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Larry Flynt Looks Back at 40 Years of Hustler

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Larry Flynt is so synonymous with adult publishing that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s much more than a name associated with an iconic brand. AVN spoke with Flynt on the occasion of Hustler’s 40th anniversary. Here are some highlights from their interview:

What were your expectations for Hustler when you founded it in terms of how long it would last? Did you have any idea?

I made a calculated decision at that time that if I charged more for my magazines people would pay it, if I were delivering what the readers really wanted. And that was the simple formula that I went forward with and it worked, because my readers wanted it sexual and explicit, and they wanted the humor to be raunchy and barnyard-style, the kind of jokes you tell at work but you don’t tell at social gatherings. Those were the types of jokes people wanted, as well as the cartoons that people wanted to see. I also didn’t want to be pretentious about what I was doing. I felt that Hustler was to be an entertaining magazine; it was to be totally about America. But if you read Playboy at the time, it was more about lifestyle; who made the best martini and what kind of car you could buy, what kind of stereo you could buy.

So, 40 years is a real milestone and an occasion to reflect on both the past and the future. Do you have any plans to slow down yourself or even think about giving up the reins to someone else?

As long as I’m feeling well, I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing.

How do you feel?

I feel great. Other than not being able to walk, I’m in pretty damn good shape.

I have to agree with that, but 40 years is still an opportunity to look at the Hustler legacy, and also your legacy. It’s clear that you loom larger than the publication; you are this larger-than-life figure now. How do you see yourself? Are you a celebrity?

You know, I never think about that. I really don’t. I think I helped a lot of people make it through puberty over the last 40 years.

No doubt. Listen, I’m curious if you think you could do today what you accomplished with Hustler over the last four decades? If you came upon this landscape and you’re the same man you were but it’s today, could you replicate what you did?

It would be difficult, because history really evolves as culture evolves. You know, people look at history as something that happened a long time ago, but a facet of history is the way the culture evolves. For instance, if you look at the adult industry and how it started with the nudist magazines in the 1950s, and then in the ’60s there were the 16mm films and then later on Beta and VHS, and Playboy, Penthouse and then Hustler, it was more or less like watching the adult industry actually evolve.

Do you ever think to yourself, “Boy, I’m glad I was born when I was and that I had this incredible opportunity”? That it was a special time? Or do you think every time is special?

The ’60s, when I grew up, were no doubt a very special time, but I don’t like to pigeonhole ideas. I think that young people can make their way in the same way I made mine. You’ve just got to have the desire to do it. Without desire, you can’t accomplish anything. With desire, you can move mountains.

Do you feel as if you’ve succeeded beyond your wildest dreams in the sense that the goal post of offensiveness has moved so far?

You know, just look at television. The Jon Stewart show [i.e. The Daily Show] would not exist today had Hustler magazine not existed.

Have you always been an optimist?

Always; I think you have to be. If you’re not an optimist, you just tear yourself down. In order to be successful, you have to be an optimist.

I have a question about the media I wanted to ask you. Did you ever think you would see the day when it was the mainstream that created a nationally known porn star? I’m talking about Belle Knox, the Duke student who is now a big name.

Well, before, it was Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick to a certain extent.

Did the mainstream make them stars or did the adult industry?

I think it was both. Go all the way back to Marilyn Chambers. She was the Ivory Snow girl, and then she was propelled into a national thing. I think the mainstream media occasionally like to pick a long shot and turn them into a mainstream phenomenon.

Read the full interview here.

Browse Hustler DVDs here, or stream instantly on VOD.

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