Penthouse founder Bob Guccione dies at 79
Bob Guccione, a seminary school dropout who revolutionized the adult entertainment industry in the late 1960s as the publisher of Penthouse magazine, filling its glossy pages with photographs of nude co-eds in explicitly erotic positions, and selling millions of copies in the process, has died of cancer age 79.
Mr. Guccione, who often wore pelvic hugging leather pants and collared shirts unbuttoned to his navel, exposing his wealth of chest hair and gold chains, estimated Penthouse earned $4 billion during his tenure as publisher.
He attributed his magazine's success to the way he had the nude models pose.
"We followed the philosophy of voyeurism," Mr. Guccione said in 2004. "To see her as if she doesn't know she's being seen."
Along the way, Mr. Guccione became one of the 400 wealthiest Americans, accruing a personal fortune of about $400 million in the early 1980s.
He became a respected art collector and had works by Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Chagall, Degas and Picasso hanging in his 22,000-square-foot mansion in New York City.
While the graphic pictures alone made the magazine popularly controversial, Penthouse made news headlines in 1984 after it published nude photographs of Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to become Miss America.
After publication, Williams lost her title and sued Penthouse for damages, which made $14 million alone off that issue and sold six million copies. The lawsuit was later dropped.
Despite his magazines success, Penthouse suffered financially in the 1990s after circulation numbers began to dip with the rise of internet pornography. In the first months of 2010 circulation has dropped to 178,000.
Mr. Guccione also made a series of ill-advised investments, including a failed $18 million movie production of an X-rated adaptation of "Caligula," and $45 million in delinquent taxes, which contributed to his empire's downfall. His business filed for bankruptcy in the early 2000s.
He was forced to sell many pieces from his art collection at auction and sold his Manhattan mansion for $49 million.
A full obituary on Mr. Guccione is on the way.
T. Rees Shapiro
| October 21, 2010; 11:22 AM ET
Categories: T. Rees Shapiro | Tags: bob guccione, penthouse, playboy
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