Good Girls Walk Into a Porn Magazine | Crooked Media
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March 30, 2023
Stiffed
Good Girls Walk Into a Porn Magazine

In This Episode

Coming off the massive success of his men’s sex magazine Penthouse, porn publishing king Bob Guccione has a new project… but for women this time. Enter Viva, one of the first erotic magazines for women.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: I was brought up to respect women, and I’ve never lost that respect I’ve added to it, I have contributed to it. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: It’s the middle of the night in New York City. And Bob Guccione, the controversial founder and longtime publisher of Penthouse magazine, is being interviewed on the CBS show Nightwatch. Nightwatch was an overnight news show that aired from 2 to 6 in the morning, a time when you could talk more freely about topics like sexual desire and porn on network TV. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: I think that if you were looking at a woman’s anatomy, it must be beautiful in all of its parts. We cannot take one part of the anatomy and say that this is vulgar or obscene and the rest of it is okay, the rest of it is decent. That just simply doesn’t work. 

 

[clip of Christopher Glenn]: Since you were um—

 

Jennifer Romolini: At the time of this interview, Bob Guccione is one of the richest men in the world. He’s on the Forbes 400 list, one of the most powerful publishers in America back when publishers had real power. And he’s not humble or shy about any of it. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: I’m a workaholic. I work day and night. I work seven days a week, at least 20 hours a day. I sleep an average of 3 hours a night, and I don’t go anywhere socially, I do not surround myself with celebrities. I’m not star struck. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Bob’s wearing a creamy white silk shirt that’s unbuttoned nearly to his navel. His chest hair is out, his skin’s over tan. There are a dozen or more gold chains around his neck, though the interview takes place in the early eighties, his look is full disco. He’s the picture of seventies masculinity, even a caricature of it. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: I’ve got a good reputation with the girls that I’ve always worked with in the past. 

 

[clip of Christopher Glenn]: Mm hmm. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: We look after our girls very carefully. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: The host of Nightwatch is long time anchor Christopher Glenn, who looks particularly juxtaposed next to Bob like a Clark Kent stand in, a square. Glenn, like most journalists at this time, is trying to knock Guccione down a notch, corner him on a number of fronts. 

 

[clip of Christopher Glenn]: Since you started working in the area, quote, “men’s magazines,” unquote. How has your personal attitude about women changed at all? A lot of people say you’re just an exploiter of women. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: Well, you know, they can say what they like. My attitude toward women, if anything, has grown more respectable over the years. 

 

[clip of Christopher Glenn]: In what ways? 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: Well, I’ve come to understand them a lot better. When I produced the woman’s magazine some years ago called Viva, which was very successful with the readership. [music plays]

 

Jennifer Romolini: The magazine he’s talking about, Viva, was a splashy but little known feminist porn magazine Bob published a decade before this interview. From 1973 until he was forced to fold it in 1978. In addition to its groundbreaking full frontal male nudes, Viva was smart and cool. It treated its readers like they had brains publishing work by writers like Nikki Giovanni, Renata Adler and Erica Jong. And it was stylish. Anna Wintour was actually Viva’s fashion editor from 1976 to 1978. Viva was a reflection of its time, a direct product of the seventies sexual revolution, but maybe even more importantly, the women’s liberation movement. 

 

[news clip]: There is a serious questioning of the role of women in our society. 

 

[news clip]: What do you think men are doing wrong? 

 

[news clip]: They’re in charge. 

 

[news clip]: What do we want? Liberation. When do we want it? Now.

