Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Adventures of Larry Flynt

Hillbilly Hustler to Prince of Porn

Book Cover: An Unseemly Man
Book Cover: An Unseemly Man

Larry Flynt's sexual odyssey began when, at the age of nine, he had intercourse with one of his grandmother's chickens. Older boys had told him that the sensation would be similar to being with a woman, but the experience left him unconvinced. Fearing that his grandmother would discover the damaged bird and figure out what he'd done, he wrung its neck and threw it in the creek.

Flynt was born in Lakeville, Kentucky, in 1942. His childhood was marred by poverty, his father's absence while serving in the Army during World War II, then his father's alcoholism when he returned. His parents divorced when Larry was ten, and he moved to Indiana with his mother. At the age of 15, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Army, but because it was peacetime, he was discharged in less than a year. Unable to find a good job, he enlisted in the Navy in 1959 and attended Radar A School. He was eventually assigned to the Combat Information Center aboard the USS Enterprise, America's first nuclear-powered surface warship. It was a plum position, with 95 sailors under his command; Flynt was just shy of his 20th birthday.

Larry Flynt's Hustler Club
Larry Flynt's Hustler Club

After his stint in the Navy, Flynt bought a bar that his mother owned and operated in Dayton, Ohio. He changed the name from the Keewee to the Hillbilly Haven to appeal to the blue-collar workers who had migrated to the factories of Ohio from rural Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. He knew his market and did good business, eventually buying several more bars in the area. When he heard about "go-go bars," which were prospering on the West Coast, he decided to open the first one in the East. Flynt had a feeling the concept would go over well in Dayton. Women in mini-skirts and white go-go boots would dance on the bar, and for $100, a customer could get the girl of his choice to remove her top and show her breasts. He decided to call his first go-go bar the Hustler Club. Between 1968 and 1971, he opened other Hustler Clubs in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, and Toledo.

Former First Lady Jaqueline
Former First Lady Jaqueline "Jackie"
Kennedy Onassis

Hustler magazine, which would become the tent pole of his sex empire, started as a newsletter for his club customers. The newsletter proved to be so popular that Flynt decided to transform it into a glossy magazine. The first issue was published in July 1974. True to Flynt's hillbilly aesthetics, the nude photographs presented in Hustler were raunchy and more graphic than those of its competitors. Unlike the airbrushed, anatomically perfect women in Playboy or the artistically posed models in Penthouse, the women who posed for Hustler were meant to be the kind of girls a man might pick up at one of Flynt's establishments. Flynt wanted his nudes to look just like real one-night stands, displaying frank shots of female genitalia.

The magazine was not an overnight success, but as each succeeding issue became more and more audacious, the audience gradually grew. Then in August 1975, Flynt shocked and outraged the nation when Hustler ran a five-page pictorial of former first lady, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, caught sunbathing nude by paparazzi. Circulation soared, eventually reaching 3 million. With a high cover price, for the time, of $2.25, the hillbilly hustler from the backwoods of Kentucky was now the prince of porn, sitting on a gold mine.

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