How Liz Flynt adopts the title of “pornographer”

Liz Flynt isn’t afraid of being called a pornographer.

Her late husband, Larry Flynt – founder of Hustler magazine and a larger adult-themed entertainment group – liked to proclaim himself a “smut peddler” and a “caring pornographer.” Since taking the helm of her empire after her death eight months ago, she says, she has taken on every nickname that defined her rise in the industry, and she vows to continue her rebellious legacy.

“If they want to give me that tag, I’ll wear it,” she said in an interview at the ornate Flynt Management Group headquarters in Beverly Hills.

The private group, which is estimated to be worth $ 500 million, includes strip clubs, a video distribution company, two casinos and an adult broadcast channel. Flynt said she plans to continue producing hardcore pornography, open more Hustler retail outlets – with a view to going public with the retail branch – and expanding the latest service from online business game.

Flynt took the reins at a difficult time. The way adult entertainment is produced and consumed is changing rapidly. The company’s two active card clubs are struggling to bounce back from a multi-month pandemic shutdown. Print magazines – Hustler, Taboo, and Barely Legal – will close in a few years due to declining revenues.

Hustler and other old-fashioned industry leaders are now forced to compete with websites like OnlyFans, which distribute adult content created by users who make money through subscriptions or subscriptions. tips.

Hustler does not offer user-created entertainment, Flynt said, because it is difficult to verify the age of artists and Hustler wants to provide only “high quality content.” Instead, she said she plans to grow her audience by expanding the reach of her videos and films through Hustler TV to more than 500 cable and satellite providers around the world.

“It’s all about the numbers and the income,” she said.

Larry Flynt’s ostentatious office – adorned with Tiffany lamps, Roman columns, velvet-covered furniture, and French paintings – remains empty, a sanctuary for the company’s founder. Flynt works in an adjoining office where she says she tries to channel her late husband when called upon to make tough business decisions.

“I am here to maintain its art and its heritage,” she said.

Larry Flynt was 78 when he died of heart failure. He had suffered from health problems since the day he was shot by a white supremacist as he arrived for a 1978 obscenity trial in Georgia. The bullet left him paralyzed, but that didn’t dampen his drive to build an empire around one of porn’s best-known names, Hustler – meant as a steamier version of Playboy.

He has also become a strong supporter of the 1st Amendment.

For all of his commercial success, Larry Flynt has counted as his greatest achievement a 1988 Supreme Court victory over televangelist Jerry Falwell. The court sided with Flynt that the 1st Amendment protected publishers who target public figures through satire, parody or caricature. The dispute revolved around a parody ad in Hustler in which Falwell is depicted talking about his “first time.”

Publisher Larry Flynt in his Beverly Hills office in 2017. He called himself a “coal peddler.”

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Larry Flynt ventured into the business world in 1965 by opening several strip bars in Ohio, which he called the Hustler clubs. He began publishing two-page club newsletters that became so popular that he turned them into a national magazine in 1974. By the late 1990s, Larry Flynt published 30 magazines, including many mainstream titles, such as PC Laptop Computing and Darkroom Photography.

The company now publishes 15 trade magazines throughout the year, as well as monthly publications aimed at adults, dozens of which are displayed on a desk in the 10th-floor foyer of the company’s headquarters.

Liz Flynt personally oversees a monthly article in Hustler that targets a public figure – usually a Tory politician – for criticism, depicting their faces on the back of a donkey. The magazine targeted Texas Governor Greg Abbott in October as a “ruthless right-wing fanatic.”

Flynt is one of the last women to take a leading role in what was once a male-dominated industry. For several decades, women have increasingly replaced men in the C-suites of some of the most profitable porn and adult companies.

Christie Ann Hefner, daughter of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, was president and CEO of Playboy Enterprises from 1988 to 2009. Susan Colvin started one of the world’s largest sex toy manufacturers, California Exotic Novelties, in 1994. Shirley Lara is COO of Chaturbate, which attracts over 19 million unique visitors per month and is one of the the most popular adult websites in the country.

“One of the most interesting trends in the adult industry over the past 15 years is the growing presence of female entrepreneurs and CEOs,” said Lynn Comella, professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

The role of women in pornography and the sale of adult products, such as sex toys, grew even faster after the 2008-09 recession, when leaders in the adult industry made a concerted effort to market women in order to increase sales, Comella said. To meet the needs of women, the industry has had to hire more women in managerial positions, she said.

Liz Flynt, formerly Liz Berrios, met the man who would become her husband, and later her boss, when she started working as a nurse in 1992. They married in 1998. It was her fifth marriage. He brought her into his company, first in the talent department, and promoted her to associate editor in 2000. Larry Flynt made her the sole owner of the company in his confidence.

“I think Larry always knew what his plan was by having me here,” she said.

Flynt ignores reviews of porn that say it is harmful, especially to women. She said she shares her late husband’s view that “pornography is an art form” and sees herself as a champion of free speech and press freedom.

The business world has wondered how to deal with platforms hosting potentially illegal content. Mastercard, Visa and Discover stopped processing payments to Pornhub, the free site, last year after a New York Times opinion piece claimed the site was hosting videos of rape and child sexual abuse. This year, OnlyFans has struggled with its banking relationships because of its sexually explicit content.

Liz Flynt looks at a portrait of her late husband, publisher Hustler Larry Flynt, in his Beverly Hills office.

Liz Flynt plans to expand the Hustler Empire with wider distribution of TV content, a new online gaming platform and more outlets.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Flynt declined to discuss details of the company’s finances, but said her goal was to fulfill her late husband’s wishes to continue operations as usual and expand the more profitable parts of the business. , such as retail outlets.

The company is also expanding into online gaming. A new live-air poker show called “Hustler Casino Live” which allows poker fans to watch high-stakes games on YouTube.com has more than 27,000 subscribers.

Closing the pandemic has been particularly difficult for the two card clubs, Hustler Casino and Larry Flynt’s Lucky Casino, both in Gardena, she said. The company was forced to lay off or put on leave of nearly half of the company’s 2,000 employees because of the shutdown. Most of the employees have been rehired, she said. The casinos are operating at full capacity, but some players are still reluctant to return, Flynt said.

The budget reports of the city of Gardena provide an overview of the financial difficulties. The city said it collected $ 4.9 million in taxes and fees from Flynt’s card clubs during the fiscal year that included the shutdown. This compares to $ 8.2 million raised in the fiscal year leading up to the pandemic. Card club fees and taxes normally generate around 14% of the city’s total revenue.

Flynt said she is in the process of obtaining a license to open a third card club, which will be dubbed Larry Flynt’s Hacienda, in Cudahy.

The company oversees 37 outlets – suppliers of sex toys, lingerie, books and DVDs – with two more expected to open in the coming months. The stores continued to operate during the pandemic. Once the company opens at least 50 stores, Flynt said, it may consider going public with the retail branch.

Adult magazines are still making money but “not a huge profit” because of declining advertising and subscribers, Flynt said, which is why she predicts they won’t exist online that in a few years.

Playboy ceased print publication of its men’s magazine in 2020, and Playboy executives say they now focus primarily on licensing the Playboy brand, gaming, and selling clothing, sex toys and cosmetics and care.

Ending the print publication of Hustler and other themed adult magazines will mark a significant turning point for a business empire that was built on print more than 50 years ago, she said.

Flynt is rational about the transition. “You can’t print something that keeps losing money,” she said.

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