Flynt, Larry Claxton, Jr.

Flynt, Larry Claxton, Jr., 1942-2021, American magazine publisher, b. Lakeville, Ky. Flynt was the son of a sharecropper, and dropped out of school at age 15 to enlist in the Army; after his discharge, he joined the Navy as a radio operator. Moving to Dayton, Ohio, in 1964, he opened a bar and subsequently a circuit of strip clubs through the state that he called Hustler clubs. In 1974, he launched Hustler magazine, featuring graphic nude photographs, portrayals of fetishistic sexual acts, and political and social satire. Flynt portrayed himself as a champion of free speech and press freedom, most notably in defending the magazine against a $45 million libel suit brought by the Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1983. Falwell objected to an article that satirized his conservative beliefs. The jury rejected the libel charge, but did order that Flynn pay Falwell for his emotional distress; this was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court in 1988, which ruled that parody was constitutionally protected free speech. The magazine enjoyed its greatest success in the late ‘70s-mid-‘80s, when its circulation was estimated to be two million, but dropped to 500,000 by 2015. Flynt was shot by a white supremacist in 1978 while he was in court defending himself on an obscenity charge, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. His controversial stance on free speech was celebrated in the film The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996; dir. Milos Forman), although some social critics and feminists decried his work as violent and degrading to women.

See his autobiography (1996, with K. Ross); J. Brooker-Marks, Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone (2007; documentary film).

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