It was the HUSTLER Christmas party, 1977, mere weeks before our move to Los Angeles. Finally, after two years in Columbus fucking Ohio and months of planning, the entire operation would be moved to a city that actually had a talent pool of writers, artists and editors to cull from. Of course I would have preferred New York City, but anything was better than Columbus fucking Ohio.
Larry, deep in the throes of his religious conversion at the hands of Ruth Carter Stapleton, was standing at the end of the room—a basement if I recall correctly—with the black activist comedian Dick Gregory and counterculture satirist Paul Krassner. I’d met Gregory a few weeks earlier; apparently Gregory was somehow connected to Larry’s religious conversion. Krassner, however, was a surprise.
I had idolized the counterculture rebel even as a kid in high school, when I would take a bus into New York City to pick up the latest copy of The Realist, his satirical magazine. Later, when I was in college, as president of the philosophy club, I invited Paul to speak at my school. His talk—focused on obscenity and the First Amendment and laced with four-letter words—scandalized the very conservative teachers college I attended. I couldn’t have been more pleased.
Standing there in the dimly lit basement, Larry made his fateful announcement: He was, he told us, stepping away from the day-today running of the magazine to engage in a religious crusade with Dick Gregory. Larry’s wife, Althea, would take over his duties, which now included the running of four magazines, HUSTLER, Chic, Sex Play and Hustler Humor. And—this was my personal shocker—Paul Krassner would take over the day-to-day chores of running HUSTLER.
WTF? That was my job! Paul was taking over for me!
The news about Larry stepping down was not well received by those present. He was the brains behind HUSTLER, the driving force. It was impossible to think of the magazine without thinking of its outspoken, controversial publisher. Without Larry, it seemed, there could be no HUSTLER.