Harry Reems: 'Deep Throat' co-star who found God and became an estate agent

'Acting was my true love and I buried that possibility by going into adult films,' he said

In 1972, Harry Reems became the first US male porn star to achieve national and international fame for his role as the moustachioed Dr Young in Deep Throat.

His character, such as it is, helps Linda Lovelace, the film’s frustrated heroine, reach fulfilment after diagnosing the anatomical quirk affecting her and suggesting she give her male partners oral sex to remedy the problem. “How far does a girl have to go to untangle her tingle?” ran the poster tagline.

After premiering at the New Mature World Theater, a grindhouse in New York’s Times Square in June 1972, Deep Throat recouped its $25,000 budget within a week. However, its graphic sex scenes soon attracted the attention of the authorities, though the ensuing media furore only seemed to enhance the movie’s must-see status.

Eventually banned in over 20 states, Deep Throat attracted huge audiences wherever it was shown and inaugurated the era of “porno chic”. It went on to gross $600 million, much of it laundered away by the Mafia; Reems received a few hundred dollars for the day he spent filming.

Deep Throat’s cachet as a cultural phenomenon didn’t make the actors or the film’s director, Gerard Damiano, immune from prosecution. In July 1974 the FBI arrested Reems on conspiracy to distribute obscene material across state lines. By the time the case was tried in Memphis in April 1976, Lovelace and Damiano had been granted immunity and served as witnesses for the prosecution, while Reems stood accused alongside the mobsters who had financed and distributed the movie. “People lined up outside the courthouse,” he recalled. “They didn’t throw eggs at the mafiosos, they threw eggs at Harry Reems.” 

The case turned Reems into a First Amendment cause célèbre, with actors such as Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher offering to testify on his behalf, and helping raise funds for an appeal after he was given a five-year prison sentence. The appeal was handled by the celebrated civil liberties attorney Alan Dershowitz. Charges were eventually dropped in August 1977, though Reems failed to get his acting career back on track: “Acting was my true love and I buried that possibility by going into adult films. “There was no place for me in conventional entertainment.”

The following year he was set to portray Coach Calhoun, the Rydell High track coach in Grease, but the producers, worried that his notoriety would affect the box-office takings of a film partly aimed at teenagers, paid off his contract and cast the comedian Sid Caesar. Reems returned to X-rated movies after being offered $75,000 to star in Society Affairs in 1982.

He spent the second half of the 1980s battling alcoholism but eventually cleaned up, converted to Christianity and became an estate agent in Utah. In 2005, he emerged as the redemptive central figure of Inside Deep Throat, the documentary directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato and narrated by Dennis Hopper, which analysed the part the film played in the sexual liberation of the 1970s.

Born Herbert Streicher in the Bronx in 1947, he was the youngest of three children. His mother had been a model while his father was a bag man for the Mob before becoming a bookie and then starting a printing business. The family moved to the more prosperous Westchester County, New York State, where he lost his virginity on a golf course despite being “this skinny little kid with a big nose and pimples.”

He studied dentistry for a year at the University of Pittsburgh until his number came up for the Vietnam draft. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, where he bulked up his physique, but came down with pneumonia just as his outfit was shipping out to Vietnam. The death of his father enabled him to secure a hardship transfer and remain in the US. By the late 1960s he had moved to the East Village in Manhattan. He accompanied a budding actor friend to an audition and was picked to play Aufidius in Coriolanus. He got the acting bug and appeared in off-Broadway shows and the occasional commercial, yet always struggled to pay the rent.

In 1971, he was an extra in Klute, Alan J Pakula’s psychological thriller starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, and was dismayed to find that only his knees were visible, while fellow struggling actor Sylvester Stallone was the more noticeable discotheque patron in the same scene. He began making hardcore for $100 a day as “Peter Long”, appearing in the so-called “loops” shown at stag parties and feature-length films such as Damiano’s Sex USA, and The Weirdos And The Oddballs. He only realised that Damiano had renamed him Harry Reems when he saw Deep Throat.

For a while Reems rode the “porno chic” wave. Again with Damiano, he made another celebrated X-rated cult classic, playing the teacher in The Devil In Miss Jones, starring Georgina Spelvin, in 1973, and also acted in Bouches Gourmandes, a French remake of Deep Throat, as well as Italian spaghetti westerns and German police films. In 1975, he published an autobiography, Here Comes Harry Reems!

He kept his Harry Reems alias throughout his 20 years as an estate agent. “I didn’t want to go through the process of convincing people that I was trying to deny who I was,” he said. “Nobody under 50 even knows who I am now. Unless you’re a porno historian, and then you’re really sick.”

He died from pancreatic cancer. Lovelace, a biopic of the Deep Throat star who died in 2002, featuring Adam Brody as Reems, recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is due in cinemas later in the year.

Herbert Streicher (Harry Reems), actor and estate agent: born New York 27 August 1947; married 1990 Jeanne Sterret; died Salt Lake City, Utah 19 March 2013.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick