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XBiz Interviews Larry Flynt: Part 1

XBiz Interviews Larry Flynt: Part 1

October 24, 2004
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" "We had a great run in the late 70s and in the 80s, but I knew at the beginning of the 90s that this new era of technology was coming and that print media would get hurt. So we started diversifying. We opened erotic boutiques, a retail chain, and a lot of other magazines, some of them of non-adult nature, and then we got involved with the Internet." "

A week after California voters chose a movie star over a porn mogul in the historic gubernatorial recall election, XBiz sat down with Larry Flynt in his office, which can only be described as a lavish penthouse palace.

Sponsored By Epoch
XBiz's Lori Z and Brian Evans sit down with legendary porn mogul Larry Flynt for an in-depth Q & A on the future of the adult entertainment industry.
Towering majestically over the traffic-choked boulevards of Beverly Hills, the offices of Larry Flynt Publications are a classic example of true Victorian Era decadence befitting only for a true and enduring porn king.

As XBiz joined Flynt for a chat in his floor-to-ceiling glass office, a team of loyal assistants dodging in and out of nearby offices, it was impossible not to feel reverence for Flynt's 40-year career in the porn industry.

After publishing the first issue of Hustler in 1974 as a spin-off of the Hustler Newsletter, Larry Claxton Flynt, a native Kentuckian, rode a controversial fast track to international notoriety as one of the most outspoken pornographers in history. With more than twenty magazines under his corporate wingspan, a fleet of Hustler-themed websites, strip clubs, a casino, a Hustler retail chain, and an adult video production and distribution company, Flynt reaps in hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, with an estimated net worth estimated in the billions.

Considered a true visionary and a key player in the publishing world, Flynt's Hustler brand name has become world-renowned, and is fast becoming one of the leading forces in emerging technologies for the adult entertainment industry.

Are you the main decision maker for Hustler online?

Well, I still have the final say, but we outsource our Internet business to a company called WebQuest and they do an excellent job. As a matter of fact, since we've been with them our profits have been up about 300 percent. We've been with them for about three years now.

When did you make the decision to hire WebQuest?

We made the decision about four years ago because we had made two attempts on our own. I brought in a highly touted executive from IBM, a female, one that looked good in terms of her being able to handle our websites and Internet presence. But she didn't work out. So we brought in another multi-talented individual and we had problems there too, in terms of creativity, imagery, getting the right design, the right look, being able to interact with other websites. So at that point we decided to give WebQuest a shot and they did a really good job.

How has a solid Internet presence affected your profits?

Dramatically. The last figure we've seen is about $1.3 million per month. And that's just from our website. I know for a fact that its great because I know a lot of my competitors are not doing that well. Even Playboy is not doing that well.

Is your Internet presence more of an accessory to the established business you had going, or did you really go into it for a new revenue stream?

I went into it out of curiosity. The first five years that we did it on our own, we were profitable, but not nearly as profitable as we are now.

How has the adult industry changed since you launched Hustler in 1974?

It has changed dramatically. When we started, VHS and Beta were just coming into being. The only notable adult films that anyone knew were "Deep Throat," "Behind the Green Door," and "Misty Beethoven". That's about it, you know. At the time Hustler launched in June there was no cable television. But today on cable and satellite television you can see material just as explicit as what we were publishing then.

We had a great run in the late 70s and in the 80s, but I knew at the beginning of the 90s that this new era of technology was coming and that print media would get hurt. So we started diversifying. We opened erotic boutiques, a retail chain known as 'Hustler Hollywood,' which is doing phenomenally well. We started a lot of other magazines, some of them of non-adult nature, and in the 90s we got involved with the Internet. Later on we opened a casino just south of here.

I did an interview some time ago in which they asked me where Penthouse went wrong, because they had just filed bankruptcy. It's my feeling that where they went wrong is they did not realize the impact that technology was going to have on print media and they did not diversify. So their circulation continued to erode and the next thing they knew they found themselves in a very bad situation.

How has the Internet changed the industry?

Every few decades there is a revolution. I can't think of anything that you can compare the Internet to other than the automobile. A few years ago Bill Gates wrote a book called, "The Road Ahead". I thought it was very interesting that practically everything he predicted in the book is now coming into fruition. He said the television set and your computer will merge and will become one, and that when we lay in a bed with our remote control, that remote control will also deal with your computer as well as your television set. Now, we haven't quite gotten to that point yet, but we're almost there and it is going to be good for commerce.

With the whole merging of technology, are you excited about the fact that the Internet opened up these new avenues for Hustler?

The Internet excites me for a couple of reasons. Down through history, governments have always controlled people, controlled information. Even during the Victorian Era in the 18th century it was okay for the ruling class to have their leather bound editions of pornography, but not for the man on the street. Today the poor man's art museum has become the adult bookstore and the video store, and as we move into this era of wireless communication, the genie is out of the bottle and the government can no longer control the masses with information.

What do you think of the international adult industry? Is it true that some nations are way ahead of us? Should we look to them as pioneers?

I think you can say right now that America has the monopoly on technology, not that there aren't other countries making a great deal of progress. But I don't think we really have to be concerned about competition from them.

What country do you feel is the next up-and-comer for the adult online community?

Taiwan. Amazing for a very small country. You'd be surprised what you'd see if you went there to visit. Europe has become very astute when it comes to technology too, and I am referring primarily to England, France, and Germany. But I don't think they can lay a claim to the type of revolution that we have experienced in this country.

About Larry Flynt
Born in Magoffin County, Flynt joined the Army in 1958 at the age of fifteen. In 1964 he opened a strip club in Dayton, Ohio, and by 1970 he was running eight additional clubs throughout Columbus, Toledo, Akron, and Cleveland.

In 1974, Flynt published the first edition of Hustler as a step forward from the Hustler Newsletter, which he used as a form of cheap advertising for his businesses. The magazine got off to a shaky start but eventually reached a circulation of around three million. It wasn't long before Flynt was embroiled in many legal battles regarding the regulation of pornography vs. free speech within the United States, in particular the Miller v. California (1973) obscenity exception to the First Amendment.

Charles Keating, who headed a local anti-pornography committee, was the first to prosecute Larry Flynt on obscenity charges and organized crime charges in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1976. Flynt was sentenced to 7-25 years but served only six days. The sentence was overturned on a technicality.

During a similar battle, an assailant shot Flynt and his lawyer outside a courthouse in Lawrenceville, Georgia on March 6, 1978. The white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin is believed to have been the gunman, although he was never apprehended. Flynt's injuries left him paralyzed from the waist down and in chronic pain until surgery in 1983.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of XBiz' Exclusive Interview with Larry Flynt - Sponsored by Epoch


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