 

Jennifer Romolini: Viva came out 50 years ago and its story has more parallels to the issues around sexual liberation that we’re all still grappling with today than I could have possibly imagined. But still, almost no one remembers it. And if they do, they get the story wrong. They turn Viva into a joke about dicks, fashionable feminism plus penises wrapped up in a blousy pussy bow, cue the bow chicka bow wow. Music The end. It’s safe to say that perceptions about female sexuality and empowerment have been misconstrued and straight up dismissed by men since forever. It’s just unfortunate Viva’s own Bob Guccione, porn mogul and publisher of one of the first erotic women’s magazines was just as clueless as the rest of them. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: But when I started Viva, I thought I knew everything there was to know about women. I thought I was the smartest guy in the world as far as women were concerned. I learned as a result of that experience, as a result of working deeply with women, that I didn’t begin to know them, nor does any other man I know. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: But what were these misunderstood women of Viva trying to say with their feminist porn magazine? Could they actually pull it off? From Crooked Media and iHeartMedia. I’m Jennifer Romolini and this is Stiffed, episode one, Good Girls Walk Into A Porn Magazine. [music plays] Act one, The First Word. The first time I ever saw Viva magazine was in the mid 2000s. Back then, I was working as a mid-level editor at a popular Condé Nast women’s magazine called Lucky. Sitting at a desk just a few floors down from Vogue. Before Lucky, I’d worked in junior positions at Glamour and Cosmo, and women’s magazines were then and had always been messy. A lot of putting lipstick on the internalized misogyny pig, a lot of exclusionary self-esteem, eroding word salads that were beneath all of us, even if we didn’t really know we deserved better at the time. But when I discovered Viva, I discovered that things had not always been this way. And I was surprised to find out that this revolutionary, cool, progressive women’s porn magazine all seemed to have started with a man, Bob Guccione, the famous founder of the men’s magazine Penthouse. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: I became very interested in what was happening on the newsstands, and I saw that Playboy was the only men’s magazine of its kind and occurred to me in a very simplistic way. But one might produce the British answer to Playboy, I had no ideas in the beginning that I would ever take this magazine to the United States. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: That’s Bob again. On Nightwatch, describing why he first decided to create Penthouse. As you heard, he came up with the idea while living in London with his family at the time. He’s just a family man with a big idea. But once he actually finishes the first physical issue of Penthouse magazine— 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: It wasn’t till I actually held the first issue in my hand and looked at it and said to myself, my God, this is something special, something great. 

 

[clip of Christopher Glenn]: Mm hmm. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: And at that moment in time, as it came off the press, the first bound copy I looked at and I said, I’m going to take this to America. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Enter a young aspiring magazine editor named Gay Bryant. 

 

Gay Bryant: I gotten this job as the first literally the first employee of Penthouse in the United States. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: You might know Gay Bryant now for her work as the former editor in chief of popular women’s magazines like Mirabella, Working Woman and Family Circle, or for popularizing the term glass ceiling to describe barriers women face in their careers. But before all that, back in the sixties, Gay’s just a girl in her twenties with big career dreams, even if she’s not entirely sure how to make them happen. 

 

Gay Bryant: I grew up in a time in England where you really sort of expected to get married, and that was about it. But I did like writing, being a nice English, well brought up English, girl. I was just sort of quiet and I learned fast and and I just absorbed it all. In other words, I was I was nice, well-behaved, and a good listener. That was the secret to my success. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: When Gay meets Bob Guccione, she’s just a junior copy editor freelancing for Penthouse UK before Bob offers her a big opportunity. It’s her first break. 

 

Gay Bryant: Hey, we’re thinking of starting up in in America. And if you get there, maybe you can get a job. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: So Gay moves to New York City to be the editor of Penthouse, U.S. in the fall of 1969. She’d never been to America before, and she knew almost no one but her new job at Penthouse kept her busy. 

 

Gay Bryant: I was literally the only employee, so I did everything. You had to know how to do covers that made guys pick up the magazine and pay their money. And you had to learn how to get advertising. You had to learn the business. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Gay starts as a Penthouse employee, but she’s there for the beginning of Viva. And even though she’s one of the only people present in Viva’s start. You wouldn’t know this because her name is strangely nowhere on Viva’s first masthead. It’s an oversight that will turn out to be likely very intentional, but I’m getting way ahead of myself. When Gay first arrives in New York, this buttoned up English girl is thrust, no pun, into an entirely new world. But like she said, she’s a fast learner. She adapts quickly. And how did being a nice a nice girl. How did that go along with working at a porn magazine? How did you how did you negotiate that? 

