention, and one million copies were sold within a few days. Now a millionaire, he bought a $375,000 (1976 dollars) mansion
During a legal battle (see below
) related to obscenity
in Gwinnett County
, on March 6
, he and his local lawyer
Gene Reeves Jr. were shot in an ambush
near the county courthouse
. White supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin
to the shootings
, claiming he was outraged by an interracial photo shoot
. Franklin, who is currently serving a life sentence
in prison for unrelated murder
charges, has never been brought to trial
for the attempted killing
. Flynt has made statements
indicating he believes Franklin's story, and some law enforcement
officials have the same opinion. There remain skeptics, however, and the issue may never be resolved. Flynt's injuries
left him paralyzed from the waist down, though his lawyer Reeves recovered more fully. The injury caused Flynt intense, constant pain, and he was addicted to painkillers
until multiple surgeries deadened the affected nerves. After the attack, he renounced Christianity
and moved with his wife to a Bel-Air mansion
in Los Angeles
. He currently resides in the Hollywood Hills
He also suffered a stroke caused by one of several overdoses of his painkiller medication; he recovered but has had pronunciation difficulties since.
Flynt has been married five times; his longest marriage was to his fourth wife, Althea
, from 1976 until her death in 1987. He has five children.
He had a one-year flirtation with evangelical Christianity, converted by evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton (sister of President Jimmy Carter) in 1977. He continued to publish his magazine, vowing to "hustle for God", became "born again" and claims he had a vision from God while flying his jet.
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.
Flynt also reportedly has a house on the Caribbean Islands of Antigua and Barbuda neighbouring Eric Clapton's house.
Flynt created his privately held company Larry Flynt Publications (LFP) in 1976. LFP published several other magazines. It also included a distribution business, something that may have angered the Mafia, which traditionally organized the distribution of porn. LFP did not expand beyond pornography until 1986, but later its output included more mainstream work. The distribution business as well as several mainstream magazines were sold beginning in 1996. LFP started to produce pornographic movies in 1998.
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. This speculation proved to be wrong when the California Gambling Control Commission 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 Club, a gentlemen's club, and the Hustler Store, owned by Larry Flynt's brother Jimmy. He also publishes Barely Legal, a pornographic magazine featuring young women who have recently turned 18, the minimum age for a pornographic or erotic model.
In 2001, Larry Flynt stated his net worth as $400 million.
In 1994 Flynt bought a Gulfstream II private jet, that jet was used in the movie The People vs. Larry Flynt. In 2005 he replaced it with a Gulfstream IV.
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
exception to the First Amendment
. He was first prosecuted on obscenity and organized crime charges in Cincinnati, Ohio
in 1976 at the behest of Charles H. Keating Jr.
, 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 went up to the U.S. Supreme Court
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 the state of Ohio. Her lawsuit was eventually dismissed, as she had missed the deadline under the statute of limitations. She then filed a new lawsuit in New Hampshire, where Hustler's sales were, however, very small. The question of whether she could sue there, regardless of the minimal sales, reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983, with Flynt losing the case.
Because of a vulgar outburst by Flynt, 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, 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, during a trial about his refusal to disclose the source of the John DeLorean surveillance tapes potentially embarrassing to the FBI, he wore an American flag as a diaper and was subsequently jailed for six months for desecration of the flag. In the videos, upon arrest, the FBI is shown threatening DeLorean, in effect asking him whether he would like to choose between defending himself or having "his daughter's head smashed in".
Larry Flynt won an important Supreme Court decision, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, in 1988, after being sued by Jerry Falwell in 1983 over an offensive ad parody in Hustler that featured Falwell. The ad 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, but lost in court. The decision clarified that public figures cannot recover damages for, "intentional infliction of emotional distress" based on parodies.
After the death of Falwell, Larry Flynt stated that, despite their differences, they were able to develop a friendship over the years, adding that, "I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling."
In April 1998, he was charged in a sting operation with a number of obscenity related charges concerning the sale of sex videos to a youth in a Cincinnati adult store owned by Flynt. 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, charging that Flynt and his brother had violated the 1999 agreement. Larry Flynt claimed that he no longer had an interest in the Hustler Shops and that prosecutors had no basis for charging him with pandering obscene material.
