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Penthouse (magazine)

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Penthouse Magazine
The December 2009 U.S. issue of Penthouse
CategoriesMen's, lifestyle
FrequencyMonthly (1968–2018)
Bi-monthly (2018–present)
Total circulation
(2012)
109,792[1]
FoundedMarch 1965; 59 years ago (1965-03) (UK)
September 1969; 54 years ago (1969-09) (US)
CompanyPenthouse World Media
Country
Based inLos Angeles, California
LanguageEnglish
Websitepenthouse.com Edit this at Wikidata
ISSN0090-2020

Penthouse is a men's magazine founded by Bob Guccione and published by Los Angeles–based Penthouse World Media, LLC. It combines urban lifestyle articles and softcore pornographic pictures of women that, in the 1990s, evolved into hardcore pornographic pictures of women.

Although Guccione was American, the magazine was founded in the United Kingdom in 1965, and first published simultaneously in the UK and the US in March 1965. From September 1969, an "American Edition" was made available in the US.[2] Since 2016, Penthouse has been under the ownership of Penthouse World Media (formerly known as Penthouse Global Media Inc.), which filed for bankruptcy in 2018. Its assets were subsequently acquired in June of that same year by WGCZ Ltd., the owners of XVideos,[3] when it won a bankruptcy auction bid. Later on, Penthouse Global Media was spun off from WGCZ and rebranded as Penthouse World Media.

The magazine's centerfold models are known as Penthouse "Pets", and customarily wear a distinctive necklace in the form of a stylized key which incorporates both the Mars and Venus symbols in its design.

The first "Pet of the Month" was Denise Johns, who was also pictured on the cover. The first US Pet of the Month was Evelyn Treacher, who was on the cover of the first US edition in September 1969. The first Pet of the Year in the US was Stephanie McLean, pictured on the cover of the September 1971 issue.

In 2024, Penthouse started releasing physical copies of comic magazines.

Bob Guccione

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At the height of its success, Guccione, who died in 2010, was considered one of the richest men in the United States. In 1982 he was listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people.[4] An April 2002 New York Times article reported Guccione as saying that Penthouse grossed $3.5 billion to $4 billion over the 30-year life of the company.[5]

Publication history

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The first U.S. issue of Penthouse, September 1969

Penthouse magazine began publication in the UK and the US in March 1965.[6] From September 1969, in an attempt to compete with Hugh Hefner's Playboy, an "American Edition" was also published. Guccione offered editorial content that was more sensational than that of Playboy, and the magazine's writing was far more investigative than Hefner's upscale emphasis, with stories about government cover-ups and scandals.

Writers such as Seymour Hersh, James Dale Davidson, and Ernest Volkman exposed numerous scandals and corruption at the highest levels of the United States Government.[citation needed] Contributors to the magazine included Isaac Asimov, James Baldwin, Howard Blum, Victor Bockris, T. C. Boyle, Alexander Cockburn, Harry Crews, Cameron Crowe, Don DeLillo, Alan Dershowitz, Edward Jay Epstein, Chet Flippo, Albert Goldman, Anthony Haden-Guest, John Hawkes, Nat Hentoff, Warren Hinckle, Abbie Hoffman, Nicholas von Hoffman, Michael Korda, Paul Krassner, Michael Ledeen, Anthony Lewis, Joyce Carol Oates, James Purdy, Philip Roth, Harrison E. Salisbury, Gail Sheehy, Robert Sherrill, Mickey Spillane, Ben Stein, Harry Stein, Tad Szulc, Studs Terkel, Nick Tosches, Gore Vidal, Irving Wallace, and Ruth Westheimer (Dr. Ruth).[citation needed]

The magazine was founded on humble beginnings. Due to Guccione's lack of resources, he personally photographed most of the models for the magazine's early issues.[7] 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.[7] He reportedly once had his bodyguards eject a local radio personality who had been hired as a DJ and jumped into the swimming pool naked.[8]

The magazine's pictorials offered more sexually explicit content than what was commonly seen in most openly sold men's magazines of the era. It was the first to show female pubic hair, followed by full-frontal nudity, and eventually, the exposed vulva and anus.[7][failed verification] Penthouse has also featured a number of authorized and unauthorized photos of celebrities, such as Madonna and Vanessa Williams. In both cases, the photos were taken earlier in their careers and sold to Penthouse only after Madonna and Williams became famous.