 

Gay Bryant: I think I bought the line that it wasn’t really a porn magazine. It was a new product tackling the market. And it was part of like a David and Goliath battle in the magazine newsstand world. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: The Goliath here is Playboy, run by Bob’s arch nemesis, Hugh Hefner. In the early seventies, the porn landscape is still mainly limited to two men’s magazines. Playboy, the reliable old timer, and Penthouse, the scrappy upstart. In fact, Playboy’s around for almost two decades before Bob comes along with Penthouse. For a long time, it was the only game in town. Here’s Bob. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: Playboy had been so successful for so long that they didn’t recognize the possibility of a threat. They didn’t recognize any kind of competition. Playboy was locked into a situation governed and controlled by its advertisers. I didn’t have any advertisers when I came to the market, so I had nobody to bow to or kowtow to. I did what I felt was necessary, what was right. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: And what Bob thought was right. Publishing a magazine that was much more explicit than Playboy. Playboy came out of the conservative fifties. It had an old fashioned, gentlemanly vibe. Was widely considered respectable pornography, just some preppy, naughty boys being boys stuff. And one big reason for this was Hugh Hefner never showed full frontal nudes. But Bob Guccione’s whole sex vibe is much more naturalistic than Hef’s. He’s not into this sanitized sexual innuendo. He’s over Americans hang ups about bodies and sex. Here he is explaining in an interview on Arlene Hurston’s cable access show in the eighties. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: I determined by myself that it was wrong to publish pictures of girls where where you didn’t see the pubis, because that is to me, one of the most beautiful parts of a woman’s body. And I felt that the world should look at it that way. And so we did it. We took the step. It was daring at the time, I suppose, but I really wasn’t afraid of what I was doing. I thought I was doing the right thing and I was prepared to defend that position. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: But maybe more than anything, Bob sees more graphic nudity as a smart business move. He thinks he can beat Hefner by going bigger, by showing more. 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: I knew then and there with that first issue, thought I’d come to America with it and that I would do battle with Playboy and that I would eventually take the market. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: So Bob shows pubic hair in Penthouse, basically from the jump. Setting off a public battle that Hef aptly deemed The Pubic Wars. Penthouse shows pubic hair. Playboy shows pubic hair. Penthouse shows labia. Playboy shows labia. And then, well, on it goes. So Bob’s image is sleazy Lothario, but in reality, he’s a hyper ambitious workaholic. He works tirelessly on Penthouse, and it shows. It’s U.S. circulation numbers grow to millions within months. It sells out in newsstands that carry it. And it is quickly one of the biggest magazines success stories of all time. It’s a cash cow that, unlike its competitors, is run on a shoestring, which makes it even more of a cash cow. And though Gay Bryant was hired on as the editor, she picks up quick to Bob’s business savvy. And in early 1973, after four years working for Bob and helping him build Penthouse. 

 

Gay Bryant: I began to think, gee, you know, why can’t women who are now part of the sexual revolution and the women’s movement and so on, why can’t they have a magazine like this for them? 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Gay Bryant suddenly had a magazine idea of her own. And she shares it with her male colleague at Penthouse. 

 

Gay Bryant: I went and talked to Ernie, the publishing expert there, and I said, you know, I think the company should do a magazine for women, a sexy magazine. It’s time. And he said, yeah, great idea. Why don’t you write up a proposal and I’ll pass it up to Bob. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Gay’s excited. She gets to work right away. She’s got lots of ideas. 

