'Penthouse' Bob Guccione Dead at 79: 5 Surprising Things About Him

Bob Guccione, the longtime publisher of Penthouse, made his money -- and then lost it -- peddling smut. He died October 20 at 79.

He was not a hero for our times, but he was an interesting character. Once listed as Forbes wealthiest with a net worth of $400 million in 1982, he managed to lose it all when his publishing empire General Media, which included 15 other magazines besides Penthouse, like Omni and Penthouse Forum as well as fitness and technology publications, tanked.

Guccione took porn to a new level in Penthouse, allowing full-frontal nudity of men, and was always considered the "dirtier" version of Hugh Hefner's Playboy.


Guccione was a character, whose gold chains, tight pants, and open shirts were as legendary as his fiery personality. As the porn industry changed, Penthouse lost its footing and Guccione's empire stumbled. He ultimately lost all that he had earned and had to sell his mansion, his art, and his company.

But that's not all ... here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Bob Guccione:

  1. He once considered going into the priesthood: Guccione's full name is Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione and he was born in Brooklyn and raised Roman Catholic in Bergenfield, New Jersey. His religion was such a part of his life when he was young that he considered the priesthood, but ultimately decided to be an artist.
  2. Art was a big part of his life: His art collection was worth $150 million. He had paintings and sculptures from Degas, Renoir, Picasso, El Greco, Dalí, Matisse, and Chagall.
  3. He was a painter: Guccione's paintings were shown in museums, including the Nassau County Museum of Art in New York.
  4. Scandals: Penthouse was in the middle of many scandals, publishing photos of Madonna in 1984 that she had taken before she was famous as well as then Miss America Vanessa Williams. The scandal cost her the crown. But they also took down religious hypocrite and televangelist Jimmy Swaggart with stories about his sexual exploits in 1988 and 1989.
  5. $1,170 started it all: According to The New York Times, he started in London in 1965 with a bank loan for $1,170. He wanted to compete with Playboy but he accidentally used an old mailing list, so his porn samples were sent to clergymen, schoolgirls, old-age pensioners, and wives of members of Parliament. He was lightly fined, but his name was made and by the time he published the first issue of Penthouse, 120,000 copies were sold.

He was married four times and had five children, two of whom were with him when he died of cancer yesterday in Texas.

Like him or hate him, he lived an interesting life.

What did you think of Bob Guccione?


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