Saturday, 28 December 2013


Towards the close of 1996 I was in Los Angeles at the end of a long trip which had started with a Bruce Springsteen show and interview in Philadelphia. Towards the end I spent one of the most surreal days of my life - breakfast with Iggy Pop at the Chateau Marmont, lunch with Neil Diamond at his studio, back to the hotel for a chat with Jeff Buckley, then a drive up the Hollywood Hills to spend a few hours with Brian Wilson at his house. Could it get any crazier? Sure could. The day before I flew back to Australia I had an audience with Larry Flynt, the infamous and legendary publisher of Hustler magazine. The piece originally appeared (in an edited version) in the JJJ Magazine early in 1977. This is the original version.

"Hustler is purely an entertainment magazine," says Larry Flynt of his most famous publication, the 'mens' magazine that's almost as well known around the globe as Playboy and Penthouse. And in terms of content, well, whilst Playboy is tame, and Penthouse reasonably raunchy, Hustler is far and beyond the most over-the-top sex magazine openly on sale in newsagents, with an Australian edition first appearing late last year.

"Hustler deals very little with lifestyles," Flynt continues. "We have a law in this country which says that if you publish something it must have socially redeeming value. I feel that sex within itself is socially redeeming. As far as pornography goes one man's art is another man's pornography so I try and dispel the stereotypes that exist with this business and proceed in a manner that looks to entertain and educate people about human sexuality."

Flynt tells me this as I sit in his palatial (and I mean p-a-l-a-t-i-a-l) office on the top floor of the 10 story office building on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverley Hills. Amidst the oil paintings, antiques and an astonishing collection of Tiffany lamps the only slight indication that this is the office out of which comes  more than 30 magazines, many of the sexual variety, is a sculpted replica of a man and a woman having sex placed behind Flynt's desk.

Aside from Hustler, Flynt Publications produces Hustler Fantasies, Hustler Barely Legal, Chic - along with magazines devoted to knives (Fighting Knives), memorabilia (Trading Cards), boating (Ski Boat), computers (Ultimate Gamer, Video Fames Presents: Tips And Tricks, Hard Drive, and PC Laptop), tattoo's (Skin & Ink) and music (Rage and Rappages).

As the result of an assassination attempt outside a Georgia courthouse in 1978 during a famous court case over charges of obscenity levelled at his magazine Flynt sits in an 18 carrot gold wheelchair, although his desk is built high enough that the chair isn't visible to anyone else in the office. Flynt speaks in a mute tone, another legacy of the bullet wound which went through his throat and severed his spinal column.

It wasn't until I arrived in America in December of last year that I realised just how famous Flynt was. Sure, I knew what Hustler was all about but I had no idea who published it. In conversation after conversation I mumbled to friends about being asked to try and interview Hustler's publisher. The responses were universal. The jaws dropped, followed by "You're going to meet Larry Flynt." 

Yes, this man is a legend, such so that Oliver Stone's next film will be based on Flynt's life with Woody Harrelson apparently playing the publisher, whilst Courtney Love is cast as his late wife Althea.    

By way of background Lawrence Claxton Flynt was born and raised  in eastern Kentucky's Maggofin County, the Appalachian area ranked lowest in per-capita income by the 1964 report of President Lyndon Johnson's Appalachian Regional Commission. 

Being born into a family with an annual income of $US600, he seemed destined to a life of poverty. But rather than become a product of his environment, 13-year-old Flynt ran away from home. Using a false birth certificate, he enlisted in the Army when he was 14, and by the age of 19 he had served in both the Army and Navy. At age 21 he had been divorced twice and had gone bankrupt once.

Working as a dishwasher and factory worker, Flynt saved enough money to buy his first bar, in Dayton, Ohio. Investing all he had saved, he turned the establishment into a moneymaker and later sold it at a profit. Over the next few years he continued his success as a young entrepreneur by purchasing money-loosing nightclubs, building up their business and selling at a high profit.

In 1968, having accumulated enough money to build the nightclub of his dreams, Flynt opened his first Hustler club, in Dayton. By 1972 he owned eight Hustler Clubs throughout the state of Ohio.

It was at this time that Flynt decided to publish a newsletter for his clubs' patrons, which he appropriately titled Hustler. Consisting mainly of club news and profiles of the women employees, the newsletter also tackled many social issues. It was from this humble beginning that the fledgling Hustler  Magazine emerged.

In July 1974, with a staff of three and a contract with a national distributor, Flynt published the first issue of Hustler. It quickly established a reputation for being outrageous and iconoclastic, and became the world's fastest-growing men's magazine. By 1976 it ranked as the third largest selling magazine of its type on the market.