 

Gay Bryant: I wrote up the proposal. I called it Mia because at the time, Mia Farrow was, like, cool and intelligent, all those things. I give it to Ernie. Ernie gave it. Well, I don’t know. I guess Ernie gave it to Bob. Nothing. Nothing. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: And by the time Gay hears back, well, the magazine she pitched is about to get greenlit. But not necessarily in the way she might have hoped. Act two, An Unexploited Resource. Here’s the thing, Gay Bryant wasn’t the only woman working for Penthouse and coming up with big, innovative ideas for Bob. And we’ll get back to her magazine proposal and the response to it in just a minute. But first, it’s important to talk about Bob and his hiring practices because for the time, they were pretty unique. In the early seventies, Bob Guccione hired tons of women. He hired them. He promoted them. He gave them big titles. 

 

[clip of Nancy LeWinter]: In 1974, you either went to Ms. magazine or you went to Penthouse because there was no other place that was hiring women. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: That’s a former Penthouse executive named Nancy LeWinter, speaking in the 2013 Bob Guccione documentary, Filthy Gorgeous. She’s talking about magazine, publicity and advertising. But this applied to editorial, too. Here’s Bob’s partner, Kathy Keeton, from the same documentary. 

 

[clip of Kathy Keeton]: Bob Guccione was very smart. He understood that women were like an unexploited resource. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Hiring women was something Bob was known for, a big deal, something he bragged about all the time. This is Bob again on Nightwatch in his interview with Christopher Glenn. 

 

[clip of Christopher Glenn]: You have some rather high ranking officers of your your organization are women, are they not? 

 

[clip of Bob Guccione]: Yes. In fact, the three highest paid individuals are women, and we have many more women executives than we have, men. And this is done simply because I think they do a better job. 

 

[clip of Christopher Glenn]: Mm hmm. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: And Guccione may have thought that women did a better job, but that didn’t mean he always let them do it. And if you didn’t let them do their jobs, if he sidelined them or took credit for their work, the women who worked for Bob Guccione, well, they had little recourse. Remember, this is the seventies and the professional landscape for women is not great. Yes, we’re in the middle of the women’s liberation movement. It’s a time of radical progressive change for women. Sure. But women still can’t apply for a loan or get credit cards in their own name. And sexual harassment is rampant in most industries. More the rule than the exception. So women who wanted to work at this time often took what they could get. Working for a porn king like Bob Guccione, who gave them opportunities, was often worth the price of admission. 

 

Robin Wolaner: I started working at Penthouse, actually when I was 17 as a temporary secretary during the summer between high school and college. My very first job except for babysitting. But yeah. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: That’s Robin Wolaner. Robin’s a former executive at CNET and the founder of Parenting magazine. 

 

Robin Wolaner: You can imagine the reactions of my parents to their 17 year old daughter working at this place. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Parent approval or no, working at Penthouse is the job that helps put Robin through college. But while Robin is finishing her degree at Cornell and working part time at Penthouse, Gay Bryant is running Penthouse’s editorial and waiting to hear back about her new magazine idea. A future Viva editor Pat Lynden’s, a fresh faced young reporter, a Berkeley graduate working her first magazine job. The first time I spoke with Pat, it was over the phone. 

 

Pat Lynden: So I went to work for Newsweek and I was thrilled at some $54 a week for six months until. And I was told, this is a really good job for a woman.

 

Jennifer Romolini: At Newsweek, Pat’s hired as a, quote, “editorial assistant,” but she’s doing a lot more. She reports on local and national politics, establishes high level sources and even breaks stories. But she’s forced to give those stories to established male journalists. Men who get the bylines and all the credit for her work, for all the female reporters at Newsweek’s work. 

 

Pat Lynden: We decided that we wanted to get recognized on the masthead for what we were doing. We didn’t want to be called editorial assistants anymore, and we wanted to be writers, correspondents, that sort of thing. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Pat’s part of a walkout by 46 female journalists at Newsweek, and she’s a key witness in their landmark gender discrimination suit against the magazine, a case that changes publishing workplaces forever, a case that inspires the book Good Girls Revolt, that was later turned into the 2015 TV show of the same name. Women like Pat and Robin and Gay are all trying to sort out who they are, both professionally and personally. Here’s Pat again, this time not over the phone. 

