Larry Flynt and Hustler


May 5, 2004 at 2:06 pm
Vol. 3 Issue 8

Then: In January 1997, CityBeat's Steve Ramos caught up with Larry and Jimmy Flynt just as the film The People vs. Larry Flynt was hitting theaters across the country. In a town that once saw a showdown between the Hustler founders and Sheriff Simon Leis, the Flynts had returned to Cincinnati, triumphant in their battle for First Amendment rights. As Ramos reported, referring to the location of the newly constructed Aronoff Center for the Arts, "(Larry) Flynt welcomes the irony that Broadway shows now perform on a spot where his strippers once jiggled their wares in front of a picture window to entice customers." (Issue of Jan. 9, 1997)

Now: Larry Flynt runs his publishing company from an office in Los Angeles, and his brother Jimmy lives in Cincinnati, managing the Hustler stores downtown and in Monroe. According to Jimmy, things in Cincinnati have changed since the battles in the mid-1970s.

"It's like night and day," Flynt explains, on his way out to dinner with some friends. "The old guard is still there, but the general public's attitude with respect to erotic material has changed. It's become much more acceptable with TV, satellite, cable and the internet. Cincinnati has been able to log on and appreciate it."

He reflects for a moment.

"They've chilled out, so to speak."

That more-accepting atmosphere allows Flynt to keep his Hustler shop open near Hustler's original location. Business is so great in Ohio, Flynt is expanding. "We're opening a store in Lexington," he says, "and one in Ft. Lauderdale and one in New Orleans."

Though he appreciates how the attitudes of many Cincinnatians have changed regarding his business, Flynt still waxes nostalgic over the atmosphere in Cincinnati before the court battles.

"Thirty years ago, the streets were packed until 2 a.m.," Flynt says. "I'm not talking about adult stores — restaurants and bars. People were running around, having a good time. Then people went on a campaign — Si Leis, Bill Keating and (folks in) Indian Hill —to turn Cincinnati into apple pie. They were committed to 'cleaning up' Cincinnati. They didn't want the conventions, the girly bar, the erotic boutique. They only wanted five-star restaurants, baseball and apple pie."

Flynt says that attitude helped kill off foot traffic downtown, which he'd like to see return. "They ultimately succeeded, but it didn't work."

Ultimately, he allows, time changes everything.

"Hustler has become somewhat more socially accepted," he says, "and Cincinnati has become more tolerant."

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? updates cover stories from throughout CityBeat's 10-year history.