LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Larry Claxton Flynt Jr., a club owner, publisher, founder of “Hustler” magazine, and an outspoken proponent of First Amendment rights, died on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 78.
A cause of death for Flynt was not disclosed, but NPR reported that he died from heart failure.
Flynt, who was born in Kentucky, dropped out of high school when he was 15 and joined the United States Army with a forged birth certificate. After he was honorably discharged, he next joined the United States Navy, where he trained as a radar technician.
After his second stint with Uncle Sam, Flynt opened several successful bars in Ohio before opening a new club that featured nude hostesses which he named the Hustler Club. The club proved to be a hit and he expanded the concept to Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Toledo.
In 1972, he further expanded the brand with the launch of the Hustler Newsletter, which started off as two-page black and white mimeographed publication providing details about his Ohio clubs. When the newsletter proved to be popular, he expanded it to 16 pages and later 32 pages.
The following year, he reconfigured Hustler into an pornographic magazine with national distribution, using deferred sales tax payments from his clubs to underwrite the expansion.
Hustler quickly gained a reputation as the tawdry cousin of other existing pornographic magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse and by 1974, was featuring explicit photographs of women and sexual acts, one of the first magazines in the country to do so.
Flynt courted controversy with the magazine, running features such as the cartoon ‘Chester the Molester’ depicted the allegedly humorous tribulations of a pedophile, or the magazine’s column ‘Asshole of the Month’ which singled out a public figure for derision.
The brand also expanded to encompass a wide range of merchandise such as adult-oriented videos, clothing, magazines and sex toys.
However, Hustler’s explicit content also meant the magazine ran afoul of obscenity laws, leading to numerous court battles in order to continue publication.
It was during one of these court battles in 1978 that Flynt was shot and seriously wounded outside of a courthouse in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Flynt and his attorney Gene Reeves Jr., were targeted by a gunman who shot both men several times from ambush. Flynt’s injuries left him confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down with spinal cord injuries.
Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist and serial killer, later claimed to have been responsible for the shooting, enraged by an interracial photo shoot depicted in Hustler Magazine. Franklin was never charged Flynt’s shooting but was later executed on other charges in 2013. Despite the injuries he sustained in the shooting, Flynt called for clemency for Franklin, stating “that a government that forbids killing among its citizens should not be in the business of killing people itself.”
In 1983, Flynt won a high-profile defamation case brought by Reverend Jerry Falwell over a parody ad in Hustler Magazine. The case, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, went to the Supreme Court who affirmed that public figures cannot sue for damages for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” based on parodies.
In 2003, Flynt, an avowed libertarian, mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Governor of California, running as a “smut peddler who cares” but only managed to earn .2 percent of the vote.
In the early 2000s, Flynt revived his Hustler Club brand and began licensing the club’s name to his magazine’s distributor which opened branded venues in multiple states and countries around the world. The most recent addition to the chain launched in Nashville in 2020.