However, in the late 1990s, poor business decisions were made,[which?] and publishing control gradually slipped away from Guccione. In a desperate attempt to boost sales, the magazine began to showcase more "fetish" content, including subjects such as urination, bondage, and "facials."[7][failed verification] This marked the beginning of the magazine's downward spiral. Gone were the days of artistic and unique, soft-focus lens erotic photography, along with the investigative journalism that had brought the magazine success and respect. As a result, prominent companies no longer wanted their products featured in Penthouse and quickly had their advertising removed.

On January 15, 2016, a press release emanating from then-owner Friend Finder Networks announced that Penthouse would end its print operations and move to all digital. However, managing director Kelly Holland quickly disavowed the decision and pledged to keep the print version of the magazine alive.[9]

Key symbol

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The magazine's symbol was initially a single skeleton key, and in January 1973 became three keys.[10] It was conceived by Bob Guccione and was in the table of contents of every issue from number 1 onward.[10] According to the magazine in January 1973:

The [key symbol] was apt, not only because every penthouse requires a key, but because a key is traditionally a phallic symbol—in Italian the word is chiave, yielding the verb chiavare, slang for copulation. In designing the Penthouse key Bob neatly united the standard symbols for male and female, the circle and arrow and circle and cross. So the key enshrines the ineluctable equation: Man plus Woman equals Penthouse. Later, when the London Penthouse Club was launched, the key was triplicated to provide a distinctive symbol. Though some have suspected papal inspiration in this development (cf. 3#Christianity), Bob's explanation is simpler: "Three is my lucky number, and I've found things happen in threes."[10]

Financial history

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In 1982, Guccione was listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people, with a reported $400 million net worth.[11] 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.[12]

In 1999, hoping to raise cash and reduce debt, Penthouse sold several automotive magazine titles from its large portfolio Peterson Automotive, raising $33 million in cash. However, two of their retained publications, science and health magazines Omni and Longevity lost almost $100 million, contributing to financial problems.[13]

Bankruptcy

[edit]

On August 12, 2003, General Media, the parent company of the magazine, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Immediately upon filing, Cerberus Capital Management entered into a $5 million debtor-in-possession credit line with General Media to provide working capital.[14][15] In October 2003, Penthouse magazine was put up for sale as part of a deal with its creditors. On November 13, 2004, Guccione resigned as chairman and CEO of Penthouse International, the parent of General Media.

Penthouse filed for bankruptcy protection on September 17, 2013. The magazine's then-current owner FriendFinder's current common stock was wiped out and was no longer traded on the open market. In August 2013, FriendFinder's stock was delisted from Nasdaq because it consistently failed to trade for more than $1.[16]

As of 2015, General Media Communications, Inc. publishes entertainment magazines and operates as a subsidiary of FriendFinder Networks Inc.[17]

Ownership change

[edit]

In February 2016, Penthouse Global Media – a new company headed by Penthouse Entertainment managing director Kelly Holland – acquired the Penthouse brand from FriendFinder Networks.[18]

Penthouse Global Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 11, 2018 to address debt-related issues.[19]

Penthouse Global Media, Inc. were acquired by WGCZ Ltd., operators of XVideos,[3] on June 4, 2018 after winning a bankruptcy auction for US$11.2 million; other companies, such as MindGeek, also participated in the auction.[20] Penthouse Global Media, Inc. was later spun off from WGCZ and renamed Penthouse World Media.

