Harry Reems Inside Deep Throat,


Harry Reems Inside Deep Throat,

EX-PORN STAR REEMS OPENS UP.
EXCLUSIVE Harry Reems/Inside Deep Throat, Deep Throat

Interview by Paul Fischer at the Sundance Film Festival.

33 years ago Harry Reems became an unwilling legend of an era thatreinforced sexual liberalisation. The most famous male porn star of alltime, Reems became the darling of a new sexual and Cultural Revolution, butwhen push came to shove, Reems, after being arrested and used as a pawn inthe conservative 1970s political arena, Hollywoods establishment eventuallyabandoned him. For almost two decades, Reems would be forgotten, analcoholic and homeless. Now, as Deep Throat has taken on a whole newmeaning, Reems is alcohol-free, married and a highly successful real estatebroker in, of all places, Park City, Utah, home of the annual Sundance FilmFestival. Interest in Reems has resurfaced, thanks to the much acclaimeddocumentary Inside Deep Throat, which chronicles the highs and lows of afilm and industry that changed the course of sexuality and Americanpolitics. Avoiding the spotlight for over 20 years, Reems spent some timedetailing a life that is at times funny, tragic and ultimately uplifting, asPaul Fischer discovered when he spent some time chatting to the onceinfamous actor about a life less ordinary.

The trademark moustache is gone, and Harry Reems, now 56, is at the SundanceFilm Festival to reflect on a life marred with alcohol, sex and renewedfaith and optimism. He was at Sundance to attend the world premiere ofInside Deep Throat, marking the first time in over 20 years that Reems, starof over a hundred porn films, would talk openly about the film that made himan unlikely celebrity. Sitting in a small hotel room n Park City, Reems, whowas starting to lose his voice at this point, recalled a youth defined byreligion and repression. "My grandparents were orthodox Jews from the oldcountry, but my parents kind of broke that barrier and ate ham, fish andlobster as well as played golf on the Sabbath," Reems recalls, smilingly."They never really taught us very much about Judaism, although my brotherand I were bar-mitzvahed, but after that we never even went to synagogue."

Harry was born Herbert Streicher in New Yorks Manhattan “and lived my firstfive years in the Bronx. Then we moved up to Westchester County to a towncalled Harrison”, Reems recalls. Reems joined the military and left theMarine Corps in 1967. Initially intent on being an actor, Harry studiedacting with Lee Strasberg and was a founding member of the experimentaltheatre company, CafĂ© la Mama. From such lofty beginnings, Harry Reems wassurprisingly born. "I needed to supplement the income, because this was off,off Broadway and so a fellow actor said: I know where you can make 100 bucksand get laid at the same time," he says, laughingly.

It was the late 60s and the adult world of porn, was still in its infancyand not an industry. Reems recalls when he first started making adult films,it was all very much under the counter, and "little 8mm, 10-minute epics,which would be shown in private homes." With changes in the obscenity lawsin 1968, Reems says that "these little filmmakers who were doing the smallfilms started to do bigger films, all with the pretence that there was aneducational value to and social redeeming value." It was during this period,that Reems donned a white coat, and played various versions of the doctorthat audiences would see in Deep Throat. "I wore that white coat inhundreds of films before Deep Throat, and stayed very anonymous, as a verysmall group of people frequented adult films."

By 1972, Harry had already appeared in close to a dozen, underground filmsand was already getting bored with acting. Then in 1972, Harry was asked tofly to Florida as a lighting cameraman for what he assumed was going to beanother small, anonymous film. The movie was Deep Throat, its director,Gerard Damiano. "I had acted for this director before, so when the actorthat was supposed to play this doctor couldnt act, he threw the white coaton me and said, One more time, and have fun with it. Go crazy. I thinkthere was a six-page script." Nobody thought they were making history, butReems was ready to act one last time. He remembers the fun times he had onthat set, and scowls when we come to the inevitable mention of star LindaLovelace. Reems says he had "made movies with Linda prior to Deep Throat,and Linda was never forced at gunpoint to do anything," remerging, angrily,that Lovelace had willingly appeared in “some films that I would never eventhink of being in”, including early bestiality movies. "The name LindaLovelace was invented, as was the name Harry Reems, and then she tried tocatch a train to fame and it didnt work." Reems recalls that Lovelace"wasnt articulate, couldnt act, and so she went to all the Hollywoodparties. So eventually to make money she joined the womens movement,anti-porn I was forced at gunpoint and of course that lasted for awhile, but when she couldnt make money doing that anymore, or when shewasnt a good interview anymore, she went right back to porn, or back tonudity. She was doing nude photographs at the end of her life and filmswith nudity. " As for Lovelaces literary account of that period in her nowinfamous book, Ordeal, "it was a total lie. But, she was a nice enoughwoman and sexually she was fun and when you look at the film you see thisbig smile, and I was on every set because I was the lighting director, notjust the scenes I did, and nobody ever forced her to do anything."

