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UK Channel 4: Harry Reems on Inside Deep Throat

Porn Valley [From UK’s Channel 4.com]- Harry Reems is a real estate salesman in Park City, Utah. But back in 1972, he was the hirsute male lead opposite Linda Lovelace in probably the most notorious, and influential, porn film of all time, Deep Throat, www.xxxdeepthroat.com. For years, Reems refused to do interviews about the film and its effect on his life. But now, thanks to Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, directors of the documentary Inside Deep Throat, the silver-haired 57-year-old has broken his silence.

An actor with the National Shakespeare Company in New York when he started doing stag films to pay his way in the Big Apple, Herbert Streicher had made around 50 porno shorts, including two with Lovelace, before appearing as Harry Reems for the first time in Deep Throat. He was frequently cast as a doctor because under American law, sexually explicit material was permitted if it had socially redeeming value. “So I would say, ‘If you’re having trouble with oral sex, here’s how you do it,’ and it would cut to a 30-minute oral sex scene. I was the socially redeeming value! Deep Throat then came along and became a complete spoof on those movies. It was the first film not to have the pretence of socially redeeming value. It went strictly for comedic entertainment and that’s why it became the icon that it’s become.”

Lovelace became an icon in her own right, of course. “She wasn’t talented as an actress, she wasn’t a knockout beauty, but she sure could perform oral sex,” recalls Reems, laughing. Then, referring to Lovelace’s claim made in the book ‘Ordeal’ that she was coerced into performing in Deep Throat, he adds, “I don’t believe any of this nonsense that she was forced to participate in this film, or any film, at gunpoint.”

“She and Chuck Traynor [her husband / manager] went to parties, they went to orgies, and they were a part of that sexual revolution that was taking place at the time,” Reems continues. “I can tell you, there were no guns on any of the movie sets that I was on with her.”

Deep Throat was not all laughs for Reems, either. As the film’s popularity grew, the actor was arrested by the FBI and put on trial in Memphis, Tennessee, alongside nine Mafiosi, for supposedly helping distribute the film. His passport was taken away for four years, killing the career he had been building in legitimate cinema abroad. Reems’ life went into a tailspin and he began to drink heavily.

“I panhandled in the streets. I lived in alleys. I had no money. I was in and out of jails, and in and out of hospitals. I suffered a tremendous amount of internal bleeding and needed hospitalisation on a regular basis. I drank half-a-gallon of vodka every single day for the last five or six years of my drinking. It became the most important thing in my life. If I didn’t drink I would have a seizure.”

Eventually a friend sent Reems, who had moved to Park City in 1986, back to New York for treatment at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. There he would ask visitors for money for the telephone. But instead of making calls, Reems saved it up and upon his release went straight out and bought a bottle of vodka. “I woke up seven days later in Los Angeles, in jail, laying in my own puke and faecal matter. I have no idea to this day how I got to Los Angeles; I had no money, I only had quarters. So I said, ‘I got to try to get sober.'”

Reems went back to Park City, entered a recovery programme, and converted to Christianity. Today, he insists he would not do anything differently given his time again. “Having gone through all those things I went through, especially the alcoholism, has made me the person I am today. And I’m proud of myself today.”

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