Guccione’s ‘Madame’ bids adieu to an extraordinary friend
by Xaviera Hollander
In 1971, still reeling from the success of The Happy Hooker, my multi-million selling account of my adventures in the sex trade, Bob Guccione approached me with an offer to be his resident lay analyst in his fledgling Penthouse Magazine. Call Me Madame, the column Bob and I created, ran for over 35 years and established me as the go-to expert for advice on what grew to be an astonishing array of sexual tribulations and conundrums, and earned me the distinction of longest reigning columnist in the history of sex magazines.
It began with a friendly phone call from Bob, who tracked me down in Amsterdam. Bob had just moved to London, and I was still smarting, after having received the boot from the US government and left the good old USA with my tail between my legs, despite selling millions of copies of the personal memoir I co-authored with Robin Moore and Yvonne Dunleavy.
However undesirable I was to the US government, Bob's new Penthouse Club and its members and pets welcomed me with open arms. Still smarting from my unceremonious ejection from America, Bob made me his special guest of honor at his lovely Penthouse apartment for several weeks. It was just what the doctor ordered from my battered psyche, and proved to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship that would last a lifetime.
There I met Bob’s new love, the South African one-time stripper, Kathy Keeton. Bob was said to have met her in her dressing room after a terrific striptease and noticed a copy of the Wall Street Journal on her chair and thought, ‘aha … a stripper with a brain.’ She lived and worked alongside with him for years, until her tragic and untimely death from cancer.
I remained in London for about a year, taking up residence of my own in Chelsea, and visited Bob and Kathy regularly, and attended the many memorable, action packed Penthouse soirées.
What I appreciated in Bob is that he was at all times a gentleman. He was always immaculately dressed, his extensive wardrobe housed in wall-to-wall cupboards with hundreds of pairs of boots and shoes that would make Imelda Marcos blush. Bob’s shirts and jackets were impeccable and colorful and I don't remember him ever marching around one of his many social events or granting interviews in pajamas unlike that like his competitor Hugh Hefner, whose impressive mansion I had also visited on several occasions.
Bob also had great talent as a photographer. I recall fun times in Yugoslavia where Bob had opened a new Penthouse club. Bob took a bevy of penthouse pets into the mountains and to lovely beach coves and took superb photographs for his magazine.
In those days, the Penthouse magazine pet of the month actually showed a bit of pubic hair, as Bob, who was of Italian descent, confessed to me that he liked hairy girls, and girls more au naturel than his rival’s pumped up Playboy bunnies.
Bob also knew how to make nudity exciting. He seldom photographed them totally naked, but usually adorned with something flimsy, a chain of pearls, flowing long hair, a thin scarf, or a diaphanous negligee strategically covering some alluring aspect of their sensual pose.
For more than three decades I answered the thousands of Penthouse readers’ questions, under instructions of the Penthouse legal department not to include questions about men who like to get dressed up as women, anal sex, squirting or golden showers. To my great surprise, in the 90’s, while I stuck to these somewhat quaint guidelines, more and more explicit photo spreads began to appear, some of which even shocked me. Bob, I surmised, had decided to compete with Larry Flynt’s HUSTLER. It, like so many of Bob’s business decisions and investments, proved a ruinous move. Many advertisers decided the Penthouse Magazine was getting too raunchy for their taste and withdrew their ads. Slowly but surely Penthouse was heading for a disaster.
Around the time that Penthouse was headed for bankruptcy and Guccione was forced to abandon his sinking ship, the new management pulled the plug on Call Me Madame, citing the diminishing attention spans of their readership who no longer possessed the persistence to read my largely fun though occasionally serious answers and anecdotes.
It was the end of an era.
I went on to produce English language theater both in Amsterdam and Marbella, and started a successful bohemian Bed and Brothel, err, bed and breakfast, in Amsterdam, that attracts hoards of Happy Hooker and Penthouse fans, eager to listen to my stories from the days before AIDS polluted the sex lives of so many and when sex was fun and unique and visionary individuals like Bob Guccione ruled their private and profane kingdoms and challenged the values pushed the boundaries of sexuality, one publication at a time.
Farewell to a uniquely talented and visionary artist, bright light, an original and a true friend.
This article is also Published on Eden fantasys website Sexis