Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione dies at 79

Oct 21, 2010 at 9:45 a.m. ET

Penthouse founder Bob Guccione died Wednesday from cancer at 79. Who was this hero of adult entertainment and why did the Internet cause his downfall?

Controversial Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione died Wednesday of cancer. He was 79.

Penthouse founder Bob Guccione dies at 79

The Brooklyn-born publisher started Penthouse in the 1960's as an outlet for people interested in adult entertainment. Guccione's fortune grew to over $300 million in the 1980's, largely due to Penthouse's reputation for publishing sexually-explicity images -- something their rival Playboy wasn't doing. At its peak, Penthouse boasted a circulation of 4.7 million copies, according to The New York Times.

The Internet: Guccione's foe

Penthouse's popularity benefited from the widespread AIDS epidemic as a form of safe sexual entertainment.

"People are more fearful of casual sex today than ever before, and voyeurism -- the means of enjoying sex vicariously -- has become a much more prominent pastime in this country, directly as a result of AIDS," Guccione told United Press International in 1989. "So magazines, videos, books, motion pictures, are getting a great deal of attention, more attention than they ever got before."

The rise of the Internet during the 90's proved to be Penthouse's downfall as people found increasing ways to access adult entertainment online. The popularity of the Internet cut into the magazine's circulation, eventually causing Guccione's resignation from his own magazine.

Recent years

Guccione maintained a low profile in the years since his regulation -- he lived a relatively quiet life in Plano, Texas, where he died Wednesday. His baby, Penthouse, lives on with an Internet prescence but its popularity pales in comparision to the 80's -- the magazine now has a circulation of 300,000 per month, a far cry from the 4.7 of its heyday.

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