Larry Flynt, the founder and publisher of Hustler magazine, died on Wednesday from the “recent onset of a sudden illness,” a representative for Flynt Management Group told TheWrap. He was 78.
“He passed quietly in his sleep at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with his wife Liz and daughter Theresa by his side,” the representative said.
Flynt’s Hustler brand was known for its more explicit and crude content in the world of adult entertainment. Hustler magazine’s first issue published in July 1974 and Flynt later created his own publishing company to produce the Hustler magazine, another magazine called Barely Legal, Hustler TV channels and other pornographic videos.
In 1996, Columbia Pictures released “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” a drama about Flynt’s life starring Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love and Edward Norton. Harrelson would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his performance in the film.
Flynt was an outspoken First Amendment supporter, and his magazine was involved in the milestone Hustler Magazine v. Falwell Supreme Court case in 1988 that set the standard for defamation cases involving public figures.
Born in 1942 in Kentucky, Flynt dropped out of school when he was 15 and joined the Army by lying about his age. After he was discharged seven months later, he joined the Navy by once again lying about his age and remained there for five years as a radar operator.
In 1965, Flynt purchased his first bar in Dayton, Ohio, and by 1968, he had made enough money to purchase two more bars and open an adult club with naked dancers that he named the Hustler Club.
After Flynt went on to create the Hustler magazine and other pornographic content, Flynt would repeatedly be sued and court controversy for the crude depictions of women in Hustler magazine’s pages, including the infamous June 1978 Hustler cover that featured a naked woman being put through a meat grinder.
In a 2004 interview with The Independent, Flynt said the more explicit nature of the Hustler brand was meant to contrast how other adult magazines like Playboy and Penthouse approached pornography.
“Playboy and Penthouse,” he said, “were parading their pornography as art, with the air-brushing and the soft lens. I realized that if we became more explicit, we could get a huge piece of this market.”
“I sensed that raw sex was what men wanted,” he added. “And I was right.”
Throughout the years, Flynt became outspoken about the First Amendment and said that his desire to advocate for free speech fomented in 1978, when he was shot by a sniper and left paralyzed from the waist down.
“When I was gunned down in the streets of Georgia and paralyzed, I saw that pretty much as my life being over. I made a calculated decision to spend the rest of my life devoted to expanding the parameters of free speech. Forty + years later, the fight continues,” he tweeted in 2019.