It’s Poker Night With Larry Flynt! Porn King Discourses on Sex, Gore

The Royal Court received its king when a bodyguard pushed the $80,000 gold-plated wheelchair bearing Larry Flynt to a table in the middle of the empty restaurant that operated out of Mr. Flynt’s three-month-old, $35 million Hustler casino in Gardena, Calif. Mr. Flynt kept his eyes forward, but his head bobbed along as a few of the Royal Court’s workers looked up from their tasks and took in his clean-shaven Humpty Dumpty face, his satiny royal blue shirt with the monogrammed cuffs, his onyx pinkie ring and diamond-encrusted watch.

It was Aug. 17, 8:20 p.m. Al Gore had just finished his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention just a few miles away in downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Flynt had seen the speech. “It was better than I thought it would be,” he said. “I thought that Gore would come out there screamin’ and yellin’ and hyperventilating, you know.” Mr. Flynt spoke slowly and quietly and sounded a bit like Fozzie Bear with a tranquilizer dart in his ass.

“It was sincere and the message was driven,” said Mr. Flynt’s wife, the former Liz Berrios, who was at the table along with Mr. Flynt’s 52-year-old younger brother, Jimmy; a grizzly-like 53-year-old man named Dennis Hof, in a double-breasted black jacket; and Mr. Hof’s toothpick of a 21-year-old girlfriend, Tara Farr.

“I was glad to see him recognize Clinton, you know,” said Larry Flynt.

“He didn’t distance himself,” concurred Mr. Hof, who employs 250 prostitutes at his brothel, the Moonlite Bunnyranch, near Carson City, Nev.

“He has been his partner for almost 8 years,” said Larry Flynt.

Mr. Flynt said this in a way that conveyed he did not take the word “partner” lightly; possibly because he had been Mr. Clinton’s partner, too. Not for eight years and not in any official sense, but certainly during the days when the name Monica Lewinsky flushed the cheeks of any Democratic operative on the Eastern seaboard, Mr. Flynt had been there for Mr. Clinton. Though the New York and Washington elite who had put Mr. Clinton in the White House would scoff at this notion, less powerful people–certainly everyone at this table–held one truth as self-evident: that by outing Georgia Republican Bob Barr and Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston for their less- than-exemplary extramarital behavior, Larry Flynt had single-handedly saved Mr. Clinton’s ass.

And here at the Royal Court, among his friends, among his family, Mr. Flynt hinted that just as Mr. Gore had recognized his partner, Mr. Clinton had done the same.

“The President sent word to me, you know–ahh, he was thankful for my effort, and maybe after he left office we could break bread or something,” Mr. Flynt told The Transom. “A lot of people say that he should be thanking me now in person. I say, look, the last thing Bill Clinton needs now is to be associated with me in any manner whatsoever.”

Mr. Flynt was willing to wait for his sit-down with the Chief Horndog, and then maybe they could discuss how their “partnership” had been mutually beneficial. Sure, the Milos Forman epic had gotten the ball rolling, canonizing Mr. Flynt as a First Amendment savior while skipping over a few of the darker, tawdrier stories from his life, like when he shot a gun at his first wife. But after the impeachment trials, the salacious details of the Starr Report, the talk about cigars and the revelations about Mr. Barr and Mr. Livingston, well, Larry Flynt– An Unseemly Man , as he called his autobiography–was starting to look a little cuddly; as cuddly as an admitted onetime chicken fornicator can be.

“My fans used to be 30 [years old], tops, but after the impeachment fiasco, I find that’s totally changed,” Mr. Flynt said, wearing a bemused, slightly disappointed grin. “I get little 70- and 80-year-old ladies coming up to me on the street and saying, ‘Thank you for saving the President.’”

“Here’s what’s happened,” said Mr. Hof, who met his girlfriend, Ms. Farr, when she came to work for him at the Moonlite Bunnyranch at age 19. “We’ve had eight years of lack of prosecution of a sex industry. Who’s Bill Clinton going to prosecute with all his stuff going on? Janet Reno doesn’t want any part of that. So the film industry has gone from 1,000 films eight years ago to 10,000 last year. Ten thousand pornographic movies. You’ve got Larry and [ Penthouse publisher Bob] Guccione doing things that 10 years ago you’d go to prison for. Then you’ve got all the Internet stuff–dogs, horses, 12-year-old girls, all this crazed third-world shit going on. Larry comes out lookin’ like a choirboy coming next to this stuff.”