 

Pat Lynden: We had no idea what we were going to do or if we were going to do anything. But we started going to these consciousness raising groups. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Consciousness raising groups, literally groups of women sitting around and talking without men were incredibly popular with second wave feminists in the late sixties and early seventies, particularly in New York. Women would sit around, network, bitch, and share stories about being moms, their careers and their sex lives openly in ways they hadn’t before. And it’s not just Pat attending, Gay Bryant belongs to a women’s consciousness raising group, too. And on one summer night in 1973, she’s got a lot to talk about, a lot to unload. Remember Gay’s big magazine proposal? Well, after months, she’s finally got an update. And it’s from Nora Ephron of all people. Yes. That Nora Ephron, the one behind When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, feeling bad about her neck. 

 

Gay Bryant: I opened up New York magazine and Bob Guccione is telling, I think it was Nora Ephron in an interview about how he [laughs] was going to start a really cool new erotic magazine for women. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Bob doesn’t say the name of the magazine, but for Gay, this announcement is awfully coincidental. Suspiciously so. Gay is sure, Bob is screwing her over, stealing her idea. 

 

Robin Wolaner: Cut a long story short. I was pretty pissed off, so I was in some consciousness raising group with other female writers and editors. And I told them the story, and I told them how outrageous it was. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Gay’s venting. And like anyone who’s had a man or any boss take credit for their idea, she’s flooded with rage, incensed. 

 

Robin Wolaner: And one of them called Nora, and Nora interviewed me. And that, too, appeared in New York magazine saying I had had the idea. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: But not everyone agrees with Gay’s account. 

 

Bob Guccione Jr: It was entirely his idea and his, the desire was great. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Okay. So a big voice missing from this series is Bob Guccione. He unfortunately passed away in 2010, but we did have the privilege of speaking to his son. Bob Guccione, Jr. 

 

Bob Guccione Jr: I was there at the beginning as he was, thinking it through, but he felt that women wanted the same kind of a magazine that men wanted. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Bob Jr. is one of the few people still alive who worked at Viva from the start. He’d go on to have his own successful career in publishing as the founder and publisher of the music magazine Spin. But in the seventies, Bob Jr. is a teenager and Viva magazine. Well, it’s his first job and as far as he’s concerned, it was his dad’s creation. 

 

Bob Guccione Jr: You know, he named it. He named it. He just came up with the name. He was Italian. Viva means life in Italian. And he, you know, drew a logo on a notepad. And the magazine came from there. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Now, we can’t know for sure who invented the magazine. I’m inclined to believe Gay, though to be fair, Bob’s ultimate decision to greenlight Viva may have come from a desire to keep pace with Hugh Hefner. Playgirl launched just a few months before Viva. Whatever the case, the seed of Viva is now out there. But after spilling the beans to Nora, Gay’s filled with insecurity over her decision to talk. 

 

Gay Bryant: I do remember having that feeling of, oh, my God, what have I done? And to my eternal shame, I went to Bob and apologized and said, oh, of course, of course, I didn’t really mean that. And of course it’s your magazine. And I quit. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: So Gay quits in, let’s just call it really misplaced shame. And Bob moves on finishing Viva’s first issue without her. Here’s an excerpt from Bob’s editor’s letter in Viva magazine’s first issue, read by writer and podcast host Alex Pappademas. You’ll hear him read Bob throughout this series. So thank you, Alex. 

