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Harry Reems, Porn Legend and “Deep Throat” Star, Dead at 65

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Harry’s most notable credit

Harry Reems, the man who went from working the lighting on “Deep Throat” to starring in the 1970s porn classic and creating a nationwide stir, died Tuesday at age 65.

According to various reports, Reems had been suffering from an array of health problems in recent years, including emphysema and pancreatic cancer. He died of organ failure at Salt Lake City VA Hospital.

Reems was not supposed to be in “Deep Throat,” but the lead actor never showed up, forcing the mustachioed Herbert Streicher into the spotlight. (The name change occurred because Reems had a SAG card.) The results were historic, and not because the film went mainstream. Gawker’s Nathan Zimmerman does a fine job summarizing Reems’ impact on popular culture.

In 1974, Reems famously became the first and, to date, only actor to have charges brought against him by the federal government for appearing in a movie.

Though he was initially convicted of conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines, the charges were eventually dropped following a retrial. Many mainstream celebrities who were outraged by the potential precedent supported Reems both verbally and financially during the trial.

Reems paved the way from other porn stars to practice their profession without fear of prosecution, but never got to enjoy the fruits of his harrowing ordeal himself.

Reems appeared in other porno films, but the lifestyle wore him down. He became an alcoholic, marveling at how he survived. He was homeless. There was a 1989 guilty plea for failing to pay income tax. Around then, Reems turned his life around. He converted to Christianity and met his one and only wife, Jeanne. Eventually, he became a successful real estate broker. 

The nice thing is Reems apparently found happiness and stability. A few more years would have been fantastic, but he got it. This quote from Don Schenk, Reems’ longtime friend, says it all: “I met him long after he left the adult film industry. The adult film industry basically destroyed him. He would never talk about the salacious stuff—we always talked about how he was a survivor.”

P.S.–If you’re looking for more tributes, Dangerous Minds, linked earlier, includes a 1982 Reems’ interview with Al Goldstein, the founder of “Screw.” And Schenk wrote this about his friend.  

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