To see video of AVN's interview with Larry Flynt, visit AVNLive.com.
Larry Flynt always knew he was destined for something bigger. Despite modest beginnings in Magoffin County, Ky., he knew there had to be more.
"I remember being 10 years old and sitting on the swinging bridge overlooking the river," Flynt said. "I knew someday I would be wealthy. I thought that poverty was something that I had to endure. I'm not successful because of what I've done in my life. It's because I always thought that there was something bigger out there for me."
Flynt, who leads the LFP Inc. empire, has lived up to those early thoughts. These days, he is synonymous with wealth, power and excess. A large collection of Tiffany lamps is displayed throughout the 10th floor of the LFP building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Artwork adorns each wall, and sculptures and other decorative items are placed everywhere. Picture frames are scattered throughout Flynt's office, showing the smiling face of Flynt alongside some of the biggest names in pop culture, including actor Woody Harrelson, former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Flynt travels in a Bentley with a license plate that reads "HUSTLER" or in his own jet. On this day, the sunlight streaming in through his office windows glints and gleans off the gold plating on his wheelchair.
There's no denying Flynt has come a long way from his poverty-stricken upbringing. But success didn't come overnight. After starting strip clubs in Ohio with his younger brother Jimmy, Flynt made his foray into the world of publishing in 1972 with the "Hustler Newsletter," a four-page flier designed to give information about his clubs. Today, in addition to its flagship magazine Hustler, LFP Inc. produces the magazine Barely Legal, and either wholly owns or licenses Hustler Casino, Hustler stores and Hustler clubs.
But none of the notoriety, fame or wealth came without a high price - too high, some might say.
Flynt is a man who has always pushed boundaries, both personally and professionally. He has faced courtroom battles over cartoons called tasteless and photos referred to as obscene. He has run for governor of California and openly backed candidates whose political agendas mirrored his own. He has suffered through drug addictions and family tragedies - his fourth wife Althea drowned in the bathtub of their Bel-Air mansion in 1987. And a 1978 attack by would-be assassin and white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin left him paralyzed from the waist down.
All of it - the good and the bad, Flynt says - was because of his hard-fought battles for his First Amendment rights. Early in his legal battles, Flynt often was depicted in the media as a run-of-the-mill smut peddler who had no respect for the courts. Today, he is heralded by the adult entertainment industry and even mainstream journalists as one of the staunchest defenders of the freedom of speech. "I always took the First Amendment for granted," he said. "I didn't realize what it really meant until I was sentenced to a 25-year prison sentence in Cincinnati, Ohio. It's a fight I've been shot and paralyzed for."
It's not a battle he sought out. It wasn't until he was facing prison time for obscenity charges that he took on the fight.
"Most people don't even understand the First Amendment: 98 percent of people say they are for it," he said. "But when you start talking about hate speech and burning the flag, all of a sudden it drops to below 50 percent. People believe in free speech as it applies to their own definitions."
But he doesn't see himself as a hero. Heroes, he said, are the men and women who fight and die for their country. It's as if Flynt forgot he almost died fighting for the same rights.
"My good friend Dick Gregory (a comedian and social activist) once told me something that I didn't quite understand at the time," Flynt said. "He said, ‘If you dissent too loudly, they will kill you.' It has happened. Now, I am not comparing myself with Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr., but they showed that if you stand up for people's rights, people will stand in line to execute you."
But the trials of his life have brought triumphs. He has published two books, and a third will be out later this year. He has made numerous appearances on mainstream TV shows, won several AVN Awards and even played the judge who sentenced him to 25 years in prison in the 1996 film The People vs. Larry Flynt. He has maintained a friendship with actor Woody Harrelson, who portrayed him in the biopic, and director Milos Forman. Though he hasn't done any acting since then, he hasn't ruled it out. "I have told Milos and Woody that I am now available to play judges and cripples," he said with his trademark devilish grin.
And though Flynt seems to surround himself with all things lavish and opulent, the hallmarks of his success, he shows no signs of slowing down. He still oversees day-to-day operations at LFP Inc. and is actively involved in politics.
"Now what would I do if I retired?" he asked. "Sit by the pool and sip mint juleps? No, I want to keep going. I want to live until I'm 90 and then be stabbed to death by some jealous husband or boyfriend."
Flynt continues to push the envelope and test the boundaries of people's understanding of the First Amendment.
"I'm on a mission," he said. "Moses freed the Jews, Lincoln freed the slaves, and I want to free the neurotics of the world."
This article was originally published in the June 2008 edition of AVN Online. To subscribe, visit AVNMediaNetwork.com/subscriptions.