Part of Hustler's success can be attributed to Flynt's willingness to gamble, to publish features that no other men's magazine would dare to run. These features including exposing female genitalia in a far more explicit fashion than his high profile competitors; the first nude photos of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis ever published in the U.S.; a controversial article on the violence of war as obscenity which contained graphic photos of mutilated victims in the Vietnam War; the first life-size Scratch'n'Sniff centrefolds; and a series of investigative reports probing and exposing the questionable government investigations of the murders of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy and black leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X.

With its anti-establishment stance Hustler, and particularly Flynt, became a target for many elements of American society. This led to seemingly never-ending legal manoeuvres designed to prevent Flynt from exercising his Constitutional rights under the guarantees of the First Amendment.

In February 1977 a Cincinatti, Ohio jury found Flynt guilty of pandering obscenity and engaging in organised crime - the latter charge resulting from his participation in the publishing of Hustler - and sentenced him to a prison term of from seven to 25 years. Flynt appealed the verdict, and in April 1979 the conviction was reversed by Ohio's Court Of Appelate District.

In a separate Ohio case Flynt was charged with disseminating material harmful to juveniles. The action was a result of his mailing to Hamilton County residents the pamphlet "The Real Obscenity War" (a reprint of an article published in Hustler). This article was an attempt to impress upon Hamilton County's citizens the need to establish unbiased priorities for the purpose of deciding what constitutes obscenity. If found guilty, Flynt could be sentenced to up to six years in prison and/or fined $US12,000.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Fulton County Solicitor General Hinson McAuliffe attempted to place a prior restraint on the distribution of what he deemed obscene sexually orientated magazines. Flynt responded to what he saw as yet another overzealous prosecutor's attack on the Constitutional rights of citizens by personally selling copies of Hustler in Atlanta. This resulted in charges of 11 misdemeanour counts of sale and distribution of obscene material. In March 1979 Flynt was brought to trial on these charges. Attempts by his attorneys to introduce evidence establishing Hustler's acceptability to local citizens were denied, and Flynt was convicted on all counts. 

It was soon after a 1978 court case that the attempted assassination of Flynt occurred. Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist currently serving life sentences for four racially motivated killings in Utah and Wisconsin, has been linked to Flynt's shooting but has not been brought to trial because officials are troubled by inconsistencies in the evidence.

"I've had three obscenity prosecutions and many more libel litigation's," Flynt says. "On one of the obscenity cases I was given a 25 year prison sentence. That was later overturned by the appeals court but it's been a rough and rocky road and we've come a long way. You can see on cable television today what you saw in Hustler when it started 20 years ago."

Despite continuing harassment from law enforcement officials, Flynt continued to expand his publishing empire, launching numerous magazines and distributing others as well as starting a mail-order operation selling novelty items and sex/marital aids which quickly reached annual sales of $US10 million.

In September 1977 Flynt travelled to Washington to offer then President Jimmy Carter $US1 million to be used for the study of pornography.  That same month he testified before the House Subcommittee on Crime and offered to donate his entire profits from Hustler to form a governmental commission to study the overall effects of sexual repression on society, with particular emphasise on its links with child abuse. Both these offers were met with governmental indifference.

Long sceptical of the Warren Commission's report on the assassination of JFK Flynt offered a $US1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible. He also founded Americans For A Free Press which holds community-support rallies when First Amendment guarantees are threatened.

Flynt is also is renown for his charitable donations which range from money for an Ohio man who badly needed open-heart surgery to the donation of several hundred Christmas dinners to poor Cincinnati families. He has contributed heavily to the Anti-Defamation League, the American Civil Liberties Union and various other groups.

Not only was there the assassination attempt but further tragedy struck for Flynt in 1987 when his fourth wife, Althea (who Flynt says is the only woman he's ever loved) drowned in their bathtub after doctors diagnosed her condition as AIDS-related complex, probably resulting from IV-drug use. She was 33 years old.

By Flynt's own admission, he and Anthea became drug addicts during his recovery from the shooting. "You'd better believe that a lot of drugs have flown through this body," he says. "I was detoxed three times."

These days he spends much of his time in his eight-bedroom Mediterranean mansion in the Hollywood Hills, and remains as ferocious an anti-censorship fighter as he has ever been.

"There's many problems - I feel that as long as sexual repression exists these problems will exist," he says. 
"The church has had their hand on our crotch for two thousand years and the government is always trying to manoeuvre into the same position because if they can control your pleasure centre they can control you and they know this. Church and State both have their idea of what should be socially accepted and that's not necessarily considering what the minority wants. That's a basic premise for any democracy - individual rights - and any erosion of that is an erosion of the whole system."

