Self-Proclaimed “Smut Peddler Who Cares” and Hustler founder Larry Flynt has died, leaving many, at last, with the answer to a decades-old question: “Is Larry Flynt dead yet?”
Flynt has long been somewhat of an American myth—a trickster figure, both fighting a lifelong battle for freedom of American speech and also being a giant creep, a role further complicated by the fact that he was shot by a serial killer and left in a permanent state of excruciating paralysis. And while he fought all the way to the Supreme Court for our right to masturbate while looking at images of other naked people doing sex things to one another while literally shitting in a diaper made of the American flag, which was indisputably rad, he also made the foundations of his fortune on photos taken of Jackie Kennedy-Onassis without her consent, which is indisputably not rad, and once called Sandra Day O’Connor a “token cunt” in front of an entire courtroom, which both is and is not rad.
And beyond the freedom of speech boundary-pushing, there’s also the deeply fucking gross Flynt—the story he told of himself at nine years old, sexually assaulting a chicken until it bled then killing it; sexual assault allegations against Flynt by his own daughter; and Hustler itself, which was a misogynistic shitrag that made many otherwise virulently liberal people ask themselves how badly they truly wanted the First Amendment after all.
During his life, which has just ended, apparently, and did not end 10 or 15 years ago as those of us writing this blog once believed, Flynt was a lightning rod for controversy, usually because he generally positioned himself in the center of a storm holding a kite and key. But for all the things he was, one thing is for certain: he sure is dead now.