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Harry Reems of 'Deep Throat’ Fame Dies

Adult actor turned real estate broker succumbed to pancreatic cancer

Harry Reems of 'Deep Throat’ Fame Dies

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah—Legendary porn performer Harry Reems, who gained worldwide infamy as the star of the film that gave birth to the adult movie industry, Deep Throat, passed away Tuesday in the Salt Lake City, Utah VA Hospital after an extended battle with numerous health problems including pancreatic cancer. He was 65.

Reems, neé Herbert Streicher, was born Aug. 27, 1947, in the Bronx, N.Y.

According to published reports, Reems was admitted to the VA Hospital in Salt Lake City on March 5 because of jaundice from liver failure. Family friend Don Schenck said he slipped into a coma on March 15 and died at 2 p.m. Mountain Time on Tuesday.

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Reems was thrust into the public spotlight after his 1972 role alongside Linda Lovelace in Deep Throat, and his following turn the next year opposite Georgina Spelvin in the equally classic The Devil in Miss Jones, both directed by Gerard Damiano.

Reems' life is currently being celebrated in the stage play The Deep Throat Sex Scandal, which dramatizes the legal ordeal he faced in the mid-'70s as the first and only actor to have federal obscenity charges brought against him for appearing in a movie.

His appearance in Deep Throat led to his arrest by the FBI in July 1974 and indictment in June 1975 on charges of conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines. Many mainstream celebrities who were outraged by the charges and arrest—among them Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Shirley MacLaine, Richard Dreyfuss and Gregory Peck—came to Reems’ defense.

He was convicted in April, 1976, but the conviction was overturned the following year after the courts ruled his involvement in the movie took place before the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Miller v. California ruling on obscenity. He was granted a new trial, but the charges were dropped in August, 1977.

“Harry was really the public face of the first real obscenity trials,” said Paul Fishbein, president of X3Sixty Network and founder of AVN. “He’s never really gotten the credit for being the man who stood up and took the bullet when President Nixon went after Deep Throat. He was the poster boy of the screwed-up government attempt to censor free speech, and never got his due.”

Ron Jeremy, who got started in adult in the late 1970s, said he was occasionally mistaken for Reems becuase the two shared similar physical features.

"Two Jewish boys, ya know?" he told AVN. "I enjoyed working with Harry, we did a few things together. And I enjoyed hanging out with him. I remember one time I was at a restaurant with Harry and Jamie Gillis when Paul Fishbein came in to talk about this magazine he was starting, called AVN. We were just three Jewish boys there, hanging out, looking at pretty girls."

David Bertolino, playwright of The Deep Throat Sex Scandal, said he interviewed Reems several times during the two-year period he was researching and writing the play, and found him a bit of a dichotomy.

"He would tell people he wasn't a famous person because he wasn't in the industry anymore," Bertolino told AVN. "He would tell interviewers he didn't want to talk to them and didn't want to talk about his role in the industry, but then he would be on the phone with them for an hour talking about just that. He even changed the name of his real estate company from Herbert Streicher Realty to Harry Reems Realty, but he would say he didn't want anything to do with the industry."

Regardless of his conflicting feelings, Reems was still the face of the fight for free speech, Bertolino said.

"I am so proud and happy to have written this story glorifying him and his role in that fight," he said. "President Nixon, the highest person in the land, made it a point of targeting Harry Reems, and he really took the bullet for not just the industry but for the fight for free speech."

Reems struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse for years, and eventually left the adult industry. He started working on his sobriety in 1989, started a new career as a real estate broker, got married and converted to Christianity. In recent years, however, he has revisited his porn past in documentaries and news interviews, including Inside Deep Throat, which Reems discusses in this 2005 IGN interview, and press about the forthcoming film Lovelace, a biopic of his Deep Throat co-star Linda Lovelace.

Before his entry into adult films, Reems served briefly in the U.S. Marine Corps and received an honorable discharge. He had worked on an acting career, appearing mostly in off-Broadway theater, before he began appearing in stag films to support himself. He eventually went on to appear in more than 130 feature-length adult films between 1971 and 1989.

According to Schenck, Reems was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this past summer after suffering for the past few years with peripheral neuropathy and emphysema, which forced him to retire from the real estate business. After being admitted to the hospital earlier this month, his liver and kidneys began to shut down.

In a tribute he wrote for WarriorForum.com, Schenck said, “Harry went from living a bizarre lifestyle, through a 180-degree almost miraculous change to find a Higher Power he called God, and become a truly nice guy who cared for others, and helped a lot of people in Park City, UT.”

Reems is survived by his wife of 22 years, Jeannie. Details about any funeral services were not immediately available. A memorial for Reems is scheduled for this Saturday following the performance of The Deep Throat Sex Scandal. The play, which runs now through April 14, starts at 8 p.m. at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA  90046. 






Related Content:

Deep Throat
Harry Reems
AVN Staff

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