HOLLYWOOD — Ron Jeremy spoke to AVN today about his close friend and fellow XXX actor Sasha Gabor, who died June 27 of heart failure while on vacation in Thailand.
Jeremy met Gabor in 1982, before Gabor had started performing in adult videos.
"We met on a mainstream set, on a Jerry Lewis movie called Smorgasbord [a.k.a. Cracking Up], about 26 years ago," Jeremy told AVN. "He was a Burt Reynolds look-alike, he was hired for that. Sasha was doing that for a living, doing Burt Reynolds look-alikes. And he looked a lot like him. He would even be hired by some studios to do stand-in work for Burt Reynolds, as well. In fact, it's funny, when he started doing porn, rumor has it that Burt knew about it and had said, 'If they're gonna get a guy to look like me in porn, can't he have a bigger penis?'"
Jeremy recounted the story of how Gabor got into porn, recalling a run-in at the 1983 Adult Film Association of America awards gala.
"They used to have these great awards shows where people came in on stagecoaches, horses, elephants ... Aunt Peg came in once on a stagecoach for Urban Cowgirls, Al Goldstein came in as Superman once, and Hefner would host the party," Jeremy said. "So me and Sasha saw each other again at one of those A.F.A.A. red carpets, and I'm going, 'Oh my god, you're in the biz?' And he says, 'No, I'm trying to get into the business, and I thought this would be a good way of doing it.' He came in as a Burt Reynolds look-alike in a car that said 'Bandit' on the license plate, and he has a hat and a jacket just like Burt Reynolds. He got a lot of flash photography all over the place, people shooting the shit out of him, we posed for a few pictures. And then somebody from the industry thought it would be a good idea to maybe use him, because Burt was the hottest box office star at the time."
Jeremy's roommate Bobby Bouchard was among the first adult producers to hire Gabor. Later, Jeremy cast Gabor in nearly all the movies he shot for Leisure Time, Arrow and other companies.
"Bobby had done such high-budget porn films as Scent of Heather and Delicious and All-American Girls," Jeremy said. "Bobby used him as a Burt Reynolds look-alike in one of the All-American Girls films, a takeoff on Smokey and the Bandit called All-American Girls in Heat. And we became good friends, me and Sasha, so I started using him all the time for Leisure Time films."
Jeremy described Gabor as a charming, well-liked and intelligent man plagued by alcoholism.
"Sasha's biggest problem was always alcohol," Jeremy said. "It was the bane of his existence. Everything that went wrong with Sasha Gabor was because of alcohol. Jail, screwing up on child support, losing his job as an airplane pilot — he was a licensed pilot, he worked for the airlines before he ever got into our business. Spoke nine languages fluently ... almost like a native. He even had the slang correct. He was a genius at languages. But then when he drank, he was just as worthless, even in porn! When he drank, he had trouble getting an erection, so I would often stand in for him. It got so ridiculous that Mark Carriere, the owner of Leisure Time, thought that I was using Sasha on purpose just so I could screw the beautiful girls. And I said, 'No, because if he doesn't drink, he does a great scene!' You'd always recognize his penis, because it wasn't circumcised; he was not born in America. So I'd say about one third of all of his movies for Leisure Time, he looks like he has a penis that's circumcised because it belongs to me."
Gabor reportedly had plastic surgery to enhance his Burt look. Later in life, he went back under the knife to affect a resemblance to another actor: Sean Connery.
"As he got older, he went from being a Burt Reynolds look-alike to a Sean Connery look-alike," Jeremy said. "He'd go to Thailand a lot to get face surgery. He was the king of that — he'd actually get pictures taken of the entire surgical process. As his hair started getting whiter and whiter, and he stopped using the dye on it, he started doing a lot of Sean Connery look-alike work, as well. He'd go out to parties, do gigs at weddings and bar mitzvahs sometimes as a look-alike. So that was always a side job."
According to Jeremy, Gabor left the U.S. for Norway nine years ago partly because of his struggle with alcohol and child support problems.
"One time he left my home in the Valley, and I swear to God, on the way home he got into three car accidents; he got so drunk on vodka," Jeremy said. "And of course, he got arrested and he had to do some time ... rather than do time, he became a scofflaw. And eventually he had a lawyer who was able to knock that down; he then was wanted on child support. I was the best man at his wedding to Rosalinda, a Filipino girl, in Las Vegas. He was living in Marina Del Rey for a while there, then he moved to Florida. And then eventually, he had to get out of the country completely."
Despite the often disastrous consequences of his drinking, Gabor was beloved by many in and out of the adult industry.
"Not one person could find anything bad to say about him," Jeremy said. "He was a writer and an actor, and if he was sober, he was the nicest guy on the planet. Everyone liked him. We used to go to a lot of swing parties together, we went to nudist camps all over the country together. And after he moved out of America, a lot of these couples would always ask, 'Whatever happened to Sasha? Where's Sasha?' Everyone always asked about him. He was so liked."
Gabor was married three times and fathered six children — the youngest by a 19-year-old girl when he was 59. Gabor loved kids, Jeremy said, and he deeply regretted not spending more time with his own.
"It's just a shame he didn't spend more time with [his children] because of his problems," Jeremy said. "And he used to get teary-eyed about it. We'd be overseas, and he'd see kids and he'd start missing his own, he'd get all choked up about it. And again, it was due to his own mistakes.
"From being an airplane pilot to an interpreter, to being a celebrity look-alike in mainstream, to being a porn star, to being even an assistant director and helping out, to being a cook, to being a father — all these things that he did he had a lot of problems with just because of alcohol," Jeremy continued. "If you look up 'alcoholism' in the dictionary, there's Sasha Gabor waving at you. Whenever somebody gives birth to an alcoholic child, you have to pay his mom a royalty. He's the poster child for how your life in 30 years can be ruined by alcohol. He was a great guy, a highly intelligent guy, and nothing would go wrong if it weren't for alcohol. That was the only reason why his life was fucked up. But may he rest in peace, because he was a great guy."
Jeremy last saw Gabor in Iceland while promoting his documentary Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy in 2002.
"Sasha was in Norway, so he flew over to meet me in Iceland, and we spent some days together," he said. "It was wonderful. It was so good seeing him, I hadn't seen him in years. And the sad thing is I purposely took a job, I'm going to Finland September 6, I'm hosting some porno event I turned down a couple of times already. Sasha and I were e-mailing to meet up in Finland. I was so excited to go and see Sasha, I haven't seen him in years because he can't come to America, and so we were going to meet in Finland, and now look what he does! The guy decides to die on me, that little bastard. I don't want to go to Helsinki, but now I'm booked and I can't cancel. He's probably laughing at me from beyond the grave right now. And he has that sense of humor. He'd even want me to make some plugs while I'm talking about his death. He'd want it that way."
David Sullivan contributed to this article.