Flynt made his fortune with Hustler magazine and associated businesses, but he made a name for himself by challenging cultural norms. He unapologetically called himself “a pornographer.” Injured by an assailant’s bullet in 1978, Flynt became known for his gold wheelchairs. That shooter said he was provoked by interracial photo spreads in Hustler.
In 1988, Flynt won a the landmark US Supreme Court case, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, after having been sued for $45 million by Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. for a crude parody of a liquor ad that appeared in Hustler. With backwoods humor, it intimated Falwell had been involved sexually with his mother in an outhouse.
After losing multiple appeals, Flynt won a unanimous ruling from the High Court. The court declared that public figures cannot recover damages for “infliction of emotional distress” based on parodies. The historic First Amendment decision held that the interest in protecting free speech surpasses the interest in protecting public figures’ emotions and reputations.
Possibly the ultimate irony of the case is that the Hustler publisher and Falwell Sr. became friends before the latter’s death.
In 1996, Columbia Pictures released The People vs. Larry Flynt with Woody Harrelson in the title role. Harrelson’s performance earned him an Academy Award nomination. Director Milos Forman also got a nod from the Academy.
As Chairman of the Hustler brand of properties, Flynt built an empire known as LFP Publishing Group, including Hustler magazine; LFP Broadcasting, with Hustler TV services available on channels and VOD platforms in over 55 countries.
Flynt was born in Lakeville, Magoffin County, Kentucky on November 1, 1942. From 1960-64, he served in the U.S. Navy and was a radar operator on the USS Enterprise when the aircraft carrier recovered astronaut John Glenn’s space capsule.
In March 1972, Flynt created the Hustler Newsletter, a four-page, black-and-white publication with news about his clubs. It became so popular that he soon expanded it to 32 pages and then decided to turn it into a magazine with national distribution. In July 1974, the first issue of Hustler was published. In 1976, Flynt created Larry Flynt Publications.
The magazine was an unapologetically crude challenger to the likes of Playboy, with racier photo spreads and raunchy cartoons. Flynt placed an image of a woman being put through a meat grinder on the cover of the June 1978 Hustler, creating an instant controversy. Gloria Steinem called him a “violent, sadistic pornographer.”
On March 6, 1978, during a trial related to an obscenity charge in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Flynt and his attorney were shot by a sniper near the county courthouse in Lawrenceville. The shooting left Flynt partially paralyzed. He later suffered a stroke after becoming addicted to pain killers.
He was a candidate in the race to replace recalled California Governor Gray Davis in 1993, but lost.
Flynt was famous for offering rewards for dirt on politicians whom he disliked. In 2017, he took out a full-page ad offering $10 million for information that would lead to the impeachment of Donald Trump.
He had run similar ads in the past, offering a million-dollar reward for information on Mitt Romney’s tax returns as well as evidence that members of Congress and government officials had illicit sexual encounters during the Clinton-Lewsinsky scandal. One of Flynt’s ads apparently led to the resignation of Republican Congressman Bob Livingston in 1998 after he admitted to having an extramarital affair.
Hustler once ran paparazzi photos of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sunbathing topless. “I wanted to offend everyone on an equal-opportunity basis,” Flynt said in his 1996 autobiography.
According to his official web site, Flynt has been married five times and has five children. He and his current wife, Elizabeth, lived in the Hollywood Hills.
TMZ first reported the news.