 

Alex Pappademas: The magazine you hold in your hands is my newborn child. Fragile, undisciplined, painfully vulnerable. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Bob’s editor’s letters become a regular column in Viva called, The First Word. And in his first words here, Bob’s introducing his Viva to the world. The first issue is published in October of 1973, and even today, it’s a visual standout. The cover is a full bleed shot, an extreme, soft, focused, close up of a woman’s face in profile, her blue eye shadowed eyes closed in ecstasy, her coral lipstick lips parted in a provocative pout, a pink tongue jutting out just a bit. Across the top of the model’s face is the Viva logo. Bold white in a font that screams seventies. The letters made from a series of thin vertical somehow discoey lines. It’s a beautiful magazine, and Bob Guccione was at the top of it all. Viva is Bob Guccione Sr.’s baby. In a way, he writes about literally. Here’s his editor’s letter again. 

 

Alex Pappademas: This child of love is my child, and I want to see her grow and have all the advantages of success that love and attention can provide. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Next to this letter is a picture of Bob himself. He’s 43 here and artfully lit. He looks sensitive, pensive. A thinking man’s pornographer. 

 

Alex Pappademas: I want to watch her develop firm, young limbs and a fine, strong posture. I want to see her acquire the sort of education that promotes knowledgeable opinions, bold, positive attitudes toward life and love and sex. And that creates, above all, character and personality. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Just to be clear, because it’s not so much from his editor’s letter. Bob was making a magazine for adult women, not unformed baby ladies. And he was also making an erotic magazine for grown women who loved men. But what did he serve up? Well, a lot of vulva and naked breasts. There’s a 15 page centerfold where a mustachioed man and a brunet woman in a bonnet cosplay as old timey people on a picnic. A picnic where all they seem to be serving is the woman’s naked body. This issue also serves up a quick hit piece on Jane Fonda and a comic strip called The Little Hooker, where a skinny blond woman with big tits engages in sex with a bear. Oh, and Bob made some interesting choices when it came to who would be writing for Viva, too. Here’s the lineup. White male novelist J.P. Donleavy.

 

[clip of J.P. Donleavy]: And I sometimes do profess the actual facts of one’s existence. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: White male political reporter Tom Wicker. 

 

[clip of Tom Wicker: Perhaps we’ll relapse into that more quiescent mood once the current fad for investigative journalism stems out of Watergate. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: White male photojournalist Eddie Adams. 

 

[clip of Eddie Adams]: When I did the picture, I stopped back to the AP office and I handed him just a roll of film and I said, I think I got somebody killing somebody. And I went out to lunch, it was that simple. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: White male essayist slash known misogynist Norman Mailer. 

 

[clip of Normal Mailer]: And there is an element in women’s liberation that terrifies me. It terrifies me because it’s humorless, because with the exception, let’s say, of Germaine Greer’s book, there’s been almost no recognition that the life of a man is also difficult. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Here’s what Gay thought when she first saw it. 

 

Gay Bryant: Viva was always a man’s idea of what women wanted. And I don’t believe that they really knew what women wanted. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Viva was Bob’s creation alone, and he wants the world to know it. It’s all pretty gross, particularly for Gay, who’d had a very different vision for this magazine. But to Gay’s credit, she quickly moves on. She starts her own magazine called New Dawn, a Viva competitor. She’s a big name editor and writer for decades. She’s okay. But hearing Gay’s story and now knowing where it ends, it all makes sense. This was a messy beginning to a messy magazine in a messy time. And the women who would become involved in trying to grow Viva as an intelligent, sexy magazine for other women. They were up against it from the beginning. Nora Ephron slams Viva’s first issue in New York magazine with a review titled Guccione’s Ms.Print. She blames Bob for all of it, including stealing Gay’s idea. Here’s my producer, Megan Donis reading Nora’s piece. 

 

Megan Donis: The original concept of Viva was a woman’s, Guccione claims otherwise. Claims that the concrete idea for Viva hit him like some transcendental bolt last year on a trans-Atlantic plane. But the actual product in fact, came from a Viva editor named Gay Bryant, who wrote a 50 page outline proposing an erotic general interest magazine for intelligent women. Guccione adopted Bryant’s idea and added a couple fillips of his own, the name, the logo, and most important, the overall tone. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: It’s a tone, Nora, and turns out a lot of people hate. A tone that Bob couldn’t necessarily control since, well it was his own. Here’s Bob Jr. again. 