Awards and recognition

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The magazine's editorial content was praised and recognized by those in the academic field. In 1975, for example, Guccione 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".[21]

In 2013, director Barry Avrich made a film about Guccione's life entitled Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story. It was produced by Jeremy Frommer and Rick Schwartz, who have since created a premier website inspired by Bob Guccione as an extension of the film called Filthy Gorgeous Media.[22]

Publishing milestones

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Traci Lords and Vanessa Williams

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The September 1984 issue of Penthouse magazine would eventually become controversial because of its centerfold, Traci Lords. Lords posed nude for this issue at the beginning of her career as an adult film star. It was later revealed that Lords was underage throughout most of her career in pornography and was only 16 when she posed for Penthouse.[23]

The same issue also caused controversy with nude pictures of Vanessa Williams that caused her to be stripped of her Miss America crown.[24]

Move from softcore to hardcore pictorials and back

[edit]

In 1998, Penthouse changed its format and began featuring sexually explicit pictures (i.e., actual oral, vaginal, and anal penetration), beginning with photos from the Stolen Honeymoon sex tape featuring Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. It also began to regularly feature pictorials of female models urinating, which, until then, had been considered a defining limit of illegal obscenity as distinguished from legal pornography.

A different approach to restoring sales was attempted by the UK version of the magazine in 1997. Under the editorship of Tom Hilditch, the magazine was rebranded as PH.UK and relaunched as middle-shelf "adult magazine for grown-ups". Fashion photographers (such as Corinne Day of The Face magazine) were hired to produce images that merged sex and fashion. The magazine's editorial content included celebrity interviews and tackled issues of sexual politics. The experiment attracted a great deal of press interest, but failed to generate a significant increase in sales. PH.UK closed in late 1998.

Starting with the January 2005 issue, the new owners significantly softened the content of the magazine. Penthouse no longer showed male genitalia, real or simulated male-female sex, nor any form of explicit hardcore content (it does still feature female-female simulated sex on occasions). While this change was followed by the return of a limited number of mainstream advertisers to the magazine, it did not significantly raise the number of subscribers; total circulation is still below 350,000.[25]

Some of Penthouse's secondary publications, such as Girls of Penthouse, continue to feature occasional images of explicit sex, either classic sets from the 1990s issues or stills of adult video shoots staged by the company's Digital Media division.

Other ventures

[edit]

Film

[edit]

In 1974, Guccione invested in the film Chinatown and the end credits read A Paramount - Penthouse Presentation.[26]

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 Dear Studios in Rome) and was directed by Tinto Brass.

In 2001, Penthouse Presents began running on Hot Choice.

Other publications

[edit]

Guccione also created the magazines Omni, Viva, and Longevity.[7] Later Guccione started Penthouse Forum, which predominantly featured erotic writing and stories. In 1993, Penthouse published an adult comic book spin-off entitled Penthouse Comix, featuring sexually explicit stories. After an initial success, Penthouse Comix expanded into a line of four illustrated magazines with the addition of Penthouse Max, Penthouse Men's Adventure Comix and Omni Comix. In 2023 Penthouse revived the comic label as Penthouse Comics. The first issue launched in February 2024 to 30,000 copies sold.

Penthouse Variations is a monthly magazine containing ostensibly reader-generated erotic stories (primarily) and some pictures and reviews. It is a spin-off magazine from Penthouse Letters. It was initially published in 1978.[27] Variations focuses on "kinkier" topics of sexuality, such as bondage, fetish clothing, exhibitionism, voyeurism, foot fetishism, water sports, female dominance, bisexual exploration, transsexualism and sadomasochism, among others.

Home video

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In 1983, Penthouse teamed up with Vestron Video to launch the Penthouse Video label.[28] In 1991, Penthouse Video signed a deal with A*Vision Entertainment to release videos designed for an adult audience.[29]

Casinos

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In 1970, the Penthouse Club in London, England operated a casino. However, the next year the casino license was revoked by the gaming authorities.[30] In 1972, Penthouse opened the Penthouse Adriatic Club casino on the island of Krk in Yugoslavia (now Croatia) at a cost of $45 million. However, the casino filed for bankruptcy the following year and was closed.[31] In 1978, Penthouse began construction of the Penthouse Boardwalk Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. However, Penthouse was unable to raise additional funding and construction stopped in 1980. The project sat idle until Donald Trump acquired the site in 1993.

