Illustration © Corey Cooley
Good morning, I am your worst nightmare come true: a fabulously wealthy pornographer with the courage and willingness to spend my last dime to expose how you are perverting the Constitution of this great land. Now let's get down to business.
— "Larry Flynt for President" campaign ad, Nov. 1983
I DECIDED I WAS GOING to blow myself up at the Big H Speedway — something I saw at the rodeo when I was a kid. They called it "the human stick of dynamite." I was convinced that somebody was trying to make a hit on me, and it would be easier to kill me if I was doing this. If I lived through it, then I was destined to live for a while. The stunt man who helped me put the thing together said, "You'll be disoriented for a few weeks." Little did he fucking know. A week later I was in Mexico and I really flipped out. I was on location for a film. They'd asked me to play the head of the DEA. I thought it was just a plot and they were going to get me. Next thing I knew I was walking through the jungle naked. I was convinced everybody understood everything I was thinking.
I ended up in Studio 12, where they took me to recover from the alcohol and drugs and so on. I got an offer from Larry Flynt to do the first celebrity shoot for Hustler. I was so out of it, I thought it was some sort of code. It sounded really interesting to me. So Flynt moved me into his house and I became like his top advisor. And here I was, just out of a fucking mental institution. I'd agree with anything he said. "Oh yeah, run for President, sure, why not? Wish I'd thought of it, Larry." In the beginning, I thought he was kidding about running for President. Then he suddenly wasn't kidding. All these '60s radicals started showing up: Stokely Carmichael and what's his name, Rap Brown would come in. And Russell Means would be downstairs. He was Larry's Vice Presidential candidate. And Terry and Leary and myself, just the most radical people.
Den Hopper called me from Larry Flynt's: "I've sent you a first-class round-trip ticket, and I want you to come out. I have a proposition for you. Take my word, it's a good thing. I'll meet the plane." And so I went out without knowing anything except that Den had recommended it.
Den did meet me at the airport and he said, "Man, you're going to dig this scene. This is fantastic!"
When we arrive, the iron gate swings open and they wave Den in. Here I am in this gigantic place, three blocks up from the Bel Air Hotel. I'm trying to think whose house it used to be — Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, or Sonny and Cher, or somebody. Many generations of mismatched celebrities. There were tennis courts and pools on each side of the house with waterfalls and things like that. Well secured —it's patrolled by guys carrying Uzi machine guns. Three uniformed guards outside the fence, and then on the inside three huge bodybuilder types, dressed in white short-sleeve...