Controversial entrepreneur and surprising First Amendment advocate, Larry Flynt died in his Los Angeles home on Wednesday of heart failure at 78 years of age.
Flynt launched Hustler magazine in 1974 as a raunchy blue-collar alternative to Playboy, that became a competitor when he purchased nude photographs of Jacqueline Onassis for $18,000, which were snapped without her knowledge by paparazzi. The issue put Hustler on the map with over a million copies sold, and the magazine would go on to average three million copies a month during its heyday.
The below-the-belt monthly landed Flynt in legal hot water more than one time. He was charged and convicted for obscenity and organized crime in 1976, and served six days of his 7 to 25 year sentence before being released for prosecutorial misconduct.
Flynt was embroiled in another legal battle over obscenity in 1978, when he was shot outside a Gwinnett County, Georgia courthouse and left paralyzed by permanent spinal cord damage. Years later, he was charged with desecrating the American flag when he wore it as a diaper during a 1983 trial, and was sentenced to six months in jail.
The publisher was sued by Reverend Jerry Falwell in 1983, when he published a parody that suggested Falwell lost his virginity to his own mother in an outhouse. The case set a First Amendment precedence that public figures could not recover damages over parodies.
Flynt famously flip-flopped between political parties, attempting to run for president of the United States as a Republican in 1984, then described himself as “progressively liberal” in 2016 when he endorsed Hillary Clinton.
He was the subject of the Academy Award nominated 1996 biopic, The People vs. Larry Flynt, which focused on his rise to prominence and concluded with the 1988 Supreme Court decision verdict of the Falwell case.