Hustler continues to push the barriers of what is acceptable for mass consumption and what isn't.  I asked Flynt what, in the States,  differentiates a magazine that can be openly sold on newsstands and one that is only available through sex shops.

"That's an interesting question and most people don't understand the answer to that," he says. "The only censorship that I've ever done has been for the marketplace, never for the censors because I fight them tooth and nail.

"But no matter what kind of magazine I produce, if I can't get it out to the public it doesn't do anyone any good, so when you see the more sexually explicit material only being available in a sex shop or an adult book store that's because many of the mainstream retailers that carry magazines won't carry them because they don't want to deal with complaints, boycotts and things like that.

Certainly the more recently issues of Hustler draw a very thin line between implied and real penetration, something that Flynt doesn't dispute. In Australia any publication that shows sexual penetration is automatically restricted to Sex Shop sale only.

"It's pretty close to that in this country but it's not law," Flynt explains. "Our Supreme Court has identified a test that a work of art must meet before it can be considered obscene and it's a very confusing law. It has not been effective. There was the way in 1973 when the court left it up to the individual community to set their own standards but that's impossible because you have someone in the South trying to second guess what reading habits are in San Francisco and New York. It just doesn't work.

"Now we have a political climate in this country that is moving more and more to the right with a tremendous amount of support from a group known as the Christian Coalition which is very powerful in Republican politics. We could very well loose many of the individual freedoms we've gained over the years, because as a nation traditionally we only respond to a crisis. There's never any preventative work done. . . there is a group in this society that, if they have their way, will advocate censorship. And for those who say 'well, maybe a little censorship would be good' who's going to go and be God? When Hitler started he didn't start with the classics, he started with the so-called garbage that no-one wanted to read and then moved on to Shakespeare."

And in the light of that there's not the slightest chance that Flynt will do anything but keep pushing against the same censorship boundaries that have always obsessed him.

"Things are changing and we have to be at the forefront of that change," he says. "We'll continue responding to our readership - not for what we think they are but for who they are. So many people have a preconceived idea of the person who wants to read their magazines. We tend to listen a bit more to who they are."

And if we're to accept Flynt's observations exactly who makes up Hustler's readership is more than a little interesting. The traditional assumption is that magazines predominantly featuring explicit photographs of women in poses of shall we say, abandon, are almost exclusively read by, well, blokes who like looking at photos of women. Flynt isn't so sure that's completely the case.

"That's hard to say," he says when asked if he thinks Hustler has many women readers. "We don't have any solid figures on what percentage of our readership is female but there are an awful lot of women who buy the magazine for their husband and you've got a lot of women who aren't bothered a lot if their husband is reading Hustler, and there's the other side of the coin where it can create a lot of problems in a relationship.

"If I had to guess I would say around 20 to 25 percent of our readership was female. Many of them may look at their husband or boyfriend's magazine and not necessarily be going to the newsstand and buying it."

Just before I was about to have my audience with Flynt into the Hustler office came  an extremely attractive woman who I'd guess to be in her early Twenties. She arrived in the office wearing a white dress that was as short as it could possibly be without making her knickers obvious. She was surrounded by three guys who looked like my stereotypical image of LA photographers (hey, they look pretty much the same the world over). Suddenly Flynt's staff started emerging from offices and behind desks and started congratulating her. There was at least five minutes of "well done' and 'great' and 'you must be so pleased'.

Bemused by this I asked someone what all the fuss is about. "Oh honey, she's this month's Beaver Hunt winner," I was told like I've just arrived from Mars. One of the guys walked over to me and asked who I was. I explained that I was a journalist from Australia who was about to interview Mr Flynt.

"That figures, you look a bit different from the White Trash that usually hangs around here," he said with a smile before sauntering back to the body in what could loosely be described as a dress.

Ms Whateverhernameis has been selected from the presumably hundreds of women who send explicit polaroids of themselves to the magazine each month for the Beaver Hunt pages of Hustler. It's a good lurk for the magazine - four or five  pages of photos each issues, ranging from the good, the bad to the truly pathetic, that cost them not one cent. The best 'beaver' wins $US5000, a Hustler travel bag (gee!) and the opportunity to do a real 'spread' for the magazine.

"She'll be in the magazine," Flynt says later. "There's a bonus of $US5000 which is in addition to her original fee for posing. My competitors, they pay almost 20 times that. I think they do that with the theory in mind that the more you pay the better models you're going to get. I don't find it's that's way with us. It's a question of supply and demand. We always have attractive models available.

