Starting Barely Legal Magazine


From my book “Running with Wolves; A Woman’s Memoir of Sex Scandal & Seduction,” I reminisce about creating the men’s magazine Barely Legal.

I noticed there was a real hole in the marketplace and decided to come up with a couple of my own magazines. One was Maxim, but under a different name at the time.

The other idea Barely Legal. I pitched both to the president at Larry Flynt Publications. I actually had the whole first issues laid out. He was only mildly interested and put them nonchalantly on the back burner to simmer while he “thought about it”. I shopped them around to all the other publishers too; same thing, all were too unimaginative or just too lazy to really make a move.


After much persuasion and months later, the Flynt’s Exec cautiously took it off the back burner and agreed to finally take it to a boil and to publish.

“We could try one to start,” Tim, the President said.

I chose Barely Legal to start!

It was a very loose handshake deal, but I was happy just to get it out, finally. I put the whole publication together out of my little office and presented it as a finished magazine. It was published by Larry Flynt Publications and out on the national newsstands.


Within weeks the “Little Magazine That Could” made publishing history. Barely Legal outsold every other magazine with the sole exception of a close second to Playboy. The publishers were going crazy, they couldn’t believe the massive success. It was even mentioned on Seinfeld!

I tried to hire people to write the girly copy for Barely Legal, but it seemed these older male writers just didn’t get it. I wanted real girl confessions, not what some dateless editor thought a girl would fantasize about.

I threw up. It was easier just to write it myself than try to explain it...so I did.

Part imagination, part what models had told me over the years or just an intuition about what men wanted to hear. This was supposed to be real girl fantasies. Hustler magazine’s editor, the raunchy expert of the industry, got to oversee everything before it went to print. I was a little concerned he might find my copy too unbelievable, especially since I’d stretched the truth telling him they were real girl fantasies, when I had often really, just made it up.

The sexpert editor is reading some of the girl confessions:

“Shit! This stuff is great! You can tell this stuff is real. You just can’t make this stuff up!”

This sexpert mind, awash in pure filth, was most impressed with my young girl confessions.

I guess it was convincing enough!


As Barely Legal took off, I was suddenly the expert of the industry and I was inundated with offers from other publishers to create magazines for them – and I did. Even a bunch of spinoffs came out; Just Legal, Just Eighteen, Barely 18… and who was putting these together?... I was! Barely Legal was my main priority but all the lesser photography went to other magazines that I packaged for other publishers.

I had a whole mail order line to go with it and every girl we shot for Barely Legal was put in our soft-core video line. It didn’t need to be hard core and we were not competing with porn, this was some little innocent newbie playing with herself for the “first time.” And other spin-off merchandise that I thought guys would like, such as selling the models’ panties. In reality, I’d buy two hundred pairs of the same little white cotton panties and the girl would wear one pair. The other one hundred and ninety-nine pairs were ones my office staff smeared a little dab of mayonnaise with a hint of tuna juice, on the crotch before shipping them to some guys house in a plain unmarked brown envelope. Yes, readers who ordered these weekly - sue me for false advertising - you jacked off over some mayonnaise!


After about a year of Barely Legal magazine and its dynamite success, Flynt wanted to bring more of the magazine into their office rather than out at my place. They tried to coax me with a full-time office next to Larry’s. The corner penthouse no less. I was having none of it. They wanted to throw bigger budgets at the magazine, shoot in tropical locations. No! It was not supposed to be high budget! They were missing the point. It was supposed to look like it was shot and published in some dirty-kid-down-the-street’s basement. We used lots of Polaroids, and shag carpets with blankets on the wall. The fantasy was some little chickee high school dropout hitchhiking for a ride, getting picked up by some guy and happy to screw on his bare mattress in his basement for the ride. Cheap, cheesy and “real.”


Still everyone in their corporate Ivory Towers all wanted to be part of the success and just had to all come and put their dicks in the pudding. I was assigned more and more people I didn’t need. More of the magazine was done in the Flynt office and I became more the overseer of the content. Finally, I gave in, allowed them to do their thing and became more of a consultant, basically collecting a check every month while their in-house staff took the credit I could care less about.


It was probably into its second year and Barely Legal was on its way to becoming the mega-multi-million-dollar brand it would ultimately become, when I got a letter from Larry Flynt’s office. It read something to the tune of:

“Since it seems you have become more of a consultant on the magazine and you don’t have much involvement anymore we feel that you are no longer needed. Therefore, we will pay you for three more months and then please cease and desist.”

I promptly wrote them a little note back something to the tune of:

“Thank you very much for this opportunity. However, I own ALL of the trademarks and copyrights on EVERYTHING. I own the magazine! So, YOU can now please cease and desist….I will continue to publish it without you.”

I took my attorney with me to the meeting. In the hall, my counsel tried to downgrade my expectations, “Gail don’t expect any kind of agreement today, these things take time, it’s going to be a substantial legal battle and you probably won’t see anything for years.”

“We are walking out today with a very big fat check,” I assured him.

We are shown into the President’s office, where Tim sat behind his big desk which was surprisingly clear except for the one letter sitting directly in front of him. My letter. He got right down to the matter at hand.

“Errr…. I received your letter and I understand that you have the rights to publish this anywhere, but we really feel that Flynt has and can continue to be your best asset and…”

“Tim, I am willing to sell it to you.”

Tim breathed a sigh of relief, now it was just down to how much.

“You know this magazine isn’t the only amazing idea I have. Let’s cut a deal today that makes everyone happy and I can do other magazines for you,” I offered to try to resolve this amicably.

I was correct, and we walked out of his office check in hand. By the time I got home, Tim was calling me, “So Gail… what are these other ideas for magazines you have?”

That was the start of their next bestselling magazine; Hometown Girls.

For more about the book “Running with Wolves; A Woman’s Memoir of Sex Scandal & Seduction.”

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© 2019 by Gail Thackray