My Town Monday Cincinnati – Larry Flynt

He’s one of the city’s most infamous exports. On the one hand, he’s a crusader for free speech and civil liberty. On the other hand, he’s a sleaze peddler. He is Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.

Born in Kentucky in 1942, Flynt ran away from home in 1957 and joined the Army, lying about his age. He was discharged in a peace time downsizing of the military, but enlisted in the Navy in 1960 where he had his first brush with greatness: He was part of the deck crew of the USS Enterprise when it retrieved John Glenn’s capsule.

In 1965, Flynt bought a bar in Dayton, then used the profits to open several more bars. He remade them into Hustler Clubs, which featured naked hostesses. Classy guy, Larry was.

So where did his most controversial creation Hustler come from? In the later 1960’s, Flynt needed a cheap way to promote the Hustler clubs. So he created the Hustler Newsletter. The newsletter grew in popularity, and by 1973, it was up to 32 pages. Then the energy crisis and subsequent recession hit. With the recession, the Hustler Clubs’ revenue dropped. Flynt needed a way to avoid bankruptcy and transformed his newsletter into Hustler. He soon became a millionaire.

And a felon. Flynt soon found himself on the receiving end of obscenity charges in several states, starting in Ohio. Amusingly, Oliver Stone cast Flynt as the judge in his own case in Cincinnati in The People Vs. Larry Flynt. In 1976, one man took major exception to Flynt’s work. During a trial in Georgia, he shot Flynt and his lawyer. The lawyer came away with minor injuries. Flynt ended up in a wheel chair.

One of Flynt’s highest profile legal battles went all the way to the Supreme Court when he was sued by evangelist Jerry Falwell over a parody Campari ad that ran in Hustler. Flynt won, but the argument was so compelling that Falwell forgave him. They became friends and remained so until Falwell’s death a few years ago.

Over the years, Flynt has become a complex character. On the one hand, he’s an unrepentant sleaze peddler. On the other hand, he has been an outspoken proponent of free speech and has befriended some of his most powerful rivals. It’s hard to really form a coherent opinion about him.

That’s probably the way he wants it.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday: Movies Shot In Cincinnati

Earlier this month, the George Clooney film Ides of March opened, which excited a lot of locals here in the Queen City. Clooney, a native of nearby Maysville, Kentucky, who also grew up in Cincinnati, used the area for location shooting for the film. After all, much of the action takes place in Cincinnati, and even in the trailer, you can’t miss the Roebling Suspension Bridge or the skyline’s newest feature, Queen City Square.

But this is not the first movie to be shot here. In fact, Cincinnati has had several movies shot in and around the city. If you’re old enough to remember, WKRP in Cincinnati is not the first television series to use the city’s skyline and landmarks in its transition shots and credit sequences. Crime-centered soap opera The Edge of Night (produced by local corporate behemoth Procter & Gamble) used a shot of Cincinnati’s skyline from Mt. Adams to stand in for the fictional Monticello. (Which, it has been suggested, was located in Ohio.)

Getting back to the silver screen, what movies were shot here?

A few of them…

Eight Men Out, 1987: This John Cusack movie about baseball’s 1919 Black Sox Scandal was, appropriately, shot in Cincinnati. Eight White Sox players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

Rain Man, 1988: Tom Cruise comes to Cincinnati to retrieve his autistic older brother, played by Dustin Hoffman. There are scenes on the Roebling Suspension Bridge and in the Dixie Terminal Building, which offers a spectacular view from the lobby of the bridge and the Northern Kentucky skyline. Sadly, that view, which I once got to see on a daily basis in the pre-9/11 era, is no longer there. The Banks riverfront development has blocked the view.

Lost in Yonkers, 1992: The Martha Coolidge adaptation of Neil Simon’s play takes place in 1940’s Yonkers. The problem is Yonkers looked like 1990’s Westchester County. So Northern Kentucky, which looks in places like a World War II era town along the Hudson, doubled as Yonkers of Simon’s youth.

Milk Money, 1993: This Richard Benjamin film starring Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith shows a lot of Cincinnati locations, though it’s not really clear if the film is set here. Most of the film was shot in the Mt. Lookout neighborhood, which means I likely delivered pizza to the crew at some point. There are also some great shots of downtown, and the seedy flophouse Ft. Washington Hotel makes an appearance as Melanie Griffith’s “office.” In one scene, Griffith, who plays a hooker, is kicked out of a limo while servicing a businessman in a parking garage. When I finally saw the movie, I realized that I parked in that same garage almost daily in 1997.

The People Vs. Larry Flynt, 1996: The only film on this list not listed on the Chamber of Commerce’s web site. But you can’t tell the story of Larry Flynt without shooting it in Cincinnati. The bar that doubles as the original Hustler Club is actually a quiet fern bar on the corner for Fourth St. and Central Avenue. What happened to the Hustler Club. It and the entire block were torn down to make way for the Aronoff Center.

Traffic, 2000: Michael Douglas plays a prosecutor from Cincinnati named as the nation’s new Drug Czar. Much of action takes place around Cincinnati. Douglas’s daughter in the film, who descends into drugs and prostitution, is depicted as a student at Cincinnati Country Day, which prompted outrage from the private school

Seabiscuit, 2003: This Depression-era tale of the horse racing legend used the retro-looking River Downs along Kellogg Avenue for some of its location shots. If someone could chime in with a comment, tell me if my memory is correct in that Florence, Kentucky’s Turfway also got some camera time in this one.

More at the My Town Monday blog.