Larry Flynt, who started porn empire in Dayton, dies at 78

Daughter says he died peacefully at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles

Credit: Katy Winn

Credit: Katy Winn

High-school drop-out Larry Claxton Flynt Jr., who got his start in Dayton and whose life was portrayed in the hit 1996 movie “The People vs Larry Flynt” has died.

Flynt, 78, was the publisher of Hustler magazine and chairman of an adult entertainment empire that also includes television and video services, retail stores — including one in Monroe — websites, and a Los Angeles-area casino.

Flynt’s youngest daughter, Theresa Flynt, told the Dayton Daily News that her father died Wednesday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was in the ICU and had been battling multiple health issues, including renal disease and more recently pancreatic cancer, and that his heart gave out. Theresa Flynt, who was born in Dayton but now resides in Los Angeles, said she and her father’s wife, Elizabeth, were by his side.

“He died peacefully, it was peaceful,” she said.

Flynt grew up in Kentucky and came to Dayton in 1962. According to a 1997 Dayton Daily News profile, Flynt worked on a production line of General Motor Corp.’s Inland Division. He saved money and eventually bought his first bar, the Keewee, from his mother in the 500 block of Milburn Avenue in the McCook/Old North Dayton area and renamed it Larry’s Hillbilly Haven.

Retired police and former club employees said in that 1997 story that there was prostitution tied to the clubs.

Flynt ran a second bar, Larry’s Hangover Tavern at 297 Linden Ave., and later, he and Dominic’s Restaurant owner Richard Mantia became partners in the mid-1960s of the first Hustler Cocktail Lounge “go-go” bar on East Third Street in downtown Dayton.

Flynt’s first venture into publishing was an inexpensive local men’s tabloid called Bachelor’s Beat, which he and Mantia put together in 1968 in Dayton. The Hustler magazine grew out of a black-and-white newsletter he first sent in 1972 to Hustler club members. It didn’t take long before it expanded and became the sexually explicit magazine at the center of an empire reportedly worth an estimated $400 million of pornographic and some mainstream publications, strip clubs and adult stores. Flynt moved his company headquarters to Columbus and later Los Angeles.

As founder of Hustler, one of the most explicit adult magazines, Flynt challenged social mores, championed the First Amendment and was a target for the religious right and feminist groups, the Associated Press reported.

Credit: Larry Flynt shown in his luxury Cadillac in December 1973 in Dayton. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

Credit: Larry Flynt shown in his luxury Cadillac in December 1973 in Dayton. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

Flynt was prosecuted in 1976 for the first time on obscenity and organized crime charges for selling obscene material in Cincinnati. Charles Keating, later convicted in a savings and loan scandal, founded Citizens for Decent Literature and led public outrage over the case, the New York Times reported. Flynt was convicted and sentenced to seven to 25 years. However, after he served only six days, the conviction was overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct and judicial bias. “The case spotlighted Cincinnati as a bastion of conservatism and Flynt as a dubious champion of free speech,” the Times reported.

For a time Flynt said he was a born-again Christian after meeting evangelist Ruth Carter Stapleton, President Jimmy Carter’s sister. He later resumed business as usual and said he was an atheist.

While on trial for obscenity in 1978 in Lawrenceville, Georgia, a white supremacist tried to hill Flynt in a shooting that left him paralyzed from the waist down. His assailant, Joseph Paul Franklin, said he was upset by interracial photo spreads in Flynt’s magazine. More than 35 years later, Flynt tried to save Franklin from lethal injection in Missouri, according to an AP report. Franklin, who never was convicted in Flynt’s shooting but confessed to multiple homicides, died by lethal injection on Nov. 20, 2013.

In 1988, Larry Flynt won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case on the First Amendment, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell that prohibits public figures from collecting damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress if it was caused by a caricature, parody or satire that a reasonable person would not believe to be true. Televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr. sued Flynt after a parody ad published in the magazine depicted him as an incestuous drunk.

Flynt returned to a Cincinnati courtroom in 1999, but pleaded guilty to two counts of pandering obscenity in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. Flynt and his brother, Jimmy, were partners in an adult store in downtown Cincinnati that reportedly sold obscene videos to a 14-year-old boy. The plea deal allowed both to avoid jailtime in exchange for a $10,000 fine and the Flynts no longer selling sexually explicit videos at the shop, the Times reported. The plea did not affect the selling of Hustler magazine.

Flynt was preceded in death by his daughter, Lisa Flynt-Fugate of Huber Heights, who suffered a seizure before an Oct. 17, 2014, crash in Riverside that ultimately killed her at age 47.

Flynt-Fugate’s brother and Larry Flynt’s son, also named Larry Flynt, drove to Dayton from Columbus to visit his sister in the hospital before her death, her husband, Glenn Fugate, told the Dayton Daily News at the time.

Flynt also is survived by his eldest daughter Tonya Flynt-Vega of Kentucky.

Staff Writer Jeremy P. Kelley contributed to this report.

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