Q&A: “Hustler” Publisher Larry Flynt On Michele Bachmann, Hypocrisy and His New Book

The smut-master to visit the Free Library

Whether or not you’ve ever cracked open a copy of Hustler, you undoubtedly know controversial pornographer and First Amendment activist Larry Flynt. In 1974, he debuted the magazine, publishing nude photos of Jackie O one year later. In 1978, he was paralyzed by a white supremacist gunman who was upset over an interracial pictorial. In the ’80s, he was sent to jail for desecrating an American flag. And since then, he’s generally tried to make as much of a pain in the ass of himself as possible while pushing his lucrative business. On Monday, the 25th he comes to the Free Library to discuss his new book, One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History, with co-author David Eisenbach. I reached Flynt via telephone at his home in California.

Why is it anyone’s business if a congressman or senator has an affair?
People are interested. People have always been fascinated and preoccupied by the sex lives of politicians, who have huge egos and need to feed them with sex. In my book, I also wanted to find out how their sex lives affected the policy of the country. Plus, there’s the hypocrisy. The hypocrisy is rampant among politicians.

Which politician has been the most promiscuously prolific?
I’d have to say it’s a toss-up between Harding and Kennedy, but Woodrow Wilson also had a very active libido.

Is there much documented about first ladies and their dalliances?
Oh yes, I say starting with Dolley Madison. She had two wild sisters, and they threw parties at the White House. They invited members of the Continental Army. The Secretary of War went to her husband, James Madison, and told him, I know you don’t want to hear this, but… His wife had singlehandedly turned the White House into a brothel. When she died, it was the largest funeral ever.

Your net worth was said to be around $400 million in 2001. Sex always sells, but how has the last decade affected that number?
I think anyone that knows exactly how much they’re worth is not worth very much. But the economy is affecting everyone dramatically. We’re doing well. Not as well in the last three years. But I see the economy rebounding.

There’s so much porn out there on the Internet right now. Something for everybody. But is there a conservative backlash coming?
We’re becoming more tolerant. We realize that we’ve got to tolerate things we don’t necessarily like. Whether people like it or not, they’ve more or less concluded that what you do in privacy, as long as it doesn’t hurt somebody else, is okay. We can’t judge adult reading habits by what’s fit for a child. Of course, the Michele Bachmanns of the world will always rally against pornography.

Speaking of Bachmann, how much would you pay her to disrobe?
Ha. I’d actually pay her to not disrobe.

Long ago, you disowned a daughter, and you recently sued two of your nephews. You’re obviously very rich, but are you happy?
Yes, considering all I’ve been through, I’m very happy. There’s no problem with my family that I couldn’t solve. But they have a sense of entitlement. They think I owe them something.

In the ’70s, you said you became a born-again Christian. But then you renounced it. As you’re getting older, do you think you’ll have another come-to-Jesus moment?
I got over that. I’m bipolar. I had an episode. It was over 30 years ago. It’s too bad that other people don’t seek treatment for the illness.