A spontaneous chant, full of the sort of her0-worship normally reserved for the likes of Jerry Springer or Howard Stern: "Lar-ry, Lar-ry!" That's how the 200 men and women attending the grand opening of Tempe's brand-spankin' new Hustler Hollywood store last night greeted the gold wheelchair-bound porn magnate as he was wheeled into the upscale retail outlet by a bodyguard. For the next two hours, Flynt, flanked by three sparsely clad Hustler Honeys, signed books, photos, T-shirts, arms, you name it, as the crowd in attendance basically loved up on the 65-year-old smut king like he was some XXX-rated Bill Clinton.
Flynt gorged himself on the attention, pressing the flesh with everyone from middle-aged Scottsdale MILFs and pimped out cats in garish coats with fly mistresses on their arms, to hot Barely Legal wannabes with skin like white chocolate and lanky, close-cropped soldiers just back from Iraq (where they're not allowed to keep copies of Hustler magazine, I'm told). As Flynt scrawled his name umpteen times and posed for candids, slowly whittling down the line, KISS FM pumped those waiting outside, and NBC Channel 12's diminutive Veronica Sanchez hovered about. This, while well-heeled femmes and fellas took advantage of the champagne and sushi being served in the walled-off, hardcore 30% of this 10,000-quare-foot enterprise. It's in this section where DVDs like Lewd Conduct and It's Better in Brownsville share space with a dazzling array of marital aids and pneumatic devices crafted from faux flesh. Above it all was plastered a quote from Larry's bro, Jimmy, "Relax...It's only Sex."
The other 70% of the orange-and-cream themed erotic emporium is made up of Hustler ashtrays, lighters and trinkets, books, rhinestone jewelry, a full line of Hustler clothing, and a lingerie section that rivals Victoria's Secret. No secrets here, though. Like the other 11 stores in the Hustler Hollywood chain, this spot is well-lit with large windows looking out onto the front parking lot. Sex without stigma is what HH sells, which may be why the line of Larry admirers included slim, attractive Tempe temptresses asking Flynt's Honeys to sign leave-nothing-to-the-imagination centerfold shots in current editions of Hustler. Back in the day, radical feminists would've stormed a place like this and turned it upside down. Nowadays, the chicks dig it as much as the guys do.
Shortly before Flynt made his triumphant entrance, I chatted with the legend about his Phoenix connections: the fact that Hustler began as the Dayton, Ohio franchise of PHX pub Bachelor's Beat, which Flynt spotted many moons back while scouting the Hi-Liter strip club (the name of Larry's mag soon changed, natch); and Flynt arch-nemesis Charles Keating, who still dwells in the Valley, albeit without Flynt's fame or acclaim. Long before he was cookin' up dubious real estate deals, Keating was an anti-porn crusader in Ohio with Flynt as his Public Enemy #1.
"It didn't surprise me years later that he got caught up in that savings and loan scam that cost millions to senior citizens," commented Flynt in his famous drawl. "I guess those are his 'moral values,' but mine are 'reprehensible.'"
Flynt said he'd have nothing to say to the old geezer if he ran into him, but another Flynt enemy is now a pal, of sorts: Jerry Falwell, who sued Flynt over a parody that ran in Hustler, a suit finally decided in Flynt's favor by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"We've done the Larry King show together, and when he came out to California, we got together, and I've seen him down in Florida," Flynt recounted. "You know, my mother used to tell me that no matter how much you might despise a person, when you meet them, you'll always find something about them you'll like. I guess that's the situation with Falwell."
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Why Tempe for his 12th store? According to Flynt, the area's conducive to a successful HH, in part by being so close to ASU. (Wait till ASU Prez Michael Crow hears that one!) As for the magazine itself, which now regularly features full-on male-female penetration (once verboten in U.S. mags), it seems there are very few taboos left Flynt wishes to traverse.
"We stay away from themes like extreme bondage, pedophilia, necrophilia, and things that are really an aberration," he explained. "We've pretty much settled down to being a vanilla publishing house. We're into just plain ol' vanilla sex, ya know? To get all those other flavors, you gotta go somewhere else."
Larry Flynt, king of vanilla sex. The times, they have a-changed.
The new Hustler Hollywood store is located at 1628 East Broadway Road, just west of McClintock Drive in Tempe.