On December 17, in Brooklyn, New York, one year after the start of the Great Depression which saw the crash of the stock market and threw millions of Americans into a state of poverty, the Emperor was born. He was given the name Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione. His father, Anthony, was an accountant. His mother, Nina, a housewife. Guccione was an Italian-American of Sicilian descent and raised with a Roman Catholic upbringing. He attended the Blair Academy, in Blairstown, New Jersey, where he was remembered for his:
“magnetic personality and colossal egotism”
For a few months, Guccione was briefly enrolled in a Catholic seminary with an eye toward becoming a priest. However, he soon abandoned this pursuit when he realized that a life of celibacy would not suit him.
When Guccione was 21, Lilyann Abrams, his first steady girlfriend, became pregnant. Guccione’s Catholic faith denounced abortion … and the U.S. Government prohibited it. But Guccione also believed in marriage and family, and, as a result of faith, the law, and personal belief, the couple married.
During the period in which the United States was drafting young men to fight in the Korean War, Guccione was determined to be exempt from the draft due to his marital status. Having always been interested in art, and with a talent for sketching and painting, he decided to move himself and his bride to Rome, Italy, where Lilyann gave birth to a daughter, Tonina.
Gucionne soon found himself greatly inspired by the artwork and history of his ancestors. His fascination of the Roman Empire would impact his life over the decades to come and, in time, resulted in many of his associates and family referring to him as “The Emperor.” For the time being, with a wife and baby to support, he worked as a traveling artist, drawing portraits and cartoons of tourists, while performing fortune-telling on the side.
While the United States and its United Nations allies continued to wage war in Korea, and fight a different type of battle known as the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union and its allies, such as Cuba, Guccione struggled to survive as an artist in Rome.
Unbeknownst to him, the first Playboy magazine hit the newsstands in America, with Marilyn Monroe on the cover. It sold more than 50,000 copies. In time, this event, and the continued growing success of Playboy, would alter Guccione’s life.
Tired of being the wife of a starving artist, Lilyann took Tonina and left Guccione, moving back to the United States and settling in California.
Now a free man, Guccione hopped on a steamer to North Africa, where he became fully immersed in the Boeheim life-style while painting, smoking pot and hanging out with the likes of author William S. Burroughs.
Guccione’s gypsy life lasted less than a year. While in Casablanca, he met an English woman named Murial Hudson. They quickly became romantically involved. And she soon became pregnant, giving birth to Bob Guccione, Jr., before the end of the year.