Thursday, March 21, 2013

Goodbye Harry Reems

Harry Reems was a broken down alcoholic when he landed in Park City, Utah. He had been living in a dumpster behind an Albertsons store. In Park City he went to AA meetings, then joined a Methodist Church congregation, and got a job as a real estate broker. He got sober, got religion and cleaned up, but no matter how he changed his personal life he never shook off his image as the (in)famous male porn star of the most groundbreaking porno film of all time, Deep Throat, which also gave notoriety to its female lead, Linda Lovelace.

At one point in the seventies Harry was arrested and charged in Memphis, Tennessee with obscenity for conspiring to take Deep Throat over state lines. All he did, really, was act in porno movies, so eventually all charges were dropped. A lot of people may not like it, but in this country it isn’t illegal to have sex in a movie with a consenting person of legal age, and Reems’ case was the first and last time, to my knowledge, a man was charged with a crime for doing so.

For the record, I’ve never seen Harry Reems do his “acting.” In order to see a triple-X movie in the seventies one had to go to a theater, and there weren’t any in Utah. When video tapes came out, when DVDs began to be produced, and let’s not forget the motherlode of pornography, the Internet, made porn part of everyday life, Harry Reems and his type of stardom seemed out of place. How many male porn stars can you name, really? Offhand I can think of Ron Jeremy and Peter North…and Harry Reems. Harry Reems (and actually any male who has a name in porno) is an anomaly. We know people watch porn to see women. The guys are easily replaceable, even by vibrators.

Reems claimed he had a “PG body.” You can see in the above photo of him he was slim and hairy. Nowadays male porn performers (I hesitate to call them actors) shave their body hair, and work out in the gym about five hours a day.

I like Reems’ mustache, and in some circles that is now known as a pornstar mustache, in memory of those guys of Reems’ era who sported disco hairdos and handlebar mustaches. I wish I could grow one of those. Not to be a pornstar, mind you, but because I like the way it looks.

Harry died yesterday at age 65. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last summer. He died at the VA Hospital in Salt Lake City, because at one time in his life he had been a U.S. Marine.

Harry was born Herbert Streicher in the Bronx, New York, in 1947. Since I am a Utah resident, after reading a  newspaper article in 1992 about Harry Reems residing in Utah I wondered what it was about our state that drew him. Then I realized that Park City, where he lived, isn’t really Utah. It’s an island in the middle of Mormon country where movie stars come to visit, and sometimes live, where CEOs and captains of industry own summer and winter ski-vacation homes. It’s the home of the Sundance Film Festival, created by Robert Redford. It’s a resort, and a nice one at that. Now along with its other distinctions it can be known as the place where Harry Reems, in pornstar retirement, lived and died.

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