Publisher Bob Guccione — who gave Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire a run for its money when he launched Penthouse Magazine in 1965 — has died. With his wife and two children by his side, Guccione lost his battle against cancer at a hospital in Plano, Texas Wednesday.
He was 79.
Known as a mix of nudity and tabloid journalism, the risquÃ© content that plastered the sticky pages of Penthouse rivaled Playboy, which launched 12 years earlier in 1953. Perhaps the magazine’s coup came in 1984, when Penthouse purchased and published a collection of sapphic-erotic images of singer/actress Vanessa Williams. Then the nation’s first Black Miss America, the snaps sparked a scandal that forced Williams to relinquish her title.
Guccione created other magazines, including Omni, Viva, and Longevity. The businessman also produced and directed Caligula in 1979. The film, which starred Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and Peter O’Toole, was panned by critics. Roger Ebert was perhaps the most ruthless. He gave the film zero stars, describing the flick as “sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash.”
Guccione resigned as CEO of Penthouse in 2003 after the magazine’s publisher General Media, declared bankruptcy.