In the new docuseries Secrets of Penthouse, women who appeared in the men's porn magazine over the years accuse the magazine's founder, Bob Guccione, of having preyed on the vulnerable and even sexually harassing women as he built his publishing empire. Adult film star Jenna Jameson, who was chosen as the magazine's "Pet of the Month" in January 2004, is not one of them.
"Not many people know a lot about Guccione, and he was a very multi-faceted man," Jameson, who has nothing but love for the late publisher, tells Yahoo Entertainment. "He was an artist. And he really had a vision, and he applied it, and he held true to that. I think that there's an important underlying story of how you should follow your passion and stick to it. He made a very beautiful, groundbreaking magazine, and solidified himself in the erotic world because he held true to what he was and what he thought was beautiful. And I respect that."
Jameson is one of the voices featured in A&E's latest installment of its Secrets of series, which includes 2022's Secrets of Playboy and Secrets of the Chippendales Murders. (The first two episodes air back-to-back Monday, and the remaining two installments air one night later. She stars in the fourth hour of the saga.)
She acknowledges that Penthouse, which she aspired to appear in since she was a little girl and found her dad's copies of the publication, played a big role in her career. Jameson, now 49, was still a teenager when she began modeling for its pages.
"Bob was a very fatherly kind of guy, and we had a very business relationship," Jameson says. "He always told me exactly how he wanted me done, and I just applied everything. There was never anything out of sorts at all. He just was very kind to me always and I respected him, and he respected me."
Critics of Guccione, who died of lung cancer in October 2010, argue that, at the very least, he told the public that women should be viewed as objects. His own daughter tells the camera that her father was "manipulative."
Jameson saw things differently, however, because, from her first look at Penthouse, she thought the women in the magazine's pages looked beautiful and powerful.
She also notes that Guccione was never inappropriate with her.
"I stuck to my goal, and I never did anything that made me feel uncomfortable," Jameson says. "People respected my boundaries, because I never let people disrespect me. So I think that I always carried myself with a certain air that nobody messed with me. My dad taught me that. He was like, 'Always walk into a room like you own it. People, they believe it, even if you're faking it, you're making it.' So I learned early on that you have to stick to who you are and don’t be persuaded by things."
She emphasizes that the boundaries she refers to were crucial in her industry.
That's not to say that she's without regret. Jameson explains in the series that, at the peak of Guccione's financial woes in the 2000s, when he was barely holding onto his magazine for many reasons — his lack of money due to tax evasion cases and slow reaction to changing technology in the publishing space chief among them — she attempted to buy it. It was her plan to "seal in what Bob Guccione had built," but she was outbid.
"I do have to say that I have very few regrets in my life, but I do think back on that and just wish I would have been able to bag that deal," says Jameson, who, at the time, had already founded her own online porn hub, ClubJenna, which she later sold to Penthouse competitor Playboy. "It worked out in my favor in the longrun, but I just loved the idea of that full circle moment of like me wanting to be a pet and then buying it. I just loved that story. And it didn't end up happening, but I feel like doing the documentary is my full circle moment. Now I'm here talking about the whole movement of Penthouse, so I feel like... I’ve solidified it now."
Jameson is waiting to watch the docuseries with the rest of the world when it airs on A&E. She'll be at home in her living room with social media influencer wife Jessi Lawless, whom she married in June in Las Vegas.
Secrets of Penthouse premieres Monday, Sept. 4 at 9 p.m. on A&E.