Criticisms of Larry Flynt
Flynt has been the subject of much criticism, especially from feminists. In a Hustler feature called "Dirty Pool" on January 1983, he depicted a woman being gang-raped on a pool table. A few months after these pictures were published, a woman was gang-raped on a pool table in New Bedford, Mass. Mr. Flynt's response to the crime was to publish a postcard of another nude woman on a pool table, this time with the inscription, "Greetings from New Bedford, Mass. The Portuguese Gang-Rape Capital of America." December 1978, child pornography distribution still being legal under USA law, Hustler published photographs of naked children as young as three-years of age in sex scenes alongside an article, "Children, Sex and Society," advocating an end to age of consent, calling for acceptance of adult-child sex, and legalization of incest. In February 1975 in an article entitled "Adolescent Fantasy" an uncle is photographed sexually with his niece. October 1976 a naked girl scout is photographed soliciting sex in August 1981, a nude young girl, photographed with her dollies, saying to the viewer; "You would be surprised what a 'little girl can do. ..."
Flynt published a recurring cartoon called Chester the Molester
, written by Hustler
editorial cartoon director Dwaine Tinsley, which depicted molestation of children. In May 1984 Tinsley was found guilty of sexually abusing his daughter. Tinsley had contributed 145 Hustler cartoons of violent child kidnapping and rape. Upon his release from prison, Tinsley was rehired at Hustler.
- Flynt is a Democrat and his magazines defend a mixture of liberal and libertarian positions. However, in 1984, he briefly ran for U.S. President as a Republican against Ronald Reagan.
- Flynt's promotion of antiwar causes became a matter of controversy within the Leftist antiwar movement during 2004 and 2005. In 2004, the antiwar activist group Not In Our Name (NION) publicized Flynt's support for one of their campaigns, drawing sharp criticism from feminist activist Aura Bogado, who charged that Leftist leaders were tacitly supporting racism and misogyny by aligning themselves with Flynt. (In addition to NION, Bogado criticized Greg Palast, Amy Goodman, Susie Bright, and Amy Alkon for what she saw as soft-pedaling of Flynt and Hustler, working with Larry Flynt and publishing articles in his magazine.) After being attacked in a series of articles and sexual caricatures in Hustler, Bogado made her criticism public in "Hustling the Left", and the discussion of her article inspired similar criticism of Leftist leaders cooperating with Flynt by feminists such as Nikki Craft and pro-feminist Leftists such as Stan Goff. Shortly after the publication of her article, the Not in Our Name Steering Committee issued a public apology to Bogado, and objected to the treatment of Bogado in Hustler.
- During the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton in 1998, he offered a million dollars for evidence about sexual affairs of Republican lawmakers explaining that "desperate times require desperate measures". He published a magazine about the results, entitled The Flynt Report. His investigations eventually led to the resignation of incoming House speaker Bob Livingston. He also accused Congressman Bob Barr of having committed perjury when testifying about Barr's wife's abortion.
- In June 2007, he placed an ad in the Washington Post offering $1 million for documented stories involving sex with current congressional members or high-ranking government officials. Some of the earlier revelations Flynt dug up continue to see wide circulation, including in the upcoming Nation Books release The Brotherhood of the Disappearing Pants: A Field Guide to Conservative Sex Scandals by Joseph Minton Amann and Tom Breuer, for which Flynt wrote the foreword.
- Flynt was a candidate in 2003 California recall of Governor Gray Davis, calling himself a "smut peddler who cares". He placed 7th in a field of 135 candidates.
- Flynt claims to have purchased "fully nude" photographs of Private First Class Jessica Lynch for $750,000 from soldiers who took the pictures in an Army barracks. Lynch made headlines as a prisoner of war when US troops collected her from an Iraqi hospital. The media and Defense Department focused on her as a "hero" while others such as Flynt have claimed she was used for propaganda purposes of the Defense Department and Bush Administration. Despite being opposed to the Bush White House, Flynt did not release the alleged photographs citing she was a "good kid" who became "a pawn for the government". "Some things are more important than money," he said. "You gotta do the right thing." Many still question whether he even has such photos.
Flynt briefly converted to Christianity under the auspice of Ruth Carter Stapleton
, but has since become an atheist.
Works about Flynt
In 1996, Flynt published his autobiography, An Unseemly Man: My Life as a Pornographer, Pundit, and Social Outcast
A film, The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), was based on his life, starring Woody Harrelson as Flynt, Courtney Love as Althea and Edward Norton as Flynt's attorney Alan Isaacman. 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 analyzes the class politics of Hustler magazine in "(Male) Desire and (Female) Disgust: Reading Hustler" reprinted in Kipnis's Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America (Duke, 1999).
A film, Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone (2007)