Deep Throat would emerge as more than just a porn film, a theme explored inthe Inside Deep Throat documentary. Reems says that nothing could haveprepared him for the effect that little film would have on Americasburgeoning sexual revolution. "I was totally shocked, and I think I now knowthe reason," says Reems. "Deep Throat was the first film to say that it heldno social redeeming value; we are going for straight out burlesque comedy,and just have fun. Of course it caught the attention of a few celebrities,the word of mouth spread and the government started to prosecute it becauseit was becoming famous, which only led to more people going to the theatres.So, the Justice Department basically made the film succeed."

And succeed it did, raking in the money and turning pornography into avirtual legitimate and almost respectable art form. While Deep Throat wouldemerge as the most profitable film of all time, life for Harry Reems wouldalso undergo a dramatic change. Initially, the world post-Deep Throat wasstill his oyster. "After Deep Throats fame I did a few more porno movies,but instead of getting 100 bucks like all of the others I was getting 3, 4,5-thousand a day. They just wanted my name n the, on the poster and theatremarquees". Reems even got offered adult films in Europe, "so I made severalfilms in Germany which were shoot-em-ups or gangster movies" Then, Reemsworld began to slowly unravel. "I came home for a couple of weeks to do mylaundry, say hello to friends, before I started another movie in Rome and Igot arrested for Deep Throat. The FBI came to my door in the middle of thenight, handcuffed me, and took me to the New York courts."

While much of this is discussed in the documentary, hearing the actorsrecounting of this entire incident, remains an eye-opener, with the wholeDeep Throat case emerging as one of the most damaging trials of the 1980s."They told me to waive extradition, that Im going to Memphis, Tennessee tostand trial for distributing a movie," recalls an emotional Reems, whounderstand why he was going on trial for distributing the movie, referringto it as a conspiracy. "If you have knowledge of a crime in the UnitedStates and you dont legally disavow and destroy that crime youre heldresponsible for it. So, I knew the film was in distribution, but what Ididnt know was that there was going to be eight members of the Columboorganized crime family, that I was on trial with. I think the prosecutorwas trying to do nothing more than get some press and bring his trial to theattention of the public and maybe build up his name. What he didnt realisewas I went and got more press. This was the first time an artist acting of any kind was being prosecuted by the federalgovernment. There were new laws and new obscenity statutes in 1981 and theywent back to the 76 statutes, and then the broadest use of the conspiracylaws in the history of the United States." Tearfully, Reems recounts goingthrough this trial, every day listening about murders, "about money going insuitcases and the street fights between two families over the proceeds." Itwas then, that Reems began drinking heavily, as the trial began to bear itstole.

"I was told by Alan Dershowitz, who is a law professor up at Harvard, thatif the republicans were re-elected Im going to jail but if the democratsget into office Id be Scott-free. Of course, Dershowitz knows a lot ofpeople in Washington so I got calls from Ramsey Clark, who is a pastAttorney General from the 60s, during the Kennedy era. I got calls fromEugene McCarthy saying, Harry, dont worry, if we take the White Housewere letting you go, because Id be crying to Dershowitz because I wasscared. I mean, I didnt commit any of those murders. I didnt steal thatmoney. I didnt do those things to those people. I didnt even know it wasobscene. It was nothing more than to try to take attention away from hisWatergate fiasco."

Reems did not go to jail, but his life was a shambles. "I became a reallow-bottom drunk and stopped doing movies." He tried to segue into straightacting, was offered the role of the coach in Grease, but the stigmaassociated with his past, put a stop to that weeks prior to filming. Reemsold Hollywood pals Nicholson and Beatty had deserted him, and all he had,was the solace of the bottle. "I was getting worse and worse as a drunk andwas in a hospital in New York city for 32 days, and over the 32 days somefriends came by to visit and all of them said I dont want to see youagain. You look like your 90 years old and you look like youre going todie, and thats a shame, Harry, youre too nice a person, too good a person.You need to stop drinking. When they released me from the hospital, I hadasked for quarters for the telephone from my friends, but I went and boughta bottle of vodka. I woke up six or seven days later in Los Angeles Countyjail with excrement in my pants and sleeping in my vomit, and had no ideahow I got from New York to L.A. I had no money, I was panhandling in thestreets and so I went to a meeting, a program of recovery. I went to a12-step meeting where Im told other alcoholics learn how not to drink."