"The thing is that I don't push my own preferences in the magazine. With Mr Hefner who publishes Playboy it's obvious that he likes blondes with big boobs. Whether they're blonde, red head, whether they've got small boobs, medium boobs or large boobs or whether they're tall or short . . . I really like petite brunettes myself but I always go out of my way to keep my own preferences out of the magazine."

Welcome to Larry Flynt's world.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


In the early 1980s I was lucky enough to hang out at Martin Sharp's house and interview Tiny Tim for RAM magazine. This is the piece, exactly as it appeared at the time. Debbie Baer and I did the interview, I wrote it up and editor Anthony O'Grady added his touches later. 

(Photos by Wendy Adnam)

"I knew Jimmy Morrison and Lenny Bruce very closely. In fact Mr. Morrison, before he became a star was working at the Scene. So many young girls were lined up to see an unknown. He was one of the few unknowns that came from California to make it big in New York at the Scene. He came up to me one day and he said 'I have a song for you to do.' It was called People Are Strange and a week later Light My Fire hit the charts and he was a star already." 

That's Mr. Tiny Tim reminiscing about rock 'n' roll performers he'd encountered during his erratic career. Mr. Tim has now just left Australia after a protracted stay which included performances in most states, a movie, and a successful world continuous singing record attempt of two and a quarter hours. The tour was organised by Martin Sharp, well known Australian artist and possibly holder of Award For The World's Most Obssessional Devotion to Tiny Tim. On the face of it, Sharp's dedication (he owns and plays almost continuously, for instance, cassettes of every show Tiny did in Oz) may seem a waste of time. Tiny Tim, in the general media today, is often treated as The Oddity Who Survived. With the almost an air of surprise that this permanent adult child who scored international fame as the flower power manchild of the hippie sixties is still around today after bombing out near totally through most of the seventies. 

Sharp though sees Tiny's present status as a genuine talent emerging again after years of popularity neglect. Sharp says Tiny is the link between all forms of music both past and present. That his talent encompasses and links the musical eras of our great grandparents unto the tastes of small children today. 

And certainly the man who shrieked his version of Tip Toe Through The Tulips, The Good Ship Lollipop and Great Balls of Fire has more to offer than oddity interest. His career has spanned the forties, fifties, sixties and seventies, and he's survived when most others haven't. 

Mr. Tim says that his age is closer to fifty than forty but he'll always be sixteen. He claims that meeting youth is what keeps him youthful in attitude and outlook. Consequently the thought that RAM WAS interested in interviewing him was terribly exciting to him because "it's youth again". These days he's grossly overweight but extraordinarily clear skined and talkative. During two hours at Mr. Sharp's he ranged over morals, his career, his ex-wife Miss Vicki (they were married in front of an estimated 40 million teev viewers on The Johnny Carson Show in the U.S., and divorced in private soon afterwards), Olivia Newton-John, Australia, and rock 'n' roll. Miss Debbie and Mr. Stuart just sat and listened. It took him forty five minutes to complete his reply to Standard Question I: "Tell us about your career." 

During the forties Mr. Tim performed under various names like Judith K. Foxglove and Larry Love. The peculiar high pitched voice resulted from a frustration because "in the late forties I had a normal singing voice and couldn't get nowhere. People like it. Friends liked it but when it came to sing I sounded just like anybody else. By the early fifties I couldn't get nowhere." The 'high type of feeling of the voice' came into his soul after he'd fallen to his knees in despair one night and prayed to Jesus Christ. 

"It didn't matter if people laughed as long as they listened and that's what they did. The dangerous part was the daytime — just like any vampire. I lived in a middle class area in New York and when I walked the streets in '55 they all said 'wow, what's happening to this world?" "In 1964, I started having a following. I went to the first party for Mick Jagger in 1964 at Bob Crew's house .. . who did Walk Like A Man, Big Girls Don't Cry. . . and I sang Time Is On My Side in the high voice." At this point Tiny demonstrates in a broken high voice. (Singing for two and a half hours the night before at Luna Park had wrought temporary havoc on his vocal chords.) 

The point around which Tiny Tim's publicity (masterminded by Jeff Wald who now masterminds Helen Reddy and Chicago) resolved, was whether the singer was soooooo good 'cos he was soooooo bad, or whether he had genuine magic. Were the audience laughing because T. T. was delightful, or were they laughing at a freak, it didn't matter while the Big Bucks were coming in. Sadly precious few of them seemed to end up in Tiny's pocket. His present day supporters like Martin Sharp hold there is no question as to his musical importance, but certainly in his first days of fame he was most famous for being the homely, long haired. cosmetic wearing, bath-five-times-a-day freak the superstars liked to meet. For instance there's the saga of Tiny Tim's summit meeting with Bob Dylan.

