Larry Flynt at Home

From interviews by Jean Stein

At Home with Larry Flynt (excerpted)
from Interviews by Jean Stein
Grand Street ; Issue # 36

"Good morning, I am your worst nightmare come true: a fabulously wealthy pornographer with the courage and willingness to spend his last dime to expose how you are perverting the Constitution of this great land. Now let's get down to business.
"Larry Flynt for President" campaign ad, Nov. 1963

Terry Southern:
Den Hopper called me from Larry Flynt's: "I've sent you a first-class round-trip ticket and I want you to come out. I have a proposition for you. Take my word, it's a good thing. I'll meet the plane." And so I went out without knowing anything except that Den had recommended it.

Den did meet me at the airport and he said, "Man, you're going to dig this scene. This is fantastic!"

When we arrive, the iron gate swings open and they wave Den in. Here I am in this gigantic place, three blocks up from the Bel Air Hotel. I'm trying to think whose house it used to be--Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, or Sonny and Cher, or somebody. Many generations of mismatched celebrities. There were tennis courts and pools on each side of the house with waterfalls and things like that. Well secured--it's patrolled by guys carrying Uzi machine guns. Three uniformed guards outside the fence, and then on the inside three huge bodybuilder types, dressed in white short-sleeves to show off their gigantic biceps. The guards say, "Larry and Althea are resting," which meant that they were just nodded out. So Den and I go up to these fantastic adjoining suites, like something out of the Bel Air Hotel.

Den had become friendly with Althea, who was Larry Flynt's wife. A very curious girl from Georgia, extremely provincial, but with what you might call "keen native intelligence"--a sort of poor-white-trash Whoopi Goldberg. She was heavily into pleasure--obsessed with doing all kinds of things for pleasure, especially all kinds of dope. She had a voracious appetite, but she was an innocent--a babe in the woods without a conscience. In an effort to cool her out, Larry had asked her, "What would you like to do, baby? You name it. " She said, "I want to make a movie about Jim Morrison." "All right, you've got it." She consults Den Hopper, and he says: "Well, the person you want to get to write the script is my friend Terry Southern." She said, "Oh, right, good idea." So Den tells me, "We'll write the script together. I already asked them for twenty-five thousand dollars apiece up front." And he hands me this envelope of hundred dollar bills that thick: "Here, here's yours. I'll show you mine, see, they're the same." "Where should we keep it?" I asked. "I don't know, I'm keeping mine behind this book. The other day I got so stoned I couldn't remember which book it was. I tore the place apart."

Then we met this one particular guard who, it turns out, is also the chief drug procurer. He says, "Larry's trying to get Althea to clean up, so it's very important not to give her any dope." Then he tells Dennis, "Larry wants to see you in his study." And Den says to me, "I'll see you later. Why don't you just wander around?"

So I'm wandering around the halls and I turn the corner and there's this waif-like girl with wild eyes. She said, "Are you Terry?" I said yes. "Hi baby, I'm Althea," and while we were still having a hug she said, "Are you holding any dope?" When I said no, she said, "I'm surprised there's any friend of Dennis Hopper who isn't holding dope." I said, "Well, I'm not. I just got here and I haven't had a chance. Besides, a guy with a gun has already told me you're not to have any. " She said, "Yes, they may tell you that, but they don't know what they're talking about. My doctor said I should have dope or I'm going to stress out."

She said, "I'm so glad that you're going to do the Jim Morrison thing. I'm in love with him. I think he's still alive, don't you?" "I don't know about that," I said, "but his spirit certainly lives on." "Nah," she said, "I mean, he's been seen by a lot of people. He was seen in Venice not long ago"Venice, California, which is where he used to hang out. "Come downstairs, I want you to meet a friend of mine who's just got here." It was Tim Leary. He very surreptitiously passed her some dope. "Sunshine from the East," he said. "A CARE package from the East." I said, "What are you doing here?" He said, "I'm meeting Liddy. Liddy and I have been rehearsing here." G. Gordon Liddy and Leary were doing this "debating tour," and they rehearsed their debate at Flynt's. "I don't want to meet him," I said, "he represents everything bad. " And Leary just beamed. "Oh, you'll like him," he said.

The next guy to arrive was Marjoe--you know, that guy who used to be a child evangelist. And the other person who was a permanent guest for the moment was Madalyn Murray. Madalyn Murray has devoted her entire life to trying to get the Bible outlawed in school. She's a professional atheist, very courageous. For some reason Larry Flynt was interested in her cause. I think he wanted to fuck her ... mind-fuck her I mean.

About 4:00 P.M. Larry Flynt comes in and he says, "Sundowner time. Time for a sundowner." He's in a wheelchair. His wheelchair is motorized and gold-plated, and it has little American flags like on an ambassador's car. He's wearing this big diaper he had made up from an American flag. "They treat me like a baby," he said, "so I'm going to behave like one. And if I poo-poo in my diaper, I'll be poo-pooing on the American flag." He's trying to explain this to this huge Indian--what the hell is his name? He's a great Indian guy who's about seven feet tall ... Means, Russell Means. He's there, and meanwhile I hear this shouting, and it sounds like a big argument, but it's just Liddy and Tim Leary rehearsing their act, I mean their "debate. " About time for dinner, Frank Zappa arrives, you know him. Quite a grand zany. So there's this very long table of odd people.

