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Barry Avrich’s account of the life of this most unlikely revolutionary of the 1960s counterculture is energetic, iconoclastic and well researched, examining Guccione’s long and audacious career, most notably as publisher of the hugely influential pornographic magazine Penthouse and producer of the porn epic Caligula.
Social and political change often takes place
in the most unlikely of forums. Witness the
cultural revolution of the 1960s, fought in
underground magazines, comic books, rock
music, and pornography. Perversely, porn
may have had the longest impact — becoming
a key battleground for the supposed sexual
revolution and peaking, paradoxically, with
the emergence of the second wave of feminism.
And the most unlikely "revolutionary"
of the period was probably the publisher of
Penthouse, Bob Guccione.
In Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione
Story, veteran filmmaker Barry Avrich's
energetic and well-researched account of
the pornographer's life, Guccione emerges
as a gambler who never knew when to stop.
As long as he stuck to publishing, Guccione
was able to expand to his heart's content,
launching successful periodicals like Omni
and Spin. But when he started investing
in everything from nuclear reactors to
the self-financed porn epic Caligula, and
finally and most catastrophically Atlantic
City casinos, his luck ran out.
As one of his closest confidants remarks,
Guccione went directly to the last act of
Citizen Kane, and, as the excesses pile up
(the gold-plated roofs, lavish dinner parties,
enormous art collection), it's hard not to equate Guccione with other overreaching
pop figures: Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson,
or, for that matter, Caligula. At the same time,
Guccione contributed to seismic cultural
shifts. Penthouse was primarily staffed by
women — it being one of the few magazines
that would hire women to do traditionally
male jobs, such as selling advertising.
Boasting some amazing archival and
home-movie footage, Filthy Gorgeous is
as complicated as its subject: part Horatio
Alger, part American tragedy, and part
alternative social history .
- Barry Avrich
- Barry Avrich was born in Montreal.
His documentaries include The
Last Mogul (05), Jackie Mason: The
Ultimate Jew (08), Unauthorized: The
Harvey Weinstein Project (11), Show
Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth
Drabinsky (12), which screened at the
Festival and Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob
Guccione Story (13).