Sex, scandals and strange family dynamics: Secrets of Penthouse magazine mogul Bob Guccione revealed

At its peak, Bob Guccione's Penthouse magazine made him one of the richest people in the world.  (A&E)

At its peak, Bob Guccione’s Penthouse magazine made him one of the richest people in the world. (A&E)

The new A&E docuseries Penthouse secrets concluded Tuesday, revealing a wealth of information about the rise and fall of magazine founder Bob Guccione along the way.

The four-part project broke down things like how Guccione treated his family and others, how he liked to spend his money, and why he was such a villain in the eyes of so many. So here’s a breakdown of all the biggest “secrets” from Penthouse secrets.

His money

“He starts one of the dirtiest magazines in America,” said Rolling Stone journalist John Colapinto, “and becomes one of the richest men in the world.”

And he wasn’t afraid to spend that money. Guccione lived in what was considered New York City’s largest and most luxurious mansion, with, according to The Arlene Herson Show28,000 square meters, 42 rooms, nine floors, imported marble and $100 million worth of art including original paintings by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse.

His bathtub was lined with gold and cost a quarter of a million dollars with 22 carat gold fixtures, including faucets and toilet paper holders.

And beyond how well he lived in this life, Guccione also had big plans for the next, according to his daughter Nina.

“Dad and Kathy [Keeton, Penthouse president and, later, Guccione’s wife] was obsessed with growing old. He used to talk about him and Kathy being shot into space and being frozen. Cryogenics wasn’t in and they said, ‘Ok well, if we can’t do our whole body, we’ll just cut off our heads and that will do. They can clone us when we come back,” she said, adding, “I have no idea how much he ended up spending on it.”

Steve Belanger, who worked in the Penthouse Finance Department for a while, broke down some of the weirder things Guccione spent money on at his height. “Bob and Kathy had two large Rhodesian ridgebacks and it turns out we paid for the monthly storage of their semen,” he revealed.

Belanger would later say that when Guccione was intensely confronted about how dire the financial situation was becoming, the publisher turned the conversation to the “obvious” existence of UFOs and how the company should “exploit” them.

His children

Guccione had five children in his lifetime, two of whom were interviewed for the documentary along with other nieces and nephews.

His youngest son, Nick, had a very up-and-down experience with his father and the lifestyle that came with him. He moved into his father’s mansion at the age of 13 and things were crazy from the start.

“We weren’t allowed to bond with the pets. And [Bob] told the pets, “You’re not supposed to be with the kids,” Nick said. “But when I was 15, I had the opportunity to have my first girlfriend, and she happened to be a pet. She was 23, I was 15. Most guys could only wish they could have sex with one of them. I had sex with every single one of them.”

But as Nick would struggle with drugs and alcohol starting in his teenage years, his relationship with his father was strained.

“He says he was a family man,” Nick said, “but he really wasn’t. He was terrible at paying attention to his own kids, getting involved in their lives. My dad never took me seriously, he saw on me like a loser, you know. But hey, maybe he had a point.”

Instead, Nick turned to someone else to play the father role.

“My father figure is Guy Bonano. He was the chauffeur, the guy who drove the limo. I told Guy everything and he and I were very close,” Nick said. “And he said to my dad, ‘Hey Mr. Guccione, I was talking to your son. He’ll blow the brains out of the Picasso.’ You know what my dad said, “Why Picasso?”

Later in life, Nick worked as a videographer for Penthouse and approached his father with a great deal for a Penthouse TV channel, but the idea was shut down. “If it wasn’t his baby, if he didn’t bring that deal to the table, it was automatically out,” Nick said.

His sister Nina said when Nick tried to push back on that deal, things got even worse for father and son.

“If you pushed it, he felt betrayed. And if he felt betrayed, you were dead to him,” she said. “Poor Nick. What a family, my God.”

When it came to daughter Nina, her life was also always a bit different because of who her father was.

“I was 8 years old and I went to a Catholic school, so it was all nuns. I wrote: ‘My father takes pictures of naked women.’ I was beaten on the spot. I got beaten up. And then they called my mother in and she said, ‘Yes, it was true’.”

