Guccione in 1993
|Born||Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione
December 17, 1930
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 20, 2010
Plano, Texas, U.S.
Early life 
Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione was born in Brooklyn, New York, of Sicilian descent, and raised as a Roman Catholic in Bergenfield, New Jersey. His father Anthony was an accountant. His mother, Nina, was a housewife. He considered, but rejected, entering the priesthood. He attended high school at Blair Academy, a prep school in Blairstown, New Jersey.
Guccione married the first of his four wives, Lilyann Becker, before the age of 20, and had a daughter, Tonina. The marriage soon failed. He left his wife and child to go to Europe, where he wanted to be a painter. He eventually met an English woman, Muriel, moved to London with her, and married her. They had four children, Robert Jr., Nina, Tony, and Nicky. To support his family he managed a chain of laundromats, until he got work as a cartoonist on an American weekly newspaper, The London American, while Muriel started a business selling pinup posters. He occasionally created cartoons for Bill Box's humorous greeting card company, Box Cards.
Penthouse began publication in 1965 in England and in North America from 1969. The magazine was an attempt to compete with Hugh Hefner's Playboy on several levels. One approach Guccione took was offering editorial content that was more sensational than that of Playboy. The magazine's writing was far more investigative than Hefner's upscale emphasis, with stories about government cover-ups and scandals. Writers such as Craig S. Karpel, James Dale Davidson, and Ernest Volkman, as well as the critically acclaimed Seymour Hersh exposed numerous scandals and corruption at the highest levels of the United States Government.
The magazine was founded with humble beginnings. Due to his lack of resources, Guccione personally photographed most of the models for the magazine's early issues. Without professional training, Guccione applied his knowledge of painting to his photography, establishing the diffused, soft focus look that would become one of the trademarks of the magazine's pictorials. Guccione would sometimes take several days to complete a shoot.
As the magazine grew more successful, Guccione openly embraced a life of luxury; his former mansion is said to be the largest private residence in Manhattan at 22,000 square feet (2,000 m2). However, in contrast to Hugh Hefner, who threw wild parties at his Playboy Mansions, life at Guccione's mansion was remarkably sedate, even during the hedonistic 1970s. He reportedly once had his bodyguards eject a local radio personality who had been hired as a DJ for jumping into the swimming pool naked.
The magazine's pictorials offered more sexually explicit content than was commonly seen in most openly sold men's magazines of the era, being the first to show female pubic hair, then full-frontal nudity, and then the exposed vulva and anus. Penthouse has also, over the years, featured a number of authorized and unauthorized photos of celebrities such as Madonna and Vanessa Lynn Williams. In both cases, the photos were taken earlier in their careers and sold to Penthouse only after Madonna and Williams became famous. In Williams' case, this led to her forced resignation as Miss America in 1984. The September 1984 issue in which Williams was first featured also included a layout featuring porn actress Traci Lords, who was only 15 when the photo shoot was taken and who was later revealed to be underage during most of her porn career. In the late 1990s, the magazine began to show more "fetish" content such as urination, bondage, and "facials".
In 1976, Guccione used about US $17.5 million of his personal fortune to finance the controversial historical epic pornographic film, Caligula, with Malcolm McDowell in the title role and a supporting cast including Helen Mirren, John Gielgud, Teresa Ann Savoy, and Peter O'Toole. The film, which was eventually released in late 1979, was produced in Italy (made at the legendary Dear Studios in Rome) and was directed by Tinto Brass. Guccione also created the magazines Omni, Viva, and Longevity. Later Guccione started Penthouse Forum which was more textual in content. In the early 2000s, Penthouse published a short-lived comic book spin-off entitled Penthouse Comix featuring sexually explicit stories.
In 1982 Guccione was listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people, with a $400 million net worth. An April 2002 New York Times article quoted Guccione as saying that Penthouse grossed $3.5 billion to $4 billion over the 30-year life of the company, with a net income of almost $500 million.
Awards & recognition 
Unlike his competitors, Guccione's editorial content was praised and recognized by those in the academic field. In 1975, for example, he was honored by Brandeis University for focusing "his editorial attention on such critical issues of our day as the welfare of the Vietnam veteran and problems of criminality in modern society."
Guccione was also praised by certain professional groups and associations for his dealings with them. In April of 1978, he was named "Publisher of the Year" by the Atlantic Coast Independent Distributors Association as a gratitude for his "leadership, his fair treatment and his continuing friendship with our members."
Decline and resignation 
Several wildly unsuccessful investments by Guccione—including the Penthouse Boardwalk Hotel and Casino (which lost $160 million), and a (never-built) nuclear fusion power plant—added to his publishing empire's financial woes. Guccione's efforts to regain sales and notoriety, which included attempts to get Monica Lewinsky to pose for the magazine; (which was parodied in a sketch on Saturday Night Live in 1998,) and offering the Unabomber a free forum for his views, failed to increase readership. With the rise of online access to (often free) pornography in the late 1990s, Penthouse's circulation numbers began to suffer even more. In 2003, General Media, Penthouse's publisher, declared bankruptcy. Guccione resigned as chairman of the board and CEO of Penthouse International, Inc. The magazine as of 2010 was still in publication, and had an online presence; its circulation had fallen to about 463,000 in 2003.