Auto racing

[edit]
A Hesketh 308E in 1977's Penthouse Rizla Racing livery

Penthouse sponsors the "1X" car of driver Randy Hannagan in the World of Outlaws sprint car series. The magazine previously sponsored cars in the Formula One circuit from the late 1970s to the early 1980s. Teams included Hesketh Racing and RAM Racing.

3D HD porn channel

[edit]

January 2011, Penthouse announced the first 3D HD porn channel, to be available from the second quarter of 2011. Shot using dual lenses, it would consist of available Penthouse HD Channel lineup covering over 30 platforms in more than 15 countries.[32] It was launched on 1 March 2011.[33]

Wine and spirits

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In January 2015, Penthouse announced its entry into the wine and spirits industry. The line of products were to debut at the 2015 Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.[34] Called Libido Libations, the spirits line is distributed by Prestige Imports LLC and produced by The Melchers Group BV.[35] The wine offerings are the result of a partnership with California vintner John Crossland and Randal Tomich of the Australian winery Tomich Wines.[36]

[edit]

Editorial lawsuit

[edit]

In March 1975, Penthouse published an article headlined "La Costa: The Hundred-Million-Dollar Resort with Criminal Clientele", written by Jeff Gerth and Lowell Bergman. The article indicated that the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, was developed by Mervyn Adelson and Irwin Molasky using loans from the Teamsters Pension Fund and that the resort was a playground for organized crime figures. The owners, along with two officials of the resort, Morris B. Moe Dalitz and Allard Roen, filed a libel lawsuit for $522 million against the magazine and the writers. In 1982, a jury absolved the magazine of any liability against the lawsuit from the owners. The plaintiffs appealed, but in December 1985, before a new trial could begin, the two sides settled. Penthouse issued a statement that they did not mean to imply that Adelson and Molaskey are or were members of organized crime. In turn the plaintiffs issued a statement lauding Penthouse publisher Guccione and his magazine for their "personal and professional awards". Total litigation costs were estimated to exceed $20 million.[37][38]

Guccione v. Penthouse Media Group

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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.[39]

National rampage protests

[edit]

In December 1984, a group of radical feminists began a civil disobedience campaign against Penthouse which they called a National Rampage. Led by Melissa Farley and Nikki Craft, they went into stores selling copies of the magazine and ripped them up, and they also burned an effigy of Bob Guccione in front of a bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin. In late 1985 the group began to focus on the printer of Penthouse, Meredith Corporation. They bought shares in the company and attended their annual stockholder's meeting. The women were not allowed to speak, but they removed their coats, revealing images from a Penthouse shoot about Japanese rope bondage—among which two poses were construed by Farley to evoke dead bodies—ironed onto [their] shirts.[40]

International versions

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As of 2015:

  • Australia edition
  • Bulgarian edition (discontinued)
  • Dutch edition
  • German edition
  • Greek edition
  • Hong Kong edition (discontinued)
  • Hungarian edition
  • New Zealand edition
  • Portuguese edition[41]
  • Russian Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Thai edition
  • United Kingdom edition (discontinued)
  • United States edition