As Tiny tells it "he invited me to Woodstock. He thought I was a scholar because, as I said, I had the underground following for years. They took me to Albert Grossman's house and then Albert Grossman put me in another car at night and took me to his place. Camouflage almost. I met him at eleven o'clock at night in February of '67. He said 'Hello Mr. Tim' and I said 'Hello Mr. Dylan'. I came inside with my cosmetics and got a room for the night. 

"Then I told him that he was to the teenagers in the folk field what Rudy Vallee was in 1929. He said 'Mr. Tim tell me about Mr. Vallee'. I took my ukelele out and I started doing a few of Mr. Vallee's numbers."

Tiny explained that after the world record attempt the previous night his voice isn't up to scratch but he tried anyway to recreate his singing on that night. First off it was Mr. Vallee's "For I'm just a vagabond lover/In search of a sweetheart it seems". Then another tune of Rudy's. "And then said, 'Mr. Dylan. supposing he was right here in your time how would he be like singing Like A Rolling Stone?' and I started doing "How does it feel to be on your own/ A complete unknown/ Like a Rolling Stone." Now Mr. Dylan heard that voice of Vallee into the period of the sixties and his eyes opened up. And then I said, 'suppose we were living in Mr. Vallee's time here's how I feel you'd be doing his theme song.' He then imitated the legendary Dylan 'cow caught in a barbed wire fence' moan perfectly singing "Your time is my time/we just seem to syncronise, and sympathise, we're harmonised ....

"All Mr. Dylan had to say was "would you like a banana before I go to bed?" Next up was the story of Mr. Tim's meeting with Mr. Harrison ... George that is if you're not up on this Mr. business. The personal meeting with Mr. Harrison was in '68 and he called Tiny to his apartment in Manhattan. Tiny "knocked on the door and four people came out of the closet. I thought it was the Beatles but it was three of his friends. He was there with Jane Asher (hmmm is this Beatle scandal? Wasn't Mr. Harrison supposedly enstrangled with Miss Boyd?). As soon as I walked in I got a little tight because it's different when you meet a person than when you think about it. I was realising that I was shaking hands with the whole industry of rock at that moment.

Then I told him, 'Mr. Harrison, back in '66 when I was with the underground in California I sang Nowhere Man to a Miss Jill who I was crazy over at the time. She was 18 years old." In the high voice he tears into "He's a real nowhere man, living in a nowhereland, making all his nowhere plans for nobody." 

"Then Mr. Harrison took out the tape recorder. He said 'I want you to say Merry Christmas To The Beatles 1968 and go right into that song' which I did. That record went out to all his Beatle fans. Millions of Beatle fans. The private Beatle record of that year, that's worth at least 75 dollars and up today." 

Whilst in Sydney Tiny had recorded an extended version of the Bee Gees' Staying Alive with a bunch of EMI session musicians which Mr. Sharp has plans for releasing. He seemed relatively confident that it would bring him to the attention of a youth audience once again. Ultimately you have to admire Tiny Tim. For thirty years he's been entertaining and it hasn't made any difference to what he dos whether the reaction has been indulgent laughter, sincere appreciation, mockery or ridicule. He's kept on doing it with the same child-like whole-heartedness that shows he wants to entertain, that he wants to be ill the public eye, that he is driven by a love for old songs and a belief in their apropriatness today. 

(Album Tiny signed for my Mother)

In doing what he wants to do, regardless of the consequences, this diminuitive, polite, overweight man measures up as one of the great surviving musical outlaws. 

At the same time, you can't help feeling a strange compassion for him. There's an air of sadness about him, an ageing manchild whose dreams bravely fly in the face of harsher realities.

The entertainment business has this uncanny knack of normalising rebels and freaks, even if the process is as obvious as turning them into wealthy people who buy all the things rich people are supposed to own, and jet set with similarly wealthy cliques. 

But Tiny Tim has never quite been assimilated. He's accepted because he's weird and you know he's always going to be that way. He lives physically in this world but his conceptions of reality are very different from yours and mine. 

But still there are times the different worlds collide. When you can agree with Martin Sharp that Tiny Tim is the most remarkable performer in the world today. Simply because he refuses to give up his dreams. 

By: Mr. Coupe, Ms Baer & Mr. Anthony