Whether or not you’re a fan of the kind of content Larry Flynt became known for is irrelevant. You are able to voice your opinion about him, pornography, Hustler Magazine, Congress or pretty much anything and anyone else because of people like him.
Flynt joined the Army at age 15 by altering his birth certificate. After a troop reduction gave him an honorable discharge, he joined the Navy. The Kentucky native soon found himself in Ohio, where he eventually founded his brand of Hustler clubs, which he would turn into Hustler Magazine.
His real notoriety came in the form of a series of obscenity cases against him and the magazine. In fighting these lawsuits, he became a First Amendment stalwart. Perhaps the biggest case was Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, where the famed Rev. Jerry Falwell sued Flynt’s magazine for an offensive cartoon about the reverend.
It became a landmark case that ensured we could all make fun of public figures without fear of a libel or slander lawsuit.
Larry Flynt died on Feb. 10, 2021 at age 78 but we can remember his contribution to our freedoms and his 1984 run for President, with a few interesting facts.
1. He started life as a moonshiner
After his time in the Army and before he joined the Navy, Flynt tried a number of jobs, including manufacturing for a General Motors affiliate. He was soon laid off and went back to Kentucky, where he was born.
To make money while in Kentucky, he began moving and selling bootleg booze. When he found out the local sheriff’s deputies were after him, he stopped. When the money ran out, he joined the Navy to become a radar operator aboard the USS Enterprise.
2. Flynt fought to save the man who crippled him
While fighting an obscenity case in Georgia in 1978, Larry Flynt was shot by white supremacist Joseph Franklin over an interracial pron scene published in Hustler. Flynt was shot twice with a .44 round and paralyzed with damage to his spinal cord. He spent years in pain, even becoming addicted to painkillers.
Franklin was later charged with 8 counts of murder in Missouri and sentenced to die by lethal injection. When Flynt found out, he went public with his opposition to the death penalty and implored Missouri not to execute him. Franklin died by lethal injection in 2013 anyway.
3. He sent every issue of Hustler to every member of Congress
It doesn’t matter what kind of hardcore porn Hustler published on any given month, every single issue of Hustler printed since 1983 was sent to every all 535 members of Congress. That’s more than 243,000 hardcore porno mags sent to public officials.
When Congress tried to stop the deliveries, the U.S. District Court for Washington, DC ruled that the First Amendment protected his ability to send it to elected representatives. At least he sent them in discreet manila envelopes.
Of the deliveries, Flynt said in one of his Presidential Campaign commercials, “One of your colleagues said on the floor that no decent member of Congress would accept Hustler, but that’s exactly why I sent it to you in the first place. You’re all a bunch of lowlife, [string of expletives] that should be hounded from office for being political, inept, quacks.”
4. He published Nancy Reagan’s telephone number
According to the documentary, “Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story,” he discovered the First Lady’s personal telephone number. Flynt promptly published it in his magazine as a phone sex ad. Along with the phone number, the ad read:
“FREE PHONE SEX: My husband’s been screwing you for years so I thought it was the least I could do.”
He did the same thing to Senator Jesse Helms. The White House later asked that Hustler no longer use the First Lady’s number in its ads.
5. Jimmy Carter’s sister converted him to evangelical Christianity
Ruth Carter-Stapleton, sister to then-President Jimmy Carter changed Flynt’s life forever. She converted him to the Carters’ kind of Southern Baptist Christianity. Flynt said his new mission was to hustle for the lord.
Hustler Magazine took a creative turn, removing fully-naked women from the covers and illustrating bible stories in a sexy way. After he was shot, he dropped his born-again beliefs. He lasted a year, but it might have been a publicity stunt.