I told this story in the blog back in 2011, but with Larry Flynt’s recent passing, I thought I should tell it again.
See, Larry Flynt, who died at the age from heart disease at the age of 78, was best known as the publisher of the adult magazine Hustler. And our paths crossed in 2005. Briefly.
In early 2005, I was a featured writer for Goldmine Magazine, the music collector’s biweekly. I wanted to pitch an idea to them – an article on cheesecake album covers. Cheesecake album covers featured beautiful women – many of them almost wearing clothing – and the album cover itself, in many cases, was worth more than the music inside. If you’ve ever seen Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” album – well, that’s a cheesecake album cover. So are most of the album covers with Julie London on the front. Even pinup princess Bettie Page appeared on a few album jackets.
Normally, Goldmine would pick up any article I pitched at them. I had a really good track record with the company. This time, however, the assistant editor was in a bad mood and she wasn’t interested in any of my pitches. Especially not a pitch about collecting cheesecake album covers. “Come on, Chuck, nobody’s going to want to read that.”
So the cheesecake album cover idea got rejected.
With that in mind, I worked on some other articles for other magazines. But the idea of an entire article based on beautiful girls adorning album cover art – just for the sake of the girls appearing on the album covers, whether or not they were even singing or part of the recordings – would not leave my brain. I kept thinking about it … I knew I could sell the article to another magazine. And if Goldmine wasn’t interested in it… let’s see if any of the popular men’s magazines would want it.
I contacted the publishers of Maxim. They said no thanks.
I contacted the publishers of Stuff. They said no thanks.
I contacted the publishers of FHM. Not interested.
Well, that didn’t stop me. I decided to up the ante and try other avenues. What’s the worst thing they’re going to do to me, say no?
I wrote a query letter to Playboy. Nope. Hugh Hefner wasn’t interested. And, I suspect, neither was Holly, Kendra or Bridget.
I wrote a query letter to Penthouse. No,Bob Guccione didn’t think it was worth adding to his publication, either.
Last chance. I went for broke – I sent a blind pitch to LFP Media.
That’s “LFP” as in Larry Flynt Productions.
Yep. I sent the proposal to Hustler. When I said I was going for broke… I was not kidding.
A few days went by. No response. I was about to give up on the idea –
And then I received an e-mail. “Mr. Miller, I am the assistant editor for Hustler Magazine. We would be very interested in your article on cheesecake album covers – but only if you can tailor it more toward our readership. We would also need at least ten full-color digital scans – 300 dpi minimum – and at least 700 words on the subject. Please submit the article within two weeks. Thank you for considering our publication. We look forward to receiving your work.”
Sweet Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, Hustler wanted my article!!
I had to move fast. I had some of the cheesecake album covers in my personal record collection, but the magazine wanted ten covers. Three winning eBay auctions and a trip to the WFMU Record Show in New York City, and I had my quota filled.
But I needed to get color copies of the album art. Albums are 12 inches square, which is larger than most flatbed scanners will permit, and my camera at the time – a Nikon CoolPix 800 – wasn’t powerful enough to generate the high-quality photos that the magazine desired. Luckily, I was able to get a photo lab in Albany’s warehouse district to scan all the album covers and put the high-resolution images on a CD. And yes, I had to explain to them WHY I was doing it. And yes, they had a good laugh at my expense. But hey, they did their job.
The images were ready, I now had to write the article. I talked about music that had plenty of double-entendre in it – songs that meant one thing while saying another. I also included information on certain mail-order albums – the kind you couldn’t purchase at “respectable” record stores – and how many of these companies were shut down by the government for selling “adult-oriented” material through the mail. Theoretically, you could listen to these records today, and they’d be tamer than hearing “WAP” on repeat. But back in the 1950’s and 1960’s – hoo boy, you could get arrested for selling any of these records. When I originally wrote this blog post in 2011, I couldn’t even show any of the album covers, lest the Times Union shut my blog down and claim it was pornography. Trust me on this.
In the article, I discussed the “test records” blues artists made in the early 1930’s, with suggestive lyrics that would only be pressed as copies for a label’s executives and a few friends; most of those records were later compiled into a series called Copulatin’ Blues, with yes a saucy front cover. I talked about artists like Faye Richmonde and Ruth Wallis and Rusty Warren, artists whose song lyrics ranged from borderline double-entendre to blatantly overt innuendo. I talked about record companies who would put a curvy sex kitten on the album jacket, while the record’s contents would be a literary reading of Lady Chatterly’s Lover or ancient Greek poetry. Talk about your bait and switch.
I sent the article and the graphics along to the publisher. They were impressed. So much so, that they asked if I could craft another 300 words for the article. No problem. I added a few more paragraphs and shipped them out via e-mail.
Next thing I know, my article – “Dirty Grooves” – appeared in the March 2005 issue of Hustler – pages 92, 93 and 110 if you want to find the back issue. The article was spread over three pages; one of the pages faced an ad for a Jenna Jameson DVD package. Yep, that’s about as close to Jenna Jameson as I’ll ever get – at least without requiring an industrial-strength penicillin shot.
And right after that, a check for $1,000 arrived in my mailbox. Yep. Larry Flynt paid me $1,000 to keep my clothes on. I never wrote for the publication again, there really was no reason for me to continue. Once was enough.
And the best part of the whole experience – I was able to boast to my assistant editor at Goldmine that the article she rejected was published in a magazine with five million subscribers. And then when she found out WHAT magazine it was… ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
So what’s the moral of this story? Simply… don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve something. If you set your mind on a goal, then with patience and tenacity and pluck and luck, you can reach the finish line.
Even if it requires the assistance of Larry Flynt.
And love him or hate him, at least he wasn’t afraid to give an enterprising young writer a chance to write something in an adult magazine that didn’t start with the words, “I never thought this would happen to me…”