The founder of Penthouse magazine Bob Guccione has died at the age of 79.The multi-millionaire publisher had suffered from lung cancer for a number of years. He passed away in a Texas hospital with his wife, April, and two of his children at his bedside, reports Daily Mail, London.
Guccione founded Penthouse in Britain in 1965 as a raunchier alternative to Hugh Hefner's Playboy. The magazine went on sale in the US four years later and was an instant success.The publisher first tried the seminary and spent years trying to make it as an artist before he found the niche that Hefner left for him in the late 1960s. Where Playboy strove to surround its pinups with an upscale image, Guccione aimed for something a little more direct with Penthouse.
More explicit nudes. Sensational stories. Even more sensational letters that began, 'Dear Penthouse, I never thought I'd be writing you...'
It worked for decades for Guccione. He estimated that Penthouse earned $4 billion during his reign as publisher. He was listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people with a net worth of about $400 million in 1982.
In 1984 it was the magazine that took down Miss America, publishing nude pictures of Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to hold the title.
Williams, who went on to fame as a singer and actress, was forced to relinquish her crown after the release of the issue, which sold nearly 6 million copies and reportedly made $14 million.
But Guccione's empire fell apart thanks to several bad investments and changes in the pornography industry, which became flooded with competition as it migrated from print to video and the Internet. His company, his world-class art collection, his huge Manhattan mansion - all of it, sold off.
Guccione started Penthouse to subsidise his art career and was the magazine's first photographer. He introduced it to the American public in 1969 at the height of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution.Penthouse quickly posed a challenge to Playboy by offering a mix of tabloid journalism with provocative photos of nude women.
The centerfolds were dubbed Penthouse Pets.'We followed the philosophy of voyeurism,' Guccione told an interviewer in 2004.He added that he attained a stylised eroticism in his photography by posing his models looking away from the camera.'To see her as if she doesn't know she's being seen,' he said.
'That was the sexy part. That was the part that none of our competition understood.'
Guccione built a corporate empire under the General Media Inc. umbrella that included book publishing and merchandising divisions and Viva, a magazine featuring male nudes aimed at a female audience. He also created Penthouse Forum, the pocket-size magazine that played off the success of the racy letters to the editor.
Before becoming a journalist, former Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell penned pornographic stories for Forum.