After dinner Larry said, "Come into my study, Terry, you're going to need some money for the weekend." We went into his office and he said, "There I s a briefcase right by the couch where you're sitting. Put it in your lap and open it." So I did. It was full of packs of hundred-dollar bills. Larry said, "It's a million dollars. I have to have this on hand to give validity to the offer." And he showed me this circular: A standing offer from Larry Flynt to the following women who are prepared to show gyno-pink. One million cash to: Barbara Bach, Cathy Bach, Barbi Benton, Cheryl Tiegs.... They were mostly kind of obscure, but there were one or two that were totally out of place, like Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. He was offering a million dollars if they'd pose and do a gyno spread, what he called 4 'flashing pink." And so he said, "Take whatever you think you'll need for the weekend," and he made a point of turning around to use the phone so I could take what I wanted. When he finished his call, he asked, "How much did you take?"
"Two hundred dollars."
"You must be a fool--you could have taken more."
I said, "I don't think I need any more than that."
"Well, I like an honest man," he said. "Do you think Dennis Hopper's honest?"
"I know him well," I said. "He's very honest."
"Well, he claimed he lost the twenty-five thousand dollars," Larry said. "Do you believe that?"
"I think he found it again," I said. "Didn't he tell you?"
"Oh, that's right," he said, "he told me."

It must have been that night, I got a call about 3:00 A.M. "Terry? Althea. What are you holding?"
"I'm not holding anything."
"Dennis told me you were holding. I've got to have something, baby, I'm stressing out."
I said, "Well, let me speak with Dennis."
"I just spoke to him and he claims he doesn't have anything, but I don't believe him."
So I went to Dennis and I said, "Why did you pass her on to me?"
"Well, I don't know what to do about this," he said. "Here,
I've got one joint, give her this."
"Why don't you give it to her?" I said.
"I'm not dressed."
So I went out in the hall, and sure enough, there she was, in a weird white lady-of-the-lake nightgown, and she rushes up, and I'm just about to give her the joint when I see this huge security guard, Hans is his name. Monstro-Kraut. She said, "Drop it down the front of my gown and he won't see it." I did, but it fell right through. She was a bit on the frail-knocker side. "It fell on the floor," I said. So she put her foot on it, she's standing on it.

Meanwhile Hans says, "Is there any trouble?"

"Oh no, just having a little stroll here, and bumped into Althea here." Meanwhile she's trying to pick up the joint with her toes, you know. I mean absurd. He looks down and says, "Wait a minute, I'll help you."

"No, no," Althea said, "I don't need your help. When I need your help, I'll ask for it."
"All right, all right. Have it your way. But I know, I know." And so he turned and left.

The next day Larry Flynt sent for me. "Althea is in no condition to talk about her projects because somebody's been giving her drugs. Do you know anything about it?" "No," I said, "I don't know anything about it." "Hans said that he saw you passing her dope in the hall, passing it from your foot to her foot. He says that you keep your dope in your shoe. He says your shoe is your stash." I said, "Well, Dennis Hopper's going to have to explain all of this." Meanwhile, as a joke, I had written on a piece of paper right above Dennis's bed: "Rise and shine, Hopper, we've got some tooting to do!"

Larry Flynt couldn't function from the waist down. As long as he kept certain nerves alive, he had a theoretical chance of regaining the use of his limbs. Finally the pain got so bad that he was advised to have this operation whereby they severed these nerves. But during this period the pain was terrific, so he actually had a prescription for morphine and had developed quite a little oil-burner of a habit. Althea was constantly plotting to steal it from him. So Flynt decided to put a permanent guard on his stash of M. He had tried to hide it every night, like Dennis hid his twenty-five thou, but he would forget where he'd hid it. He had periods of great lucidity and then periods where he wouldn't know what was going on.

Meanwhile, the Jim Morrison project was in a shambles. Nobody had bothered to look into anything like the rights. I told Althea, "Well, we're having a little problem with the rights. You have a few lawyers, I understand. Could we put one of them on trying to sort out the rights to this story? We're going to have to get an agreement from each of the Doors, or else we can't use the name 'Jim Morrison,' we can't use the music." She looked so despondent that I felt obliged to come up with something. "Maybe we could do it in such a way that everyone would know it's really about Morrison," and she said, "Oh yeah, I can dig it, I can dig it. It might be interesting to do it that way."

Althea was the producer and she wanted to meet some movie stars. She said, "Let's have a party and get some PR going for the Jim Morrison project. Now I want you and Dennis to make up a list of all the movie stars you can think of and invite them to the party." And Larry wanted to publicize his million-dollar offer for celeb-pink, so he wanted the attaché case full of cash there for the photographers and journalists to feel and photograph. At first Althea said, "I think that's going to cheapen the Jim Morrison Story aspect of it," but Larry said, "No, it won't. A million dollars cash don't cheapen nothin', baby."

"If elected, my primary goal will be to eliminate sexual ignorance and venereal disease. Every ounce of strength I can muster, both physically and psychologically, will be used courageously and endlessly to remove the massive repressive hand of government,, the ruling class, from the crotch of the American people."
--Larry Flynt, presidential candidacy announcement, Oct. 16, 1983


[Editor's Note: The original piece "At Home with Larry Flynt", published in Grand Street #36, was created by Jean Stein from interviews she had done with Terry Southern, Timothy Leary and Dennis Hopper. This version contains Terry Southern's quotations only.]

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