Guccione seemed to revel in being a lightning rod for controversy.  (A&E)

Guccione seemed to revel in being a lightning rod for controversy. (A&E)

Later, Guccione insisted that a teenage Nina go to the premiere of Caligula, his $17 million feature starring Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole and John Gielgud, which Guccione boasted would revolutionize filmmaking through its blend of sensuality and historical accuracy, but was ultimately panned as pure raunchy porn . “I’m sitting next to my dad watching this on the big screen,” she said. “It was horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. I had never seen a sex film. I was speechless. And I was very sad because no good parent should expose their child or allow them to be exposed to it. But being a narcissist, he had no empathy. He couldn’t relate to what it would be like for a teenage girl.”

Like her brothers, Nina worked for her father’s company, but always felt it was a different experience for her, finding it all “degrading”.

“Dad loved women, so he wasn’t – in his mind – objectifying them, he was glorifying them,” she said.

At one point later in life, when Guccione and his company were struggling financially, Nina tried to help fix things, but her father thought she was trying to steal from him and betray him, and he “went crazy.”

“I left the company, I left the house, I left him. I think my closing words to him were just, ‘You’re going to lose everything. You’re going to be out of business within six months.’ And I think I was pretty much on target.”

When Guccione was near death — he died of lung cancer in October 2010 — he wanted to reconcile with Nina, who obliged, calling him a “completely different person.”

“I walked into the house and I saw him and he hugged me. He was 72 years old and he hugged me the first time he hugged me,” she said. “He had become this loving, empathetic, likable individual. It was like having the father I never had for the last year of his life.”

His pet

The Penthouse Pets (models from the magazine) who spoke in the docu-series had different experiences with Guccione and the magazine, with one of them moving into his mansion out of convenience and necessity. And from there, Guccione would “put them to the test,” according to 1979 Pet of the Year Cheryl Rixon. Not long after she moved into the mansion, Guccione asked her to go to an 82-year-old man’s birthday party.

“At the end of the evening, I was told that I wanted to live with the 82-year-old man because I was his gift. I was horrified. I politely declined and I called Bob the next morning and he asked me, ‘How was dinner?’ And I told him and he laughed. It wasn’t a shock at all. This was a scheme and it was common.”

Then there was Penthouse Pet Anneka DiLorenzo, who filed a $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit against Guccione, alleging that he forced her to have sex with his business associates. She was ultimately awarded $4 million, and according to Guccione’s daughter Nina, “He was angry. He hated losing. They believed her, and they should have, because it was the truth.”

Jenna Jameson had nothing but good things to say about Guccione, who credits the magazine with launching her into becoming the biggest adult movie star in the world in the late ’90s. She featured at a time when the magazine was going through what she called “a big urination period,” with its models peeing for the camera.

“I remember doing it and just saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ It was shocking and beautiful and groundbreaking,” she said.

Former Pet Janine Lindemulder, who rose to mainstream fame after appearing on a Blink-182 album cover and in their video for “What’s my age again?“, also credits Penthouse with her path to stardom and said there was never any inappropriate behavior towards her.

When Guccione began to be attacked by evangelicals, he aimed to make more controversial pictures. A photographer had nude photos of Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America, with another woman. Guccione jumped to publish them.

“The Vanessa Williams issue was probably the most successful single issue magazine in American history,” said Penthouse editor Peter Bloch. “Bob Guccione opened up another brave new world when he realized that people want to see naked celebrities. Paris Hilton’s career: based on a sex tape. Kardashians: based on a sex tape. Bob invented the whole thing with Vanessa Williams.”

His (one-time) friend Donald Trump

In addition to Guccione’s live-in Pets, the mansion hosted celebrity guests and all sorts of famous people, including astronauts and New Yorker Donald Trump, who used to come to the house often and he would “check out the Penthouse Pets,” according to Nick. “He was like a kid in the candy store.”

Later, Guccione lost $145 million on a casino project in Atlantic City because he couldn’t get a license and eventually had to sell to Trump — who had previously warned him that Atlantic City would be tough on him. And Guccione was outraged, especially since they were friends. His daughter Nina said Guccione called his partner Kathy and canceled an upcoming trip with Trump and his then-wife Ivana.

Despite his stratospheric financial success, Guccione’s reign eventually ended, as did the life of the print magazines that fueled that rise, and he lived out his final days essentially broke in his ex-wife’s tiny New Jersey home.

Penthouse secrets can be streamed on A&E.

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