THE FIRST TIME the Rev. Jerry Falwell put his hands on me, I was stunned. Not only had we been archenemies for 15 years, his beliefs and mine traveling in different solar systems, and not only had he sued me for $50 million (a case I lost repeatedly yet eventually won in the Supreme Court), but now he was hugging me in front of millions on the Larry King show.
It was 1997. My autobiography, “An Unseemly Man,” had just been published, describing my life as a publisher of pornography. The film “The People vs. Larry Flynt” had recently come out, and the country was well aware of the battle that Falwell and I had fought: a battle that had changed the laws governing what the American public can see and hear in the media and that had dramatically strengthened our right to free speech.
King was conducting the interview. It was the first time since the infamous 1988 trial that the reverend and I had been in the same room together, and the thought of even breathing the same air with him made me sick. I disagreed with Falwell (who died last week) on absolutely everything he preached, and he looked at me as symbolic of all the social ills that a society can possibly have. But I’d do anything to sell the book and the film, and Falwell would do anything to preach, so King’s audience of 8 million viewers was all the incentive either of us needed to bring us together.
But let’s start at the beginning and flash back to the late 1970s, when the battle between Falwell, the leader of the Moral Majority, and I first began. I was publishing Hustler magazine, which most people know has been pushing the envelope of taste from the very beginning, and Falwell was blasting me every chance he had. He would talk about how I was a slime dealer responsible for the decay of all morals. He called me every terrible name he could think of â€” names as bad, in my opinion, as any language used in my magazine.
Read his full LA Times Op-Ed here.