Dear Penthouse: I Owe My Career to Bob Guccione (1930-2010)

Bob Guccione
Bob Guccione

Iconic pornographer, media mogul and Penthouse Magazine founder Bob Guccione lost his long-time battle with throat cancer Wednesday in Plano, Texas. He was 79.

By his side was his fourth wife, esteemed Penthouse magazine feature writer April Dawn Warren Guccione; Tonina, his daughter with first wife Lilyann Becker; and Bob Jr., his son with second wife Muriel Hudson. Also surviving Guccione Sr. are three other children he had with Hudson, Nina, Tony and Nick.

Everything I've read online has concentrated on his net worth, poor health, financial woes, bad investments, legal battles, scandals associated with his magazine, and how he's helped to shape and ultimately transform the industry of pornography.

I'd like to tell you about the side of Bob you don't know.

I owe my career to Bob Guccione, as I sit here today. He forever altered the course of my life in June 1993, when he printed my centerfold in Penthouse. Before becoming a Pet I had a decade of teen modeling under my belt, and at the time was a horror movie icon ("Phantasm II") and had just co-starred in the feature film "Weekend At Bernie's II."

The most I'd been nude in print prior to Penthouse was for Self magazine, lying on my stomach naked on the floor for a story about the complexity of skin. I was also in Elle magazine running topless (I wore a 32B at the time) to sell handbags that were strewn over my shoulders. And my bare back covered Ms. magazine back in May 1984 for a health and beauty special issue. I was pretty comfortable shooting without clothes on, but it wasn't until I met Bob and shot for Penthouse that I actually showed my vagina in a photograph - and close up!

Sam Phillips
Sam Phillips

I didn't have the typical deal that the other Pets did. At the time, summer 1992, I was dating Richie Sambora from the group Bon Jovi and flew to New York to visit him and meet with Bob and his then wife Kathy Keeton at their 17,000-foot townhouse on east 67th street. We were to negotiate my centerfold rate for shooting my pictorial, a fee that was higher than any other Pet's at the time, and discuss my personal comfort zone, which was pretty conservative for Penthouse.

Everyone has a line they will not cross; mine was insertion. No fingers, toys, nothing.

"If you see my vagina straight on, or with me bent over, or my legs apart, cool - but I do not want gynecological-type shots where everything is open and you can see my cervix," I said.

I also stated I did not feel comfortable doing a girl-girl layout, which all centerfolds were additionally required to do at the time. Although I had done such acts in my private life, I wasn't ready to do them on camera.

Bob sat surrounded by a hoard of huge dogs, and was clad in what I called his "uniform" - a telltale silk puffy pirate shirt, which he wore on every occasion unbuttoned down to his waist, tanned skin and several gold chains. He extended his firm hand in my direction, shook mine and told me, "deal." He accepted my terms and supported my career decisions.

Dear Penthouse: I Owe My Career to Bob Guccione (1930-2010)

I planned to use my centerfold to promote my ventures and was asking for a lot of cash to get naked. Bob told me he wanted to make me Pet of the Year to at least get his money's worth - and when I backed out of the company entirely in 1995 at the request of my then-fiancé Detroit Tigers player Mickey Tettleton, he could have sued me. But he didn't.

Bob and I had an unusual relationship. I like to think it's because I approached him with confidence and an already strong career path, but I also know it's because we both come from Brooklyn and were survivors of the streets. I had lived on them, he had peddled them. He and I had a lot in common.

He respected that despite being thrown out of the house by my mother as a teenager, I had made something of myself through boundless determination and diligent hard work. He knew I was making a huge mistake leaving Penthouse to follow my heart, but also knew that it was my mistake to make. He eventually forgave me following a $300 flower arrangement (sent in apology) and a lot of time.

Mickey and I ended up splitting the month we were to be married, just before I would have been named Pet of the Year. My friend Gina LaMarca took my spot, and in the end I lost both - the title and the guy. That's the last time I've ever walked away from a work opportunity for a relationship.

Today I am most comforted by the bonds I share with my Penthouse family. Some of my closest friends are Pets: Seana Ryan, Alexus Winston, Juliet Cariaga, Aimee Sweet, Sunny Leone, Cheyanne Silver, Shauna O'Brien, Aria Giovanni, Emma Nixon, Shay Lauren, Kayden Kross, Charlie Laine, Amy Lynn Baxter, Dyanna Lauren, Ava Vincent and Brandi Lee Braxton, among others.

Partying With the Pets
Partying With the Pets

Even though I left the company in 1995, I still maintained my association with them and was allowed access to all the new girls for my mainstream media projects. In the end I became Penthouse's client.

I worked for Penthouse parent company General Media Inc. doing promotions as Miss June 1993, and represented Bob everywhere from racetracks and boxing matches to convention centers and film festivals. I took very seriously the honor that was given by him personally, and I was proud to don my Penthouse key, which still circles my neck in memorial, everywhere I went.

Of all the things I'm famous for - the radio, hosting TV shows, reporting, music videos, B-movies acting and production, high-fashion modeling - I'm most known for being a Penthouse Pet centerfold. That credit will come first before anything else, every time my name is in print or on TV.

You know how once you've been president, you're referred to as such until the day you die? It's the same thing with us Penthouse centerfolds; we have an elite club, too. No matter what you go on to become in life, once you're a Pet, you're always a Pet.

And I thank Bob for that every time I look at my neck.

View more iconic photos here.

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