Remembering a Penthouse Painter

Bob Guccione standing beside a portrait of his daughter. All images courtesy of POBA. For full images, click here.

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POBA square stacked midrez[2] is a unique site dedicated to showcasing, promoting and preserving the creative work of exceptional artists — in all forms of artistic expression — who have died without recognition of the full measure of their talents or creative legacies. POBA is designed to be a great place to see exceptional art that might otherwise not be seen by the public and to be a full-spectrum resource for those responsible for artistic legacies of talented, deceased artists. POBA’s mission is simple: POBA aims to keep their creative works alive, and through them to inspire, provoke, intrigue, entertain, and enliven us. POBA is Where The Arts Live!

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In this post, we focus on Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione, known as Bob Guccione, legendary founder and publisher of PenthouseHere is an excerpt from POBA’s biographical sketch:

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In both his public and in his private life, Bob Guccione (1930-2010) found his essential passion and lifelong artistic expression in painting, drawing and photography. His remarkable artistic talent and vision has oddly been obscured by fame and controversy, rather than illuminated by them. Here, we have an opportunity to experience what Guccione saw and created by his own hand: the rich colors, soft lines, and deep feeling he captures in his paintings of everyday scenes of life. In stark contrast to his business and public life, his paintings are full of sensitivity yet without any sensationalism.

In this post, Guccione is recalled by his daughter, Tonina Andrews.

Bob Guccione beside a portrait of his daughter, Tonina. Photo courtesy: POBA.
Bob Guccione beside a portrait of his daughter. All images courtesy of POBA. Full images: click here.

What’s the most perceptive question anyone could have asked Bob about his work as a painter? What’s the most idiotic question anyone could have asked Bob about his work as a painter? What’s the weirdest question anyone could have asked Bob about his work as a painter?
I would never presume to put words in my father’s mouth, and I have no idea how he would have responded specifically. He would likely not take these questions very seriously, and would have preferred to be painting! But being the practical joker he was known to be, he might have responded with his own weird, idiosyncratic answers to hypothetical questions about weirdnesses that may have been put to him. He would have found it a great opportunity to have fun, shake it up, and play with words.

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I believe the most perceptive question regarding Dad’s art could be:

‘Do you believe you will ultimately be remembered throughout history as a painter rather than as a publisher?

I believe the answer, ultimately, will be yes…

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Woman in Yellow, 1994
Woman in Yellow, 1994

You have spent much of your life working in the music industry. What did your father teach you about the arts that you have applied specifically to your passion for music? What lessons do you think he learned about the arts that you’re still learning?
Dad taught me true art comes from creativity pulled from within one’s self. Art then represents the true self and is something all artists must do for themselves for ultimate satisfaction of that passion. It is important to devote time to your art regardless of outside world challenges and responsibilities.

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This is why Dad’s paintings, especially, represent who he truly was — because they were “pulled” by him, from his own inner well of creativity.

For me, this applies to music just as it did for my father with painting. The Muse may have been different for us, but not the source. I also believe that creativity is its own teacher — what my father learned about his own creativity may be a closed chapter for him, but it is still very much alive as a teacher and inspiration for me.

Boy With Sailor Cap, 1999
Boy With Sailor Cap, 1999

In the 1970s, there was plenty of criticism from the feminist movement of your father’s line of work. Were any of those criticisms justified? Have you changed or evolved your own views on women and the line between eroticism and pornography since then? If so, what and how?
I do not believe the feminist movement (or any other “movement”) criticism of my father was ever justified.  My father loved women. My father respected women.  Every woman he photographed fell in love with him because he made each feel so very special! He employed more women in key positions in his companies than any other employer in publishing, then or now. He knew women would do better than most men at the same job!

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My own views have evolved and taught me that with hard work I, as a woman, can do pretty much anything I set my mind on. It’s sad that in today’s business world, a woman must work harder and receive less pay than a man in the same position. Hopefully this will soon change!

I see the difference between erotica and pornography as the artistic nature of the work. Even the Supreme Court has had trouble defining this. The “art” is the socially redeeming factor of it all. Erotic art is not exploitative, pornography is. Dad always made the female form appear very beautifully erotic in his photography. His paintings of nudes had even more to say as an artistic statement. All of it is art!

Self-illustration, 1999

You appear to have had an especially strong relationship with your father throughout your life and until the end of his life. When you think back now on your father’s personality and unique qualities, why were they a good fit for your particular personality? If you had to sum up your father’s life in a single word, what would it be?
Dad, my mother and I had a very special chapter in his early career as a painter where we lived in Italy together. He painted, I learned Italian, and we developed a closeness there as fellow travelers in life that never changed, regardless of our own adventures later on. On top of that, I am very open-minded and liberal in my thinking, totally influenced by Dad. We would talk about things I imagine are rarely discussed — if ever! — by most fathers and daughters. I always felt our openness in conversations was very special because it created such trust and understanding between us. It was also a great practical help, since I worked as the West Coast editor of his magazines for over 20 years while doing my music. I am honored to be his daughter! I would simply describe him as “amazing!”