publisher and founder Bob Guccione died October 20th, of cancer, in Plano, Texas. He was 79. While Playboy made its mark showcasing wholesome “girls next door,” Guccione realized there was a wide open market for a magazine that depicted raunchier fare. The magazine grossed a reported $4 billion over thirty years; Forbes magazine estimated Guccione’s wealth at $200 million in 1985. But the rise of Internet pornography over the past fifteen years devastated the business, and by 2003 the magazine’s parent company filed for bankruptcy. The following year Guccione resigned as CEO. “I think we made a very serious contribution to the liberalization of laws and attitudes,” Guccione once said. “HBO would not have gone as far as it does if it wasn’t for us breaking the barriers. Much that has happened now in the Western world with respect to sexual advances is directly due to steps that we took.”
Born in Brooklyn, Guccione was woking in England as a journalist when the huge success of Playboy inspired him to create a similar magazine — though it was unafraid to show pubic hair, run sensationalistic stories or print dirty jokes. Despite an extremely limited budget (which Guccione claimed forced him to personally take many of the nude photos) the magazine was a huge hit and it came to America in 1969. As the years went on, the magazine became more hardcore. In 1984 they made major news when they ran nude photos of the new Miss America Vanessa Williams, which forced her to resign amidst a media firestorm.
Guccione lived a lavish lifestyle in New York, amassing a $200 million art collection and residing in one of the largest private residences in the city. Numerous bad investments — including a casino project in Atlantic City that was never completed — took their toll and when the Internet started to devastate the pornography business he was forced to sell his home and, eventually, Penthouse. He spent the last few years battling creditors and cancer.