Shed a salty nostalgic tear for Penthouse as a print institution. After fifty years, the publication is going digital-only.
That’s according to the Wall Street Journal. Penthouse once boasted a circulation of five million and a comfortable place in the pop-cultural pantheon. It had a reputation for being raunchier than Playboy, as a 2004 Rolling Stone look back recounted of founder Bob Guccione, who died in 2010:
Guccione vowed to catch the bunny in five years. A few months later, in the April 1970 issue, he hit on the formula for doing so. There, he ran a small photo of a naked blonde walking on a beach — a shadow at the top of her thigh was just identifiable as pubic hair. “Back then, the legal line between what was ‘obscene’ and what was acceptable was pubic hair,” Guccione says. “When there was no prosecution, we went even further.”
He began to print brazen full-frontal photos of his seductively sullen Pets, pubic hair in full display. Hefner at first vowed never to stoop to such depths. “Nine months later,” Guccione says, chuckling, “there was pubic hair in Playboy, because we were killing him on the newsstand.”
It’s not much of a mystery what happened, of course. You can’t turn around on the Internet without bumping into a naked body, and if you just really loved the letters to Penthouse, there’s huge swaths of Reddit for all your unbelievable-(un)true-stories needs. (Trolling is dead! Long live trolling!) Penthouse’s longtime rival Playboy is phasing out nudes, after a big send-off featuring (who else?) Pamela Anderson. Meanwhile Maxim is in for another round of retooling after backing away from former editor-in-chief Kate Lanphear’s attempt to strip the property of its Axe-scented ladmag funk.
But there’s still Hustler!
Update 1/20/2016: Apparently the print edition of Penthouse isn’t going anywhere. Contrary to reports (which stemmed from a misunderstood press release about the relaunch of the magazine’s website), it’s still hanging in there. Read more here.