Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione dies

Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:46am EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bob Guccione, who brought full-frontal nudity to the newsstands and built a multimillion dollar publishing empire on the success of his flagship Penthouse magazine, died of cancer in Plano, Texas, on Wednesday, his family said. He was 79.

His wife, April Dawn Warren Guccione, and two of his children were at his side, according to a statement emailed to Reuters.

Seen as an upstart rival to Playboy's Hugh Hefner as the leading publisher of skin magazines, Guccione aggressively challenged his rival while trying to keep Penthouse legitimate.

The financial success of Penthouse's mix of racy photographs, investigative reporting, science fiction and sexual advice columns allowed Guccione to launch other magazines, most notably the glossy science publication Omni.

He also published Forum, Variations and Penthouse Letters, pocket-sized magazines based on some of the most popular Penthouse columns.

Guccione also owned one of the largest mansions in Manhattan. But he eventually lost his Penthouse empire due to Reagan-era censorship, a series of extravagant business failures and the Internet onslaught of free pornography.

He earned world headlines and sent Penthouse sales rocketing with publication of nude photographs of Miss America, Vanessa Williams, in 1984 and of rock queen Madonna in 1985.

In July 1988 and again in January 1989, Penthouse rocked the worldwide television ministry of Jimmy Swaggart with "confessions" from women who said they acted out pornographic fantasies for Swaggart. The preacher was defrocked by his denomination.

Guccione portrayed himself as a conservative workaholic, belying the racy reputation inspired by his magazines and his stock uniform of a shirt open to the waist and gold chains draped around his neck.   Continued...