Larry Flynt died yesterday. I was under the impression that he had died years ago but apparently not.
Probably the best thing that ever happened to Larry Flynt is that Woody Harrelson played him in The People vs. Larry Flynt. When most people talk about Larry Flynt, they’re not really talking about Flynt. Instead, they’re talking about Woody Harrelson-as-Larry-Flynt. Harrelson-as-Flynt was a charismatic ne’er-do-well who fought for the 1st amendment and who was redeemed by his love for Althea. The real Larry Flynt was a man with shady past and an extensive criminal record (including once attempting to shoot his own mother). He once argued that rape wasn’t a big deal and his daughters accused him of molesting them.
No one can deny that he was a successful publisher. He knew what men wanted to see and obviously, he knew how to promote himself. Unlike Hugh Hefner, he never pretended to be an intellectual. In 2003, Flynt reportedly purchased nude photographs of Jessica Lynch and then refused to publish them, saying that Lynch was a “good kid” who was being used as a pawn by the government. It’s hard to imagine either Hefner or Bob Guccione doing the same thing.
Today, the idea of people going to monthly magazines for their porn seems quaint. Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler — all of that’s moved to the internet. Would the internet be a different place today is Flynt had never been born? Probably not. If Larry Flynt hadn’t done it first, someone else would have. Sex sells.