Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler and subject of the 1996 film The People vs. Larry Flynt, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 78.
After leaving the Navy in 1964, Flynt began opening bars, including one that featured nude dancers. By 1973, he was operating a string of Hustler Clubs, and turned a newsletter he used to promote his businesses into Hustler magazine. Flynt told The Independent in 2011 that he was proud that this explicit publication “dared to portray people’s real sexual fantasies, not somebody’s idea of what fantasies should be.” He ultimately created an empire that included a casino, an apparel line, and Hustler Hollywood stores.
Flynt faced several lawsuits, and in 1978 he was shot outside a courthouse in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where he was facing an obscenity charge; he sustained spinal cord damage and began using a wheelchair. In 1983, televangelist Jerry Falwell sued Flynt for libel, invasion of privacy, and emotional distress after he was the subject of a parody ad in Hustler.
The case ended up before the Supreme Court, which ruled 8-0 that Flynt was protected by the First and 14th Amendments. This story was told in The People vs. Larry Flynt, which starred Woody Harrelson as Flynt and Courtney Love as his fourth wife, Althea Leasure, who died in 1987. He is survived by his fifth wife, Elizabeth Berrios, and four children.