RIP: Bob Guccione, Lord Of The Soft Focus, Dead At 79

NEW YORK TIMES: Bob Guccione, who founded Penthouse magazine in the 1960s and built a pornographic media empire that broke taboos, outraged the guardians of taste and made billions before drowning in a slough of bad investments and Internet competition, died Wednesday in Plano, Tex., The Associated Press reported. He was 79.  A statement issued by the Guccione family said he died at Plano Specialty Hospital after a battle with cancer, The A.P. said. His empire began in London in 1965 with a bank loan, an idea and an accident. The loan was for $1,170. The idea was a new magazine with nude photos to outdo Hugh Hefner’s Playboy. And the accident was an old mailing list, so that promotional brochures with pornographic samples went out to clergymen, schoolgirls, old-age pensioners and wives of members of Parliament. The outcry was huge. And there was a $264 fine for mailing indecent materials. But all 120,000 copies of the first issue of Penthouse sold out in days, and Mr. Guccione, a struggling artist from New Jersey who had been knocking around Europe for more than a decade, was on his way to being a tycoon. By the early 1980s he was one of America’s richest men, king of a $300 million publishing empire, General Media, which owned Penthouse, with a monthly circulation of 4.7 million in 16 countries, and 15 other magazines, including Omni and Penthouse Forum as well as titles on bodybuilding, photography and computers, in addition to book, video and merchandising divisions. MORE

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