By Fred McBee

Photo by Walt Weis

Photo by Walt Weis

I was prepared to like Larry Flynt. I’d seen the movie about him and read his autobiography. I considered him a rascal and a rogue. My kind of guy.

Flynt is a self-educated, self-made man, a kinky version of the American dream. Poor boy makes good by being bad. Grew up dirt poor, at the end of a hollow in the hills of Kentucky. Almost no formal education. Forged his birth certificate to join the Army when he was 15. The Army discharged him a year later because he was found to be illiterate. Joined the Navy at 17, studied hard, got his GED, excelled as a radar operator.

After his service, he bought a low-rent honky-tonk bar in Dayton, Ohio, for $800. Parlayed it into a string of go-go clubs and later into Hustler magazine. Now he runs a publishing empire–29 magazines–and the young man who could not read is now editing some of the most famous writers in America. Flynt loves the outsize dimensions of his success, loves being one of the ugliest Cinderellas in history.

I wait in the reception area of Larry Flynt Publications–rich furnishings, a lot of walnut, expensive gewgaws. Classy? I couldn’t say. Classy people will have to judge that. But it’s the finest whorehouse decor I’ve ever seen. The secretaries are wearing business suits, skirts dangerously high. The guys look important walking around in Armani suits with stacks of nudie magazines under their arms. Harvard MBAs, big-money porn executives, guys Flynt hires and fires.

I’m escorted down the ornate hall to Flynt’s private office, which is the size of most middle-class homes. A cur