Inside, I met with Victoria Hurley, Larry Flynt’s publicist, who told me not to ask any stupid questions and to speak clearly and loudly and shared the proper greeting protocol: I was to go around the right side of Flynt’s desk and shake his hand.
Walking down the green, casino-esque, carpeted road, I took in the décor—which can best be described as “tweaked-out antiquarian on a mission”—and smirked at the subject choice for a monumental painting at the end of the hallway that leads to Flynt’s office: the Virgin Mary rising.
Like Dorothy before me, I was off to meet the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of smut, and since red clashes with everything, I opted to don my shiny silver sneakers.
From pushing the boundaries of taste to offering cash bounties to shine a spotlight on hypocritical politicians (the 1998 resignation of Republican House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston amid the Clinton sex scandal was one of his greatest coups), Flynt’s life has been laced with controversy. He’s been publicly accused of sexual abuse by his eldest daughter, taking a mob hit out on Frank Sinatra and losing his virginity to a chicken. He’s vehemently denied all but the last one.
Seated in his gold-plated wheelchair and with a slight tremor in his right hand—apparent every time he reached for a glass filled with ice chips he was munching on—the champion of free speech interrupted Hurley as she asked for the right to approve the pictures I planned to publish.
“You can’t tell him what to publish,” he said in his familiar croaky drawl.
In the subsequent interview, Flynt, who turned 69 on Nov. 1, was candid about his ho-hum sex life, talked about political lynching and made the Obama / Stallone connection we’ve all been waiting for:
Enrique: What’s your earliest birthday memory?
Larry Flynt: Coming out of the womb.
You remember that far back?
Yes. I’ve spent all my life trying to get back in where I came from.
Through all your health tribulations, did you ever think you’d make it this far?
No. That whole thing about a cat having nine lives—it may be an old-wives story, but I think it’s true.
You’ve called pornography “the purest form of art.” Care to explain?
Well, pornography has existed for thousands of years. Ever since cavemen used to do erotic sketches of the walls of the cave, you know? So, how much further back can you go than that? In the end, it’s all math. If you look at all of the great masters, whether it be Picasso or Renoir or even Van Gogh, they all had a penchant for pornography.
It says a lot for pornography when the elite and the aristocratic people, and even the cavemen, have always had an affinity with the art of pornography.
What gets you off? What excites you? And I don’t necessarily mean sexually.
Well, when you say “get off,” I immediately associate that with sex, so I’ll tell you up front that my own sexual appetite is very pedestrian. Plain ol’ vanilla sex, you know? Nothing kinky for me.
You’re the head of a media empire. So, what’s your take on the “print is dead” mindset?
Well, I think it’s true. This year alone, we’ve witnessed the closing of 12 major daily newspapers. The majority of people are getting what they read from the internet. There’s a lot of newspapers still hanging on, like the Wall Street Journal [and] USA Today, but there’s also 4,500 monthly news magazines, and you never hear about these, but 150 of them have bit the dust because it’s affecting magazines as well as newspapers. This phenomenon has been caused by the web—just pure and simple. Any time, whether it’s the industrial age, technology age, they always—along with the revolution that they bring about—they often leave tragedy in their wake, and that’s kind of what’s happened with print media.
Do you think the internet killed the titty-mag star?
No, I don’t think so, but some people might be confused on the issue. Back in the 1950s, we were lucky if the most that we ever got to see was a nudist magazine. It wasn’t until the ’60s that pornography began to flourish both in terms of magazines as well as movies, and then mainstream movies came along that dealt with sex in a much more explicit manner. They would cover up certain erotic zones of the body, but the overt sex was there, so what happened as a result of this is that America got desensitized. That wasn’t a bad thing, by the way, because 80 percent of the men that were suffering from premature ejaculation needed to be desensitized.
Has your current $1 million offer for salacious tips on Gov. Rick Perry yielded anything interesting?
So many they’re hard to count. I subscribe to that old adage that “Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire,” so he’s coming down. The question now is what will he be worth when we’re ready to take him down? If he looked like he was getting the nomination, we would probably have to pay out a million dollars, but I don’t think it’s gonna cost anywhere near that to bring him down now.
Of the current presidential hopefuls, who do you think needs a good BJ the most?
Romney, because he’s probably never had one.
By publicly bringing down these right-wing zealots, you’ve become something of a gay-rights champion. How do you perceive that role?
I’ve always been pro-gay rights. I’m a civil libertarian to the core. Another thing that might surprise you about me is that I’m also very much a conservative. I’m especially conservative on fiscal issues, in terms of how I handle my money and how the government handles my money, but on social issues I’m totally liberal. I don’t think the government has any business in your bedroom whatsoever, and it’s none of their business who you’re in there with or what you’re doing.
If you were to be president for a week, what would you do first?
Well, I don’t know if they would let me do it, but I had this fantasy when I saw Obama take the oath of office. The first thing he should have done is have them lead Bush and Cheney out of the White House to that big old tree on the lawn and hang ’em both.
What’s your take on Obama’s tenure?
It’s true, and history will be the judge of it: George Bush handed him this bad economy on a platter. There was a hole dug so big for Obama that there’s no humanly possible way to get out of it. Where I think that Obama failed is he did not understand the American people.
The American people want someone as their leader who will fight. They like Rocky—even if he wasn’t gonna win, they knew he’d go the distance. So, when [Obama] didn’t fight with the Republicans and he caved in, that’s when his approval rating started slipping. Now it looks like he’s starting to get his mojo back. I don’t think it’s too late, because remember: To beat somebody, you’ve gotta beat them with somebody. It’s not gonna be a cakewalk for the Republicans to get elected, I can tell you that.
Is there ever a greater high than telling a federal judge to go fuck himself?
Well, that’s laying it on the line. [Laughs.] That got me 15 months.
Given your history with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, your piece about him that ran in the Los Angeles Times a few days after his passing was very poignant. When your time comes, is there any political or pop-culture figure that you would like to be eulogized by?
After I’m gone, I don’t want much said about me. I’d just like for them to drive me in the ground and write my name on my shoe sole.
That raises something you’ve mentioned in the past, which is that you don’t want to leave a legacy behind but, rather, a good memory.
Well, my grandfather used to say: “When you get old, all you’re gonna have left are your memories, so make them good. Eat all the best food, drink all the best wine and fuck all the most beautiful women.”
It’s safe to say you have no plans on retiring?
What would I do if I retire? I’ve witnessed thousands of people retire over my lifetime, and a year or two after they’ve retired, they’re dead. I’m firmly convinced that once you change your work habits, that’s when you’re on your way out right there.
Now that you are pushing 70, do you think it’s a good time for Hustler Video to release a Golden Girls-themed porn parody?
You know, I was dating this girl once, and I said, “I’ve never dated anyone over 23,” and she said: “Well, neither have I.” That’s how I stay young. I keep my women young and tender.