The adult industry is one that we all have some access to, whether we want to admit it or not. But do we ever think about the adult actors and actresses and what their lives are really like?
One of the most famous and infamous personalities in the adult industry was Harry Reems. He was best known for playing Doctor Young in the notorious adult film, Deep Throat. He became the most famous man in America and many men envied him while many women loved him.
But all were not amused. Harry Reems became the very first – and so far, only – actor to be charged with obscenity by the FBI.
Adult Star Harry Reems Was Not the Same Man in His Final Years. Join FactsVerse to learn more about his rather unsual life, career, and the darkness behind the Deep Throat…
HARRY REEMS EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Harry Reems was born as Herbert John Streicher on August 27, 1947, in New York City. His father was a salesman and his mother was a model. Both parents had an appreciation for the arts and instilled this love into young Harry and his siblings.
After a short stint at the University of Pittsburgh where he studied dentistry, Harry Reems enlisted in the US Marine Corps and was eventually relieved from his duty due to hardship leave. He eventually settled in Manhattan’s East Village and began taking acting classes during his time. His early career considered mainly of acting gigs in Off-Broadway plays – especially in experimental theatre.
He was also part of the New York Theater Ensemble and the National Shakespeare Company.
As one can expect, such work was fulfilling but hardly rewarding. Harry Reems struggled to pay his bills and making rent payments was always a worry for him. One of his fellow acting students recommended that he try his hand at adult films. This wasn’t an unusual suggestion – as many actors and actresses, even some of today’s stars, have gotten their start in such films. Harry, who struggled to pay $40 rent each month soon learned that he could earn $100 per day in these “stag” films as they were called.
His first credit was a 1969 adult film called Crack-up, now believed to be a lost film. This experience was enough for him to keep seeking work in adult films. But he didn’t particularly have a passion for this type of cinema – at least not now. It was purely a financial decision and he thought this was the easiest way to make ends meet.
He couldn’t have come at a better time either. The 1970s was the Golden Age for adult films and opportunities were galore. Adult actors were no longer stigmatized actors on the fringes of society. Rather, they were becoming respected celebrities in their own right. Gone were the conservative values that had defined American until the 1960s. This was now a liberal America and actors and actresses who appeared in adult films were now welcomed with open arms.
Harry Reems mostly appeared in adult films, with one notable exception being an uncredited bit part in Alan J. Pakula’s film Klute, starring Donald Sutherland. But it was clear that he had a talent for adult films and it seemed that it was no longer about paying his bills – but rather, it was something he enjoyed doing.
But the film that truly made him a star was Deep Throat. He was a last-minute replacement for the original actor. He played Doctor Young who investigates why a particular women can’t….well, you can look it up on your own. The film became the most successful adult film of its time and its considered a “classic” today. Instantly, Harry Reems became one of the most famous men in America. He was adored by fans and couldn’t have enjoyed his popularity more.
That is, until he became a target by the FBI.
DEEP THROAT: THE AFTERMATH
The release of Deep Throat was a welcoming premiere to so many Americans as well as those in the movie industry – who were eager to fight against censorship and the conservative values that they grew up with. But, of course, there were plenty of people who hated the film and felt that society was declining from such a film. Hatred and scorn also hurled their way toward the stars – Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems.
Harry Reems, particularly, became a target. He was charged by the FBI who wanted to punish him. This was a federal charge and he became the first and so far only actor with such a charge.
But what was the charge? Due to America’s First Amendment guaranteeing free expression, it wasn’t illegal to appear in such a film. The test for obscenity was so high and no matter how much Deep Throat offended some, it wasn’t enough to ban the film or arrest the cast and crew. But, the FBI did find a way around this.
It was alleged that the film was funded by members of a notorious crime family. They were charged with “transporting obscene material across state lines.” Harry Reems, though he didn’t have connections with the mafia, was accused of being an accessory in this case. He faced trial and if found guilty – he faced a serious prison sentence. Linda Lovelace was called as a witness – so it was only Harry who faced possible jail time.
On April 30, 1976, he and the other defendants were all found guilty.
He knew he had to find a way to prove his innocence so he hired lawyer Alan Dershowitz who was able to appeal for Harry to receive a new trial. Luckily for Harry, his conviction was overturned.
There was concern that had Harry Reems been imprisoned, it would have been a blow to the First Amendment and that many artists would be afraid to pursue their art in fear of being arrested!
During this time, Harry Reems would also appear on talk shows and give interviews discussing his innocence. He also used this time to defend Deep Throat and his entire career in the adult industry. He tried to persuade audiences that adult films should be seen in the same vein as mainstream cinema and that as a society, we shouldn’t be too prudish when it comes to such films.
Some bought it and some didn’t – but during this time, Harry Reems became one of the most important activists for freedom of expression in America. Just as Hugh Hefner had done a decade earlier and Larry Flynt would do 2 decades later, Harry Reems is one of the main men in the adult industry who fought to keep the industry alive and affirm the importance of free expression – no matter how vulgar we find it!
And yet, he eventually turned his back on these roles. He eventually distanced himself from his life’s work and went down a new path…
ADULT STAR HARRY REEMS WAS NOT THE SAME MAN IN HIS FINAL YEARS
Harry Reems appeared in over 100 adult films, with his final credit in 1990. This film, Ginger Then and Now was released straight to video – and it was a mark of the changing times. Adult films were still popular and even more prevalent. But they were now for home video and not for large audiences to watch at their local cinema house.
After 1990, Harry Reems, now in his forties, turned his back on his former life and found a new path to life. One of the biggest oppositions to the adult industry is often the Religious Right. Adult performers and members of the Religious Right have often been at odds with each other and have been bitter rivals.
Yet, Harry Reems joined the other side.
During the final years of his career, Harry Reems had struggled with drug abuse and alcoholism and was even homeless. He met a religious woman who convinced him to convert to Christianity and insisted that this would make him a happier man.
He became a Christian and dedicated his life to God. He would later state that he was able to turn his life around due to his faith. As one could expect, he turned his back on his former life and was glad that the younger generation didn’t know much about him or his films. While adult films made him famous, they were also the source of his downfall.
He got a chance to appear in the film Grease but eventually was let-go due to his association with adult films. No matter what, such films would always bring him stigma. The fascination and open-mindedness toward adult films had died. He had acted in a few B-movies and even a National Lampoon film later in life, but it was the adult films that defined him.
But Harry didn’t worry. He eventually became a successful real estate agent and still used the name Harry Reems as opposed to his birth name! In 2013, a documentary film about the creation and controversies surrounding Deep Throat came out and Harry was interviewed mostly about Linda Lovelace – who would later claim she was forced to be in the film and had died following a serious car accident.
It seems that he cared for Linda and understood the tragic life she lived.
Harry Reems died from pancreatic cancer on March 19, 2013. He was 65 years old. He was survived by his wife Jeanne Sterret.
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Harry Reems – well, actually you don’t have to answer that!
But did you know these interesting facts about his life and career and his FBI investigation?
Her life has had its ups and downs and it was high time we told her full story.
And now, here’s what we want to know:
Do you think that adult actors are more respected in today’s world?
Or is it still a very stigmatized profession today?