Legal dispute 
In 2006, Guccione sued Penthouse Media Group for fraud, breach of contract, and conspiracy, among other charges. Some of the people named in the case included Marc Bell, Jason Galanis, Dr. Fernando Molina, Charles Samel, and Daniel C. Stanton.
Other work 
Personal life 
Guccione's British-reared son, Bob Guccione, Jr. (born 1955), was given editorship of Spin, but father and son soon fell out over editorial decisions, and Bob Jr. eventually found independent investors to continue the magazine. Father and son remained estranged for a long time, but reportedly reconciled before Bob Guccione, Sr.'s death in 2010. Nicky, Guccione's youngest child, retained some contact since Nicky gave Guccione his only grandchild, Benjamin.
He married his long-time companion, Kathy Keeton, a native of South Africa in 1988. In 1997 his third wife died of complications from surgery to remedy an obstruction in her digestive tract; she was 58. In her last few months, Keeton befriended an ex-model named April Dawn Warren. Gossip maintained that Warren was Keeton's hand-picked successor. After a long engagement, Guccione married Warren in 2006 and they remained together until his death. Guccione continued to list Keeton on the Penthouse masthead posthumously as President but later added Warren to the masthead after she spent 10 years as creative director of the magazine. Warren and Guccione were working on a book of reminiscences, Good to Know, until shortly before his death in late 2010. He died with Warren at his side.
Guccione brought artisans in from France and Italy to build the largest private residence in Manhattan. As a tribute to Guccione the artisans carved both his and his wife's face into the marble columns near the entrance. According to New York magazine, "It's one of the biggest private houses in Manhattan, with 30 rooms, and it costs $5 million a year to maintain." In November 2003, the mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side was foreclosed on by Kennedy Funding of New Jersey, the mortgage holder along with an affiliate of multi billion-dollar hedge fund Elliot Associates of New Jersey. In January 2004, a group of investors came to Guccione’s aid during his Sheriff-enforced eviction. A London-based investor named Jason Galanis led an investment group that purchased the house for $26.5 million in cash. The house was purchased by NY Real Estate LLC, an entity set up to acquire the mansion. Galanis contributed $2.6 million, and two New York hedge funds, Laurus Funds and Alexandre Asset Management, made a mortgage loan of $24 million to NY Real Estate LLC, which was owned by Penthouse International, the parent and debtor-in-possession of General Media.
As a result of the continuing contentious bankruptcy which lasted over a year, the promissory notes due to Laurus were considered in technical breach of covenants which resulted in severe financial penalties in excess of $8 million. Penthouse International elected to forego refinancing the house due to the combination of the penalties and the unfavorable lifetime lease of $1.00/year that was granted to Guccione, which made the property unmarketable. Laurus sued Guccione to take possession of the house from the tenant. It was reportedly sold for $49 million, well below the asking price of $59 million, to Wall Street financier Philip Falcone.
Art collection 
Although Guccione was a talented painter, during his life he went unrecognized as a successful artist. He was also a world-renowned collector of fine art. Highlights of the Guccione collection included a portrait by Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) and a portrait of the artist's son, Paulo, by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). He also owned paintings by Sandro Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, El Greco, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Giorgio de Chirico, Edgar Degas, Fernand Léger, Gilbert Stone, Henri Matisse, Jules Pascin, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Henri Rouault, Chaïm Soutine, and Vincent van Gogh.
The Guccione art collection was sold at auction by Sotheby's in November 2002 to pay Guccione's personal debts originally incurred in the Atlantic City venture. The collection was appraised by Christie's at $59 million two years before. However, September 11, 2001 had depressed the art market and the Guccione collection failed to achieve its appraised price. The aggregate sale price was $19 million, which was used to pay Swiss Re, the lender. Swiss Re sued Guccione in New York State Court for a $4 million shortfall on the loan balance. Much of the remaining personal collection of Bob Guccione art, photographs, and memorabilia was recently acquired by entrepreneur Jeremy Frommer. 
Jeremy Frommer and Overnight Productions partner and producer Rick Schwartz are working on book and movie projects about the life of Bob Guccione. They are expected to exhibit over 60 oil paintings, as well as thousands of sketches and photographs at a gallery sometime before the release of Filthy Gorgeous - The Extraordinary World of Bob Guccione by director Barry Avrich.
Illness and death 
By 2004 he had undergone surgery for throat cancer and stated: “My cancer was only a tiny tumor about the size of an almond at the base of my tongue. The cure is probably every bit as bad as the disease. It's affected my ability to swallow ... the mobility of my tongue ... it makes it very difficult for me to talk." He was later diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
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- Anthony Haden-Guest "Boom and Bust", The Observer, February 1, 2004
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- Bob Guccione (Producer), Penthouse (magazine) Caligula Cast and Crew; accessed September 20, 2007. "Coming from a conventional background--he was born in Brooklyn, raised in Bergenfield, New Jersey, and educated at Blair Academy — Guccione became interested in less than conventional activities after he left school."
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- The Twilight of Bob Guccione | Rolling Stone Culture
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