Back in the late 1990s, this movie called ‘The People versus Larry Flynt’ came to town. I watched it once at the 20th Century cinema – then went back and watched it once every week for the next 12 weeks that it ran.
The film covered 15 years (when 30 to 45) of the life of Larry Flynt. He was the founder and owner of the pornographic magazine called ‘Hustler,’ which has since become a much used, and abused word by busybody politicians (whose only ‘hustle’ is crooking public coffers for decades).
Some say they sold chicken on the roadside in childhood, but Larry Flynt, being a real hustler, was selling moonshine (chang’aa) at 10 years old in rural Kentucky, in 1952.
When Flynt returned from the navy, having been honourably discharged, and approaching 30, he bought out his old mom’s bar with his savings (Sh1,228,238 in today’s money), renovated it, brought in nude pole dancers and converted it into what was then called a ‘Go-Go Club.’ Soon he had three other such clubs in neighbouring states, and was taking amphetamines so that he could work 20 hours a day.
In 1973, at 31, Larry decided to convert the black-and-white newsletter he had been distributing for free in the streets (to advertise his ‘girls and clubs’) into a fully-fledged magazine, in full colour pictures, which he called the Hustler magazine. In one memorable line in the movie, Flynt asks a photographer hesitant about shooting the private parts of a posing model: ‘Do you believe in God Almighty?’ ‘Yes, sir I do.’
‘Then why aren’t you shooting the girl the way I told you to?’ ‘Because, sir, it is against the Law!’ ‘Do you believe God made this beautiful girl?’ ‘Yes, sir, I do.’
‘Then surely the same Almighty who made her created her genitalia. The creations of the Lord are far above the Laws of Man. So stop pussy-footing around, and shoot it!’
A year later, with the expensive monthly magazine almost making even the Hustler clubs bankrupt, Flynt caught a lucky break with a paparazzi who sold him nude pics of then ex-first lady, Jackie Kennedy, sun bathing naked on an island owned by her second hubby, the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Everyone bought that Hustler, and enough buyers after that became subscribers to make Larry Flynt a millionaire for the first time, at 33.
A real hustler thus far – ready to invest and re-invent, work all hours of the day for his money, see opportunities within his grasp, take huge gambles on them. And then catch a lucky break.
This is what that saying means: ‘Fortune favours the brave.’ Risk nothing, you get little from life.
Yet with his financial troubles seemingly gone, the legal s** storm was gathering ominous clouds, before exploding on his head. Success had brought attention to the fact that Larry was publishing a pornography magazine, contrary to the Obscenity Exception (Miller versus California, 1973) to the Free Speech guarantee clause in the American Constitution.
Larry Flynt would be harassed by Law Enforcement over the next several years, jailed more than once, shot by a serial shooter, get saved, backslide and fight his Obscenity Case all the way to the Supreme Court. In his personal life, across the decades, he would have five wives – starting with the ‘love of his life’ Althea, then Mary, Peggy and Kathy Flynt, before finally ending up with his widow, Lizzy. He would have five daughters and a son.
One daughter perished in a car crash in 2007. Another, the eldest called Tonya, falsely accused her father of being a molester when she was young, but later recanted admitting that as a ‘religious activist in the late 1990s, I said so in my paid speeches to cause a sensation.’
Tonya needed the money because Larry Flynt was estranged from his children, thanks to his insistence that they all get a college degree, choose which division of the empire they like, then ‘come work for me.’ Considering that these divisions were strip clubs, Hustler Casino, porn mags and adult sites, none took up the offer. And Father Flynt decided they were not real hustlers.
If his net worth were to be split among his five surviving offspring, each one would end up with over Sh10 billion. The Hustler demised of heart attack late last week.