Larry Flynt’s Hustler Magazine Publications has become one of the most successful porn companies in the world, straddling all facets of media. But back in the mid-70s, it was the sleazy poor man’s glamour porn rag, groping and fondling in the shadows of its hugely successful rivals Playboy and Penthouse. But that would eventually change, and this is the lurid and fascinating story of how that happened.
Originally a nightclub where Larry sold his dirty little DIY ‘zinefilled with buxom, average-looking strippers, he soon landed the support of some financiers and in 1974 the glossy version arrived. It wasn’t about the blonde “girl next door” as Hefner liked to parade, or the brunette fashion models of Guccione’s Penthouse, Flynt was more interested in the enthusiastic wench who spread her legs wider than any of the other publications. “Think Pink” was his motto, and it scored quick and fast.
No liquor or soft drink ads, just harsh lighting and toilet humour, as Flynt stated that he’d rather have four loud truck drivers buying Hustler Magazine, than one guilty college professor. With the help of his wife, Althea, Larry’s dirty magazine made him filthy rich. He even ran for President! Well, for a short while. Until he got shot several times by a nutcase who got all uppity over an interracial pictorial, and was rendered a paraplegic.
Director Michael Lee Nirenberg’s father William was one of Hustler Magazine’s original art directors, so he had a good foot in the door and access to a number of key players, in particular the numerous editors, cartoonists, models, and production assistants, throughout Hustler’s turbulent history. The interviews are engaging, and Nirenberg’s swift “magazine” style narrative is perfectly pitched. Some of the highlights include veteran photographer Suze Randall’s reflections, porn legend Ron “Hedgehog” Jeremy’s wry asides, and seminal porn publisher, the late Al Goldstein’s snide remarks.
It’s good that Nirenberg got the big man himself in the flesh, so to speak, as I’m sure Flynt, obviously on a heavy diet of painkillers, won’t last too much longer. Sad that Althea died so young (aged 33, of drowning/drug addiction/AIDS), as her side of the story would’ve been alluring, to say the least.
Indeed, if truth is stranger than fiction, the story of Hustler Magazine is a strange tale indeed; you couldn’t script a more exploitative and controversial tale! Back Issues would make the perfect double feature with Milos Forman’s excellent 1996 bio-pic The People vs. Larry Flynt which starred Woody Harrelson as Larry and Courtney Love as Althea.
Back Issues film review by Bryn Tilly of www.cultprojections.com
Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story DVD is distributed by Accent Film Entertainment.