It was in the midst of the Golden Age of Porn that Hustler released its first issue.
In 1974, Americans were exposed to a more explicit side of men's magazines; far more graphic (and admittedly lowbrow) than Playboy and Penthouse, Larry Flynt's little porno mag showed interested parties a look at the more hardcore side of life. With its graphic layouts depicting straight-up penetration, sex toys, and orgies, Hustler gained its credibility through notoriety. Right up our alley, in other words. Here are 10 things you didn't know about Hustler.
1. It all started with a little strip club in Ohio.
After being discharged from the Navy in 1964, Hustler's founder—Larry Flynt—bought his mother's Dayton bar, called The Keewee, for a mere $1,800. The success of the bar led Flynt to open another higher-class joint which featured nude hostess dancers. He named this bar The Hustler Club.
2. Larry Flynt's empire was launched by stolen nudes of Jackie O.
In November 1972, Aristotle Onassis gave 10 photographers info on the former First Lady's whereabouts. Hundreds of color photos were taken of Jackie sunbathing and sold to an Italian magazine and Larry Flynt. After the pics were published, Hustler's sales went from a few thousand copies to over two million.
3. A parody ad about incest led to a lawsuit on censorship, a bizarre friendship, and a movie.
The November 1983 issue of Hustler featured a parody ad for Campari, in which infamous Christian right-winger, Jerry Falwell, recounted a sexual encounter with his mother. Falwell, furious with the ad, sued Flynt and Hustler for $45 million.
A lengthy trial about decency and the First Amendment followed—a psychiatrist was brought in to analyze Falwell's relationship to his mother, and the phrase "Are you going to turn America into the Planet of the Apes?" was literally uttered by a prosecutor. In the end, Falwell was awarded $100,000 in damages—a decision that was reversed in 1988, making Flynt the winner.
In 1997, Flynt and Jerry Falwell appeared on The Larry King Show and spoke in a civil manner about the events. This interaction allowed the two to bury the hatchet and become friends. They exchanged Christmas cards until Falwell's death.
Of course, this whole thing spurred the film The People vs. Larry Flynt.
4. Larry Flynt is kind of a psychopath.
Larry Flynt is one of smut's original founding fathers...but he's also kind of a nut-job. He was married five times, claimed to be an evangelical Christian for a year, regularly took amphetamines during 20-hour workdays, disowned his eldest daughter, and claimed to hear radio signals in his head during his infamous lawsuit with Jerry Falwell.
5. Flynt tried his hand at fashion...sort of.
In November of 1976, Larry Flynt Publications released Chic magazine—which was billed as somewhat of a fashion magazine and aimed at a more upscale clientele than Hustler. In 1984, a Texas woman sued Chic for being misrepresented as a fashion magazine. The other 'zines to come out of LFP weren't as high-class; they included: Huster's Taboo (specializing in fetishistic material), Barely Legal, Asian Fever, Hustler XXX, Hustler's Leg World, and Hustler's Busty Beauties.
6. They've also released non-pornographic content!
Weird, right? RIP Magazine was Larry Flynt's first labia-free magazine produced by his company. It was a music magazine, which specifically covered heavy metal and featured rock journalists Judy Wieder, Mick Wall, and Andy Secher. As for RIP? Well, it died...that's poetic justice, people.
7. Larry Flynt's assassination attempt was spurred by racism.
Everyone knows of Flynt as the pervert in the wheelchair, but how he got into the wheelchair is an interesting story. In 1978, Flynt was gunned-down by white supremacist and serial killer, Joseph Paul Franklin. His reasoning? Franklin was outraged by an interracial photo shoot in Hustler. This country.
8. Hustler employed an artist from prison.
One of Hustler's most successful comic strips (among the many featuring incest, rape, and racism) was called Chester the Molester which was literally about a child molester. The artist, Dwaine B. Tinsley, was eventually incarcerated for—yep—child molestation, but continued producing comic strips for the magazine from his jail cell.
9. This cover caused some commotion.
Regardless of a note on bottom reading: “We will no longer hang women up like pieces of meat,” the public was pretty horrified at this 1978 cover. While this depiction of a woman getting ground up into meat was supposedly intended to be a jab at the pornography industry itself, the 1978 cover caused quite the public outcry, because—you know—sexism and cannibalism.
10. Congress gets Hustler.
One of Flynt's best ongoing jokes is the perpetual mailing of Hustler to all of the offices of Members of the United States Congress. This started somewhere between 1974 and 1983 and has been happening—unbroken—since. No reports on how many members enjoy the free subscription, but Flynt reports: "I felt that they should be informed with what's going on in the rest of the world ... Some of them didn't appreciate it much. I haven't had any plans to quit."