Larry's Point Woman

David Houston
Liz Flynt looks like a small China doll behind an ornate wooden desk on the top floor of the Larry Flynt Publications' building in Beverly Hills, Calif. She is polite, even sweet. Handing a visitor a bottle of boutique-style Voss spring water, she confides, "It's what Mr. Flynt drinks."

That's her mantra. Whatever other hats she wears inside LFP, Liz Flynt is first and foremost Larry Flynt's cheerleader-in-chief.

"When Larry started, he was just a talent promoter," she said. "So, what you see here," she gestures with her manicured hands across the vast office and out toward the Los Angeles landscape and Hollywood sign in the distant hills, "is a tribute to him. He did all of this. And he continues to be very much involved. Mr. Flynt runs this company."

For a few years now, a debate has simmered about just how much influence Liz Flynt wields over porn's biggest and most recognizable company. And while some people are convinced that she is just another example of Beverly Hills nepotism, Flynt clearly admires her.

"Her impact on what we do is huge," he said in a telephone interview.

LFP Resurgence
LFP, which a few years ago started to look like the Big Blue of porn, outdated and outmaneuvered by smaller, more agile upstarts, has undergone a resurgence. "Hustler weathered a lot of storms," Liz admits.

But she says last year was the company's best ever, although she declined to provide numbers.

"Change is important," she said. "If you don't change, you'll be left behind."

The company now has 20 publications, including its flagship, Hustler, and is expanding its Internet arm, Flynt Digital. There are casinos, clubs and retail stores. In October, the company unveiled its first three "contract girls" as an answer to Vivid Entertainment's Vivid Girls. Hustler contract girls will appear in magazines and movies and make personal appearances.

As LFP's vice president of administration, Liz Flynt sits at the center of this conglomerate. She oversees talent recruiting and photo shoots at the company's Canoga Park studio. She says she spent much time searching for just the right "girl next door" types to serve as contract girls and is in charge of their promotional appearances. She oversees LFP's compliance with 2257 regulations. She runs the casino gift shop, Shorty's Stuff, and in October, she staged the fourth annual Ladies Poker Classic, which drew 160 entries.

"It was a total hit! Phenomenal!" she said.

About the only part of LFP Liz Flynt doesn't have a hand in is Flynt Digital. Flynt says that while his wife's integration into the company wasn't immediate, she now is the foundation of the modern Flynt empire.

Gradual Responsibility
"Her responsibility was gradual," he said. "First there was the talent, then the studio and the gift shop. Now, she's the first person our models see, so she lays the groundwork for everything else."

Larry Flynt, 63, engages in public activities that seem to belie the assertion that he is incapacitated. He published a book last year, "Sex, Lies & Politics: The Naked Truth," and promoted it widely, often on college campuses where he engaged students in lively debate. In a telephone interview, he was equally engaging.

Liz Berrios Flynt grew up with three brothers and a sister in a middle-class family in California's San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles. She is Mexican-American, but her straight raven hair and fine features give her an exotic air that makes her background hard to peg. People often mistake her for Chinese. She fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming a nurse by working her way up in the critical care unit at UCLA Medical Center. It was there that she met her future husband in 1992.

Liz was not previously married, but she is Larry Flynt's fifth wife. His most recent wife, Althea Leasure, an exotic dancer he married in 1976, died of AIDS in 1987. Liz married Flynt in 1998 after falling in love with her husband's intellect. "I thought, 'Wow, he knows so much,'" she recalled. "He's read books I've never read."

Those around the Flynts credit Liz with giving Larry a second chance at a healthy life. Confined to a wheelchair since a white supremacist tried to assassinate him in 1978, Flynt reportedly has had serious health problems. Liz is credited with helping to treat her husband's manic depression and convincing him to have an operation that eased constant back pain from the old injuries.

Conservative Taste
The most surprising thing about Liz is how unlike a porn king's bride she is. She dresses in conservative business suits, and her baubles, while probably worth enough to feed a small nation, are tasteful. She refers to LFP's most visible product, porn magazines, as "men's sophisticates." When she mentions LFP's toy business, you'd think she was talking about Tonka trucks and Barbie dolls instead of dildos and plastic vaginas.

She insists she is untroubled by the nature of LFP's business. "Growing up in Southern California, you are exposed to a life. You see a lot," she said. "So it didn't bother me."

Liz accompanies her husband wherever he goes. They travel on a Gulfstream IV with "Hustler" emblazoned across the body. She drives a black Porsche Carrera but is quick to point out that it's good on gas.

But despite the material advantages of her position within the Flynt empire, she seems to be more enamored by the fact that it allows her to spend time with her husband and boss.

"It's a thrill for me to come to work because I get to share all of this with my husband, Mr. Flynt," she said.