Why you should care

Because sometimes good guys don’t wear white.

Getting a job at Larry Flynt Publications is like going to topsy-turvy town when compared with the average American workplace.

Let’s start with the release notifying you that you’re going to be exposed to material sexual in nature. Then there’s the said material sexual in nature. Not the soft-focus, modified lingerie ads that pass for what’s trade in pioneering porn titles like Playboy these days, but more what porn panjandrum Larry Flynt originally named his flagship pub, Hustler, for: a streetwalking hooker and the ethos that is part and parcel of such a lifestyle. But with one small difference. Flynt, a Democrat — he came out in support of Hillary Clinton’s campaign last May — and a First Amendment advocate, has got shit stirring in his blood, so his publications have always been part postmodern meta and out-and-out filth.

Into which walked Allan MacDonell after having seen an ad in the Los Angeles Times for an assistant proofreader. He took a test, aced it, didn’t get the job, and came back two more times before the copy chief’s staff hired him when the copy chief was out of pocket. MacDonell was in.

Probably drunk or high and definitely after having dropped out of college and cottoned to LA punk rock, MacDonell, ensconced in Larry Flynt Publications’ massive multistory tower, really wasn’t there so much for the porn, even though that was the business. He was there more for the chance to fuck shit up. Well, that and the paycheck. Though bipolar, Flynt was sharp as a tack, so whether he was appearing in court in a diaper or running for office and submitting a campaign commercial with two people screwing in the background, he was the most dangerous kind of disrupter: one who didn’t care what he had to do to disrupt.

Prisoner of x

Prisoner of X: 20 Years in the Hole at Hustler Magazine, by Allan MacDonell, recounts what could be the most colorful copyediting gig ever.

Source Feral House

An almost punk-rock mission made to order for MacDonell, who orchestrated the fall of Republican Rep. and House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston in the middle of Livingston’s trying to get President Bill Clinton impeached for the Monica Lewinsky affair. After that, and after spearheading Flynt’s $1 million offer to get more muck raked, as well as the First Amendment cases connected to cartoons about Moral Majority co-founder Jerry Falwell’s mother and a whole docket of fighting the law and winning, MacDonell ultimately came up against an immovable force: Larry Flynt himself.

“I got talked into standing up at an event for Larry,” says MacDonell from his Los Angeles redoubt where he is now an editorial director at digital magazine The Kind, “and encouraged to tell a joke. Like a roast.” The tall and avuncular MacDonell, wearing heavy-framed glasses and as deadpan as all get-out, stood up and told a joke, one that hit the famous jokester a little too close to home. In short order, like usually happens only in the movies, MacDonell was out.

Which maybe wasn’t as surprising as the fact that after 20 years at the flagship of filth that was Hustler and his rise to Flynt’s second-in-command, this weighed against him in his subsequent job hunt. “I remember all of his great stories,” says Feral House publisher Adam Parfrey. “And it took as long as it took for me to get on the phone to make him an offer.” Against the acknowledgment that the porn MacDonell did was, as he himself puts it, for “truck drivers with 10th-grade educations, and hipsters,” the memoir Prisoner of X: 20 Years in the Hole at Hustler Magazine seemed like a good idea. Even after the Onion’s A.V. Club savaged it as “overwritten and under-funny.”

A description that MacDonell and Parfrey laugh at now. As comedian and YouTube host Mean Dave sums it up nicely and tightly: “How are you going to tell me that using naked-vagina-photo cash to bring down politicians who are trying to bring down other politicians for dealings with naked vaginas is a bad thing?”

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