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.
Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story
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 .