Larry Flynt, the controversial Hustler magazine founder, died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 78.
His brother Jimmy Flynt confirmed the business mogul’s passing to the Washington Post, but did not disclose his cause of death.
Larry Flynt built an adult entertainment empire worth $100 million after dropping out of high school, joining the military, and later managing a string of bars in Ohio. His other ventures included the Hustler casino in suburban Los Angeles County, as well as an online sex toy store and private clubs.
He launched Hustler magazine in 1974 as a spinoff of the Hustler newsletter, which he originally created to advertise his clubs.
Hustler portrayed sexually explicit images of female genitalia, bondage, and more that shocked the country. While it had a following, the publication was considered a low-brow contender to Playboy and Penthouse magazines.
Flynt championed himself a first amendment activist for pushing the envelope of what could be published, and he was repeatedly engaged in legal battles.
During a court case regarding obscenity in 1978, the Hustler founder was shot by a would-be assassin in Georgia and left permanently paralyzed. Not one to shy away from being ostentatious, Flynt had a custom, gold-plated wheelchair made that was lined in velvet.
Although he had earlier been a Democrat, Flynt launched a failed presidential campaign in 1984, and ran as a Republican.
He was also the subject of the 1996 biographical drama The People vs. Larry Flynt, which featured Woody Harrelson as Flynt and co-starred Courtney Love and Edward Norton. The film garnered Academy Award nominations for Harrelson as best actor and director Miloš Forman as best director.
The film chronicled Flynt’s upbringing in Kentucky and career, along with his court battle with Rev. Jerry Falwell in the U.S. Supreme Court. The conservative televangelist sued Flynt for $45 million over his depiction in a crude parody ad published in Hustler. The court ruled in favor of the magazine with Flynt winning the first amendment case.