A waiter came around. “You guys gotta order your food because I have to get back to business,” Mr. Flynt said, referring to seven-card stud, which he had been playing before dinner. The table did what he asked. Mr. Flynt ordered a cheeseburger and two glasses of skim milk.

Now Mr. Flynt’s brother piped up. Jimmy Flynt has worked for his older sibling since the mid-70′s. He wore dungarees and a blue Hawaiian shirt that was decorated with yellow surfboards. He had threaded his napkin through the lower button holes of his shirt.

“Well, let me ask you a question with respect to Gore,” Jimmy said to Larry. “I was listenin’ to, ah, the O’Reilly thing. Gore won’t do like O’Reilly, now why not ?” He was referring to The O’Reilly Factor , Bill O’Reilly’s combative talk show on the Fox News Channel.

Larry Flynt took a deep breath, as though he were about to explain the birds and the bees to his brother for the eighth time. ” Becaus e, Jimmy, first of all, he hates Gore. And he’s going to beat him to death with that campaign finance thing, with that Buddhist temple and all that. He’s not going to have one positive question to ask him, so why would you want to go on a show like that?”

Jimmy didn’t back down. “I mean, those are issues that need to be addressed,” he said.

Larry Flynt’s voice rose. “But the thing about it is, Jimmy, O’Reilly won’t address them in any kind of dignified manner, you know. The guy’s an asshole!”

Mr. Flynt composed himself. “I can tell you straight out,” he said. “What this election depends on is debates. The debates, you know. Whoever decisively wins those debates will win the election.”

Jimmy Flynt looked concerned. “But you know what, Larry? Bush can’t put two sentences together. He should call it a deficit or whatever. But it’s there. It’s there.”

Jimmy Flynt was the only one at the table who hadn’t heard Mr. Gore’s acceptance speech. “Did they allude anything to the discretion?” he asked his brother. “I mean the in discretion?”

“Monica Lewinsky?” asked Larry Flynt.

“He did it in an indirect way,” Mr. Hof said. “He says, ‘We’ve all made mistakes. I’ve made some. My mistake is that I’m not a salesmen. I hit things head on.’” Mr. Hof added: “I thought it was great.”

As Jimmy Flynt’s tomato bisque and Mr. Hof’s salad arrived, the talk turned to Mr. Clinton.

“An accomplished, polished speaker,” said Mr. Hof, shaking his head. “He’s a great salesman.”

“He’s, he’s the last of the old school,” Jimmy Flynt said. “There’ll never be anybody to replace him. I mean it.”

“Like Clinton said, he’s the bridge, and whatshisname is going to cross that bridge,” intoned Mrs. Flynt, speaking of Mr. Gore.

Soon, Mr. Flynt’s cheeseburger was set before him. Mrs. Flynt put some ketchup on his fries, and Mr. Flynt held the burger aloft while he spoke.

The conversation was turning to more personal matters and, to hear Mr. Flynt tell it, his seventh-inning stretch as a pornographer was about as exotic as his choice of entree. “My sex life and my marriage is quite pedestrian,” said Mr. Flynt, who was fitted with a battery-operated penis implant a few years after he got shot and paralyzed by a white supremacist in 1978. “It would be very boring to most people. I’m just into plain old vanilla sex. These guys are the kinky ones over here.” He pointed his burger hand to his brother, who grinned, and Mr. Hof.

Ms. Farr, who had been quietly sitting in her revealing pink dress, spoke up.

“I don’t know who you’re being kinky with,” she said to Mr. Hof. “It’s not me. “

So how about his Hollywood neighbor, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, The Transom asked. Is he vanilla, too?

“I’ve known Hef for 25 years,” Mr. Flynt said. “He’s probably the most boring man I’ve ever met. I honestly believe that he would be happier publishing Time magazine than he would Playboy .” Mr. Flynt did, however, concede that he thought the reports of Mr. Hefner’s sex life had been greatly underestimated.

The talk about Mr. Hefner seemed to get Mr. Flynt thinking about old friends. He said he had shared many conversations with John F. Kennedy Jr. about his possible career in politics; he also said that he was scheduled to dine with him the Wednesday after he died. In 1996, after a screening of The People Vs. Larry Flynt in New York that John Kennedy attended, Mr. Flynt said he rolled up to Kennedy, nearly 20 years after publishing nude photos of his mother bathing on the island of Scorpios, and apologized. “He told me, ‘I’m a Kennedy. I’ve got a thick skin. Don’t worry about it,’” Mr. Flynt recalled, adding: “He was a really solid guy.”

