Bob Guccione, founder of Penthouse magazine, dies at 79
While Hugh Hefner's Playboy was all about reading the articles, Penthouse played it raunchier. The U.S. version of the mag -- originally conceived in 1965 when Guccione was living in Britain -- came on the scene in 1969 with a dash of tabloid sensibility and more graphic images, billing itself as "the magazine of sex, politics and protest."
Think "gratuitous cheesecake," rendered in all-caps.
"We were the first to show full frontal nudity ...." he once told New York magazine. "HBO would not have gone as far if it wasn't for us." Penthouse was rewarded with a circulation high, at one point, of 4.7 million. Circulation plummeted over the years, however, and Guccione eventually lost the magazine in a 2004 bankruptcy sale, brought down not by Internet porn, he said, but by massive tax problems.
Still, before that, the mag's profits funded some unusual efforts, including setting up 82 scientists in a nuclear-fusion lab in San Diego.
"[W]e were doing very well," he told New York. "But we had reached a point where we needed to create a device which would ignite the plasma. That device would have a life of about one ten-thousandth of a second and cost about $35 million to build. And since I was the sole supporter, I couldn't go any further."
Who knew? Guccione's General Media Inc. also published scientific "porn" of a sort: Omni magazine, which in this writer's opinion actually was very worthwhile reading -- for the articles.
-- Christie D'Zurilla
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: Bob Guccione leaves federal court in New York on May 14, 2002. Credit: Robert Mecea / Associated Press