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March 28, 2014 | posted in Filmmakers
When Michael Nirenberg was a boy, Hustler magazine wasn’t just something that he and his friends conspired to sneak glimpses of when the bookstore manager wasn’t looking; it was his father’s business. Bill Nirenberg was creative director for Larry Flynt’s notoriously iconic magazine, and several of its spin-offs, throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
“Growing up, my friends were always fascinated with that,” he says.
Although he worked for the magazine himself, as an assistant photographer, in his early twenties, the idea of doing a documentary about Hustler, and its impact on American culture, only occurred to him when he became a father himself.
“I had been hanging out with my parents a bit more when my son was born,” he explains, “and thought it would be great to get some of my Dad’s stories filmed. It slowly turned into a full documentary once I had realized that this entire story hadn’t been fully told.”
Most people have, of course, heard of Hustler and its creator, Larry Flynt. The shooting that left Flynt paralyzed was the focus of national attention again in late 2013 when Joseph Paul Franklin, his shooter, was executed for several other murders. Nirenberg interviewed Franklin on Death Row for the film. His interviews with erotic photographer Suze Randall and former Hustler editor Mike “McBeardo” McPadden, by contrast, “were hilarious,” and he also caught up with ’60s counter-culture icon Paul Krassner.
Of course, as Nirenberg points out, “it’s impossible to pack 40 years into 90 minutes,” so he had to leave out a lot of stories, along with any “dirty secrets that would damage living people.” There will still be lots of surprises for audiences, though. “I think what will mostly challenge the audience’s perception,” he reflects, “will be how normal these people are. Mostly everyone I interviewed was very sweet and didn’t seem as damaged as the media likes to portray people within the adult industry.”
His advice to anyone aspiring to the film industry: “Get ready to work like hell and follow your obsessions. That’s where the most interesting part of the story is likely to be.”
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