See also

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References

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  1. ^ "AAM: Total Circ for Consumer Magazines". accessabc.com. Archived from the original on June 4, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  2. ^ "Penthouse Magazine Issue #1 (First American Issue)". Back In Time Rare Books. Archived from the original on April 10, 2017. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Skin in the Game: Purveyor of Porn Buys Bankrupt Penthouse". biglawbusiness.com. Archived from the original on October 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Munk, Nina. "Don't Blink. You'll Miss the 258th-Richest American". The New York Times, September 25, 2005.
  5. ^ Carr, David. "Cybersmut and Debt Undermine Penthouse". The New York Times, April 8, 2002.
  6. ^ Hand, Di; Middleditch, Steve (July 10, 2014). Design for Media: A Handbook for Students and Professionals in Journalism, PR, and Advertising. Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-317-86402-8. Retrieved August 2, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e Anthony Haden-Guest "Boom and Bust", The Observer, February 1, 2004
  8. ^ "The Twilight of Bob Guccione" from Rolling Stone
  9. ^ Yu, Roger (January 20, 2016). "Penthouse plans to retain magazine, launch overhauled site". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c "Housecall". Penthouse. Vol. 4, no. 5. January 1973. p. 6.
  11. ^ Munk, Nina (September 25, 2005)."Don't Blink. You'll Miss the 258th-Richest American". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Carr, David (April 8, 2002). "Cybersmut and Debt Undermine Penthouse". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Haden-Guest, Anthony (2004). "The Porn King in Winter". New York Magazine. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  14. ^ "SEC Filing". Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  15. ^ "Wednesday". medialifemagazine.com. January 4, 2013. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013.
  16. ^ Pfeifer, Stuart (September 17, 2013). "Penthouse magazine owner files for bankruptcy". LA Times. Retrieved September 18, 2013.
  17. ^ "Media: Company Overview of General Media Communications, Inc". Bloomberg Business Week. Archived from the original on June 4, 2013. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  18. ^ "Penthouse Wants You To Reclaim Your Vagina". Huffington Post. August 20, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  19. ^ "Penthouse Magazine Publisher Files Bankruptcy a Third Time". Bloomberg.com. January 12, 2018. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  20. ^ Kernes, Mark (June 5, 2018). "Penthouse Bankruptcy Auction Results in New Ownership". avn.com. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "Bob Guccione Obituary". Penthouse Forum. Archived from the original on May 8, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  22. ^ "Filthy Gorgeous Media". FilthyGorgeousMedia.com. Jeremy Frommer. Archived from the original on June 26, 2014. Retrieved July 1, 2014.
  23. ^ Lords, Traci Elizabeth. Traci Lords: Underneath It All. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
  24. ^ Kane, Gary (October 21, 2010). "Bob Guccione, 'Penthouse' magazine founder, dies". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved September 15, 2014.
  25. ^ Latest figures from the Audited Bureau of Circulation
  26. ^ https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2005/02/guccione200502
  27. ^ "Penthouse Variations | Buy Single Issues | Zinio – The World's Largest Newsstand". Zinio. Retrieved May 3, 2013.
  28. ^ Glynn, Michael (June 16, 1983). "SoundViews". Cashbox. p. 28.
  29. ^ "A*Vision Unveiling Penthouse Vid Lne" (PDF). Billboard. October 19, 1991. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  30. ^ Casino Gambling Attracts "Penthouse" Publisher The Evening Independent March 25, 1978 [1]
  31. ^ "Abandoned Penthouse Casino - Haludovo Palace Hotel. Bikini, Optional". yomadic.com. August 19, 2013.
  32. ^ "Penthouse To Create First 3D Porn Channel | TechCrunch". Crunchgear.com. January 10, 2011. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  33. ^ "Penthouse in 3D is now available". Silicon Republic. Retrieved April 22, 2024.
  34. ^ "Penthouse to Showcase Pets, Wine & Spirits and Magazine at AEE". AVN.com. Adult Video News. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  35. ^ "Penthouse Libido Libations and Whiskey Tequila Fusion". bevindustry.com. BNP Media. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  36. ^ "Prestige product lines". PrestigeImportsLLC.com. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  37. ^ Oliver, Myrna (May 23, 1985). "Court Revives La Costa Spa's Penthouse Suit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  38. ^ Acuna, Armando (December 21, 1985). "Penthouse, Resort End Legal Battle in a Draw". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  39. ^ Amon, Elizabeth (August 12, 2008). "EBay, Lagardere, UBS, Penthouse, Countrywide in Court News". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved August 2, 2015.
  40. ^ Farley, Melissa (1992), "Nikki Craft: Inspiring protest: The rampage against Penthouse", in Russell, Diana E.H.; Radford, Jill (eds.), Femicide: the politics of woman killing, New York Toronto: Twayne Publishers, pp. 339–345, ISBN 9780805790283. Pdf.
  41. ^ "Media: Penthouse chega às bancas a 27 de Outubro". Destak.pt. October 2, 2010.
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