 

Bob Guccione Jr: The entire thing was through his lens rather than a woman’s lens. And that was a mistake. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: But you can understand why Bob Sr. would make this kind of mistake. He’s just off the biggest career win of his life. The success of Penthouse is unimpeachable. And like many founders of mega successful things, Bob Sr. now thinks his instincts are unimpeachable, too. 

 

Bob Guccione Jr: Penthouse was such a fantastic success because it was an update on Playboy. The more modern. The more authentic a real magazine about men’s lives in the late sixties and the seventies. Viva was intended to be the woman’s version of that. So he created the magazine. He thought it through. He believed in that concept and that vision at the time, and he was going to execute it. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: And the truth was that even with Bob’s shadow hanging over it, some women in media were happy to see Viva come into existence at all. A feminist erotica magazine marked progress no matter who was making it. There was a need for a magazine like Viva. A hole in the marketplace. So, Bob Sr.’s instincts are not all wrong. After Viva’s first issue, after Nora Ephron’s complaints, he starts to hire highbrow female writers, female sex therapists, and eventually editors and writers with serious journalistic cred, including Pat. 

 

Pat Lynden: I mean, Newsweek was a real place. You know, it was a place where it was like boot camp and the standards were very high. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: Pat was a bona fide journalist who knew her value. But after the Newsweek walkout, she didn’t know where to go next. So she started networking, kicking the professional tires, meeting up with other female journalists. 

 

Robin Wolaner: I can’t remember the last name, and I think she was also from Ms. and we were talking walking down the street and I told her I was interested in leaving. She said, oh, I know the perfect place for you. And that was Viva. If somebody had said that, you know, somebody some pornographer was running it I wouldn’t have gone there. But these were bona fide feminists, right? 

 

Jennifer Romolini: As for Robin. After working as a secretary at Penthouse, the choice to move over to Viva was easy. She knew Bob paid. 

 

Robin Wolaner: I got a living wage at Viva and I was quite proud to work for Viva because we saw the jet, the the version of Viva that I worked for, we were going to be the intelligent woman’s Cosmo. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: And here’s Pat. 

 

Pat Lynden: Kathy Keeton had come up with a motto for Viva, which she was using in advertisements, and it’s, the Viva woman lives the life that the Cosmo girl only dreams about. And we thought, well, that’s kind of cute. 

 

Jennifer Romolini: And even Nora Ephron’s mostly scathing review of Bob’s first issue offers both Viva and its female editors some hope. Here’s Megan reading Nora again. 

 

Megan Donis: I realized I’m treating Viva as if it were a failure. That, to be sure, is premature and wishful thinking. Viva may well succeed, may find some formula that works. [music plays]

 

Jennifer Romolini: But did Viva need a new formula? Or did it need a new leader? Could Bob Guccione be trusted to raise this female newborn magazine child on his own? We’re about to find out. Stiffed is an original podcast from iHeartMedia and Crooked Media. It’s produced by Crooked Media. It’s hosted and written by me, Jennifer Romolini and produced by Megan Donis. Sydney Rapp is our associate producer. Story editing by Mary Knopf. Music, sound design and engineering by Hannis Brown. Our fact checker is Julia Paskin. Additional production support from Nafula Kato and Ines Maza. Thanks to Alex Pappademas for reading the voice of Bob Guccione and to Ashley Ford for reading Lorraine O’Grady. From Crooked Media our executive producers are Sarah Geismer, Katie Long, and Mary Knopf. With special thanks to Alison Falzetta and Lyra Smith. From iHeartMedia our executive producers are Beth Anne Macaluso and Julia Weaver.