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When Larry Flynt published an unflattering parody of Jerry Falwell in Hustler, Falwell waged a suit that eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court. It ruled in Flynt's favor, citing the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech.
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As expected, the magazine outraged anti-porn advocates and feminists.
From the first day Hustler hit the newsstands, Flynt challenged America’s interpretation of the First Amendment. Over the next few years, his brash style was showcased in a series of closely watched lawsuits that pitted freedom of speech against pornography. In May of 1976,
Flynt was indicted on several counts of pandering obscenity and organized crime. The case was significant because it suggested that individual communities had the right to define obscenity. Initially, he was convicted and sentenced to 7-25 years in prison. However, the ruling was later overturned.
In 1977, a 60 Minutes producer introduced Flynt to Ruth Carter Stapleton, the evangelist sister of President Jimmy Carter. The two formed a fast friendship, which resulted in Flynt’s surprising and publicized conversion to Christianity. Under the guidance of Stapleton, Flynt altered his mindset about Hustler’s objective, vowing to no longer portray women in such a vulgar manner.
In March 1978, alleged gunman and white supremacist Joseph Paul Franklin shot Flynt and his lawyer, Gene Reeves, outside a Georgia courthouse. Flynt’s injuries included permanent paralysis of his legs, as well as a minor speech impediment. Shortly after, he renounced his enlightened Christian thinking. Althea and Flynt retreated to a lavish Bel Air estate where, over the next few years, the couple lived in their bedroom behind a steel door. In constant pain, Flynt grew dependent on painkillers, while Althea developed an addiction to heroin.
In the fall of 1983, Flynt again challenged the U.S. government when he threatened to publicize surveillance tapes that were potentially embarrassing to the FBI. When he refused to reveal the source of the tapes the courts fined him $10,000 a day. In a display of defiance, Flynt delivered his fine wearing a diaper made out of the American flag. He was tried and convicted for desecration of the flag, and spent six months (from February to July 1984) in a federal prison.
Flynt was once again thrust into the national spotlight in November 1983, when Reverend Jerry Falwell sued him for publishing a satirical cartoon, which implied that Falwell had an incestuous affair with his mother. The televangelist filed a libel suit for $45 million with the additional charge of intent to inflict emotional distress. Six months later, a jury found Flynt innocent of libel but awarded Falwell $200,000.
In the mid 1980s, Althea was diagnosed with AIDS. She spiraled into a severe depression, which culminated in her death by drowning. She was 34 years old. A devastated Flynt refocused his attention on his First Amendment crusade. Unsatisfied with the Falwell decision, he appealed the ruling, which was unanimously overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1988. The verdict was considered a landmark decision because it constitutionally protected offensive speech aimed at public figures (as long as it did not claim to be fact). The victory seemed to mark a turning point in Flynt’s life.
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Life imitates art in Hollywood, where passionate romances turn into short-lived marriages and quickie divorces. Numerous nuptials are one of the hallmarks of the celebrity lifestyle. Hollywood royalty Elizabeth Taylor married eight times—even more than real royalty King Henry VIII, who married six times. Here's a look at the famous individuals who tied the knot—and then tied it again, and again, and again.
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