Reems pauses, sighing at the memory. "I walked in the building and gotarrested by the police officers. It was in city hall where the policedepartment was, and the meeting was taking place in the same building and Igot arrested. It seems I had three or four warrants out for me. I got toPark City in 86 and I didnt get sober until 89. I guess there wasvagrancy and lewdness, breaking and entering, you know Id walk intosomebodys door and sleep on their living room couch. I didnt know whothey were. Theyd wake up and see this person and theyd call the police.So, the police officer very kindly said, Go to that meeting, you need it,but come out of that meeting and come right back here because Ive got fourwarrants out for your arrest. Do you promise me youll come back here?,and I said Yes, I just wanna go see what these people do, how this thingsworks. And, I walked back out after the meeting and he put the handcuffson me and we… our jail is up at the County seat about twenty minutes away,and this officer, said to me, Harry, if you could only get sober, if youcould only fix this problem, you have no idea how many people you couldhelp, how many lives you can save, how valuable your life could become, andnobody had ever told me I could be of any value. I spent that week in thejail, I paid my fines. I got sober. I went to 20 or 30 meetings a week inPark City and Salt Lake."

Reems was finally determined to put the past behind him. "It took a longtime for me to learn how to sleep again, have bowel movements, to keep fooddown, because I was the kind of alcoholic that seizured and had DTs, andeventually it went away. Eventually that program taught me how to lovemyself, how to be a help to others, how to find God in my life, and I foundGod in those rooms. Today I live a very honest and loving life." The formerJewish kid from Manhattan is now a born again Christian, living a quiet, butsuccessful life in Park City. "I have a wonderful marriage, a beautifulhome, a very successful business, and I still go to those rooms and still goto those meetings."

Reems would have been more than happy to go about his business and let thepast take care of itself. Until recently, Harry had never discussed hispast, declined all interview requests and preferred to live the life of anentrepreneur in this ski resort. Then he was contracted about a new filmbeing made, a documentary on a time that he would rather forget. "I wasready to say no. Over the twenty years since I had done my last film, andliving here in Park City, I have 3, 4, 5 times a week somebody wanting to doan interview with me, or would I come out and do this talk show, or youknow, lets do your life story as a movie of the week...lots of comedy, sex,drugs, rock and roll...and I had been through this horrible experience, so Inever wanted to tell that story. When I met directors Fenton Bailey andRandy Barbato and they were out here at Sundance three or four years ago, wesat down and we met and they said whats your fix. I mean, I had refusedto do interviews. I had refused to do anything. But, when he mentionedBrian Grazers name it perked my ears and I wanted to know what directionthe film is going in." The directors response was we wont know until weget the footage shot. But, they saw it as taking Deep Throat and using itas a thread to show the social, cultural change in America that took placein the last 60s and the 70s and 80s, and they were going to tie that alltogether. "I said well, do you know about me being a drunk and they saidits a wonderful story of redemption. I said THATS the story Id bewilling to tell, and so I agreed to cooperative, to be in the film, and Imvery impressed with the final product"

Surprisingly, Reems insists, watching the documentary for the first time atSundance, did not bring back any unwanted memories. "I have a new life now.They flew my wife and I out to L.A. about two weeks ago to see a rough cutand to ask if I would participate in a promotion and I said, well, let mesee the film and, I was quite pleased. I mean, they had things in the moviethat I didnt even know about." Reems says the film didnt touch the surfacebut it what it set out to do. "I mean, they didnt go into any great depthabout the mafia, they didnt go into great depth about my journey, but theydid go into depth about the sexual revolution that took place in America inthe 60s, and I was right in the middle of it all - in the East Village, ahippie, in the late 60s, Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix, all of them, JanisJoplin, the bell bottoms and the crazy hair and the free love, and I camefrom such a repressed Jewish background. You bet I became a hippie eventhough I got caught up in it and the next thing you know Im a voice. Butthis movie is factual, accurate, in-depth and it really captures the worldas it was, that world as it really was, and Im proud to be a part of it, Ireally am. I never thought Id come out the hero, or that they would use meas the redemptive sort of angle in the movie."

For Reems, Inside Deep Throat remains but a memory, the glare of thespotlight has once again dimmed, and Harry Reems says that he looks forwardto returning to reality. "On Tuesday morning I have a listing appointment tolist a house." Reems is more than happy being a real estate broker, finallysaying, laughingly, "if you love your work youre not working."

Charles Dickens once wrote, They were the best of times, they were theworst of times. Its a fitting prologue to the life and times of HarryReems, actor, porn star, alcoholic and gentleman capitalist. He hopes thedocumentary and the recently announced re-release of that original pornclassic, will remind us of an era that forged a revolution and the beginningof one of the more unique film industries in Hollywood history.




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