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Bob Guccione was a publisher of a variety of magazines, most notably the men's magazine Penthouse.
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Publisher, producer, artist. Born on December 17, 1930, in Brooklyn, New York. While his company went on to develop many different publications, Bob Guccione is best known as the founder of the raunchy men’s magazine, Penthouse. It was an unusual career choice for someone who once studied for the priesthood. Growing up in a Catholic Italian-American family, Guccione had been an altar boy. He even spent several months in a seminary before dropping out. Instead of attending college, he decided to pursue his dream of becoming an artist.
For years, Guccione traveled around Europe and Africa. Unfortunately, he could not support himself with his art alone so he took odd jobs and received some funds from his family. In 1960, Guccione moved to London and eventually became the managing editor of the London American, a weekly newspaper. After that venture folded, he started a mail-order business before coming up with the idea for Penthouse.
At the time, Playboy was the leading men’s magazine. Guccione thought there was an opportunity to overtake Playboy’s lead by offering a more explicit magazine. In 1965, the first issue hit newsstands in England and sold out in only five days. Kathy Keeton, Guccione’s girlfriend (and his future third wife), was instrumental in its success. A nightclub dancer, she sold ad space for the magazine during the day and later became one of its top executives. The magazine broke new ground in men’s magazines in 1967 when it started showing the pubic area of its models.
In 1969, the American edition of Penthouse was launched and featured its trademark mix of nude pictorials, cartoons, investigative journalism, and fiction. Like Playboy had its Playmate of the Month, Penthouse had one model as its Pet of Month in each issue who was featured in a special photo spread. In the early days of the magazine, Guccione took all of the photos for the Pet features himself. He worked incredibly long hours to make his business a success and was very demanding of his staff, running the company more like a creative monarch than an executive. A man of unusual tastes, he admired the Roman emperor Caligula and eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.
Guccione also started another graphic publication aimed at women called Viva in 1973. Featuring photographs of nude males, the magazine also published interviews, research pieces, and fiction by such authors as Nadine Gordimer and Maxine Hong Kingston. But advertisers were reluctant to buy space in the magazine because of the male nudity. Viva tried to change its content in 1976, but it was too late.
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