And when he brought up his old friend, Gay Talese, who had followed him around in the early 70′s when he was researching Thy Neighbor’s Wife , Mr. Flynt got a faraway look in his eyes. “I just love Gay to death,” Mr. Flynt said.

Jimmy Flynt piped up, loudly. “And what about that big fat faggot you used to hang out with?”

“Oh, you mean [ Screw publisher Al] Goldstein?” The whole table shared a warm laugh, and soon Jimmy Flynt grabbed his glass of Cabernet and dashed over to the next table, where a group of his friends sat.

To show Mr. Talese the seedier side of New York, Mr. Flynt, Mr. Goldstein and their mutual friend, songwriter Walter (“I Gotta Be Me”) Marks, rented out the orgy room in the old Fifth Season sex club for Mr. Talese to behold. “I’d taken a cute little farm girl from Ohio with me, and Gay fell so madly in love with her,” he said, deep in reverie.

Then Mr. Flynt and Mr. Hof mulled over the idea of going to San Francisco to visit their old friend, Behind the Green Door producer Jim Mitchell, who was recently paroled for murdering his brother and partner, Artie Mitchell. “San Francisco’s a great city, you know that?” said Larry Flynt to nobody in particular.

Mr. Hof concurred. “They’ve got great restaurants, good theaters,” he said. “There’s a place that you need to see Larry, just as a visual. A place called the Power Exchange. It’s run by some friends of mine. In fact, you guys should do an article on them. The wildest sex club in America! “

Mr. Flynt grinned, but something in his eyes suggested that he wouldn’t be visiting the Power Exchange any time soon.

“Hal!” Mr. Flynt called for his bodyguard. He had finished his skim milk and was ready to go back to the tables in the casino that he named after the skin magazine that had made him rich, famous and crippled.

As he was being wheeled away, The Transom asked how he was feeling.

“I feel fine,” he said, and took a long, contemplative pause. “Other than not being able to walk, I feel just fine.” Then he disappeared out of the dining room.

Mr. Hof and Ms. Farr stayed at the table over their coffee.

Mr. Hof went back to the Flynt brothers. “The biggest thing that I see with Larry getting shot, besides the pain and all the obvious things, is the fun that Larry and Jimmy used to have together,” he said. “They can’t do those things anymore.”

“Jimmy!” Ms. Farr cried out. Jimmy Flynt was coming back over to the table somewhat unsteadily. He had a glass of wine in his hand. He had left the table about an hour before wearing the good-natured, wide-eyed gaze of Ernest P. Worrell. There was now something dangerously Jerry Lee Lewis about him.

He made a bee line for The Transom, and got up real close. “What the fuck are you doin’?” he said. “I mean what the fuck are you doin’? I mean, do you want to take a ride in the desert or do you want to go to the ocean? I mean, how long can you tread water?”

Mr. Hof began giggling uncontrollably. “I mean, first of all, do you have any respect for your balls ?” Jimmy said.

Mr. Hof brought up Jake and Skippy’s silicone testicles. When Jake and Skippy, two of the three schnauzers that Mr. Flynt owns, were neutered, they were fitted with silicone testicles. Mr. Flynt’s favorite pooch, Corky, has so far been spared.

Jimmy looked hard at The Transom. “If we removed your balls, would you accept plastic balls?” He ordered another glass of wine, threatened to pull out his penis, and simulated the wing motion of a fornicating chicken. “It’s not the way it gets on,” he explained of the chicken. “It’s the way it gets off .”

Jimmy Flynt said that he was going over to the Hustler store on Sunset, which his brother opened in 1998 and which serves as a combination lingerie store, adult book stand and cafe. The store had been shut down for the evening to shoot an episode of Sex and the City . Mr. Flynt appeared eager to meet Sarah Jessica Parker.

On the way out, Jimmy stopped by the seven-card stud table where his brother sat. Larry Flynt had a four-inch pile of $5,000 chips in front of him, four piles of $1,000 chips, and several piles of $500 chips. He looked up. Everybody at the table looked up. “Brother,” Jimmy said to Larry Flynt, “I’m gonna take off, but I want you to beat these chumps out of every fuckin’ dime they got. I want them goin’ home talkin’ to their mommy. All of ‘em are whores, and treat ‘em like that!”

Mr. Flynt looked up from his hand, grinned and gave his brother a little royal wave.

The Transom can be reached at agoldman@observer.com