EXCLUSIVE: 'Deep Throat' Star Harry Reems Talks with MovieWeb!

Former adult film actor talks about 'Deep Throat', 'Inside Deep Throat' and how much his life has changed.
Harry Reems Interview

The former adult film actor talks about Deep Throat, Inside Deep Throat and how much his life has changed...


With Universal Pictures releasing their much lauded documentary Inside Deep Throat, MovieWeb had a chance to sit down with one of the films star subjects(and co-star of the original Deep Throat), Harry Reems. The documentary (available in both R rated and NC-17 Versions) examines the unanticipated lasting cultural impact generated by Deep Throat, the sexually explicit film first shown in a midtown Manhattan adult theater in June 1972 that quickly became the flashpoint for an unprecedented social and political firestorm. Many years removed from his days as a “porn star,” Harry Reems graciously recounted the events of the trial, the effect it had on his own life and how, despite the many highs and lows, he wouldn’t change a thing.

What are you doing now? Are you acting in any capacity?

Harry Reems: Well, my life changed drastically, obviously I was involved in adult films from the late 60s to about 1985. And I had a terrible bout of alcoholism that lasted until 1989, I was very low bottom drunk. I found a program of recovery. Today I’m 16 and a half years clean and sober. I’m happily married. I live in Park City, Utah which is the home of the Sundance Film Festival. And, I own a very prosperous real estate brokerage. So life is definitely 180 degrees different than what it was when I was a little bit younger.

Are you acting at all?

Harry Reems: No, no..., I don’t do any acting. I’ve been asked to be in local community theater. I’ve been asked to do small parts in films, but you know, what I’ve learned in the 12 Steps of Recovery is that for me, being a public person, is not a very healthy thing. There’s too many drugs, too many jets, too many girls, too many parties. It’s just not my lifestyle. I’m 58 years old. A good round of golf is about as exciting as my life gets.

Of the women that you were with in your movies, who do you think really enjoyed the sex? And who was faking it?

Harry Reems: I’m not gonna answer the question, Evan.

No problem. Were you ever worried, back when you were involved in these films about catching a disease?

Harry Reems: No, those were innocent times. AIDS didn’t come around until the late 70s early 80s. After this Memphis trial that I was involved in, which ended in ‘76, I didn’t do an adult film until 1982. I was paid $120, 000 for 9 days work and 10 percent of the gross. Still, AIDS was not a commonplace thing and so the fear of catching venereal disease was minimal. You wouldn’t catch AIDS, but you could catch ghonorrea or syphilis, and certainly the latter, I don’t anybody’s ever had syphilis from these movies. But no, I had no fears of sexual diseases from my nefarious days, shall we say.

In the court case against you, why didn’t you have immunity like everyone else?

Harry Reems: I don’t know the answer to that question today. This was a dictate out of the White House. Richard Nixon instructed the Justice Department to prosecute pornography to the fullest extent. Now, at the same time, Watergate was going on, so I think he was trying to defer the press or take attention away from his own personal problems.

I had a knock on my door in 1974 at my apartment in New York City, and it was three FBI agents. I waived extradition, I went to Memphis, Tennessee, and down there they first told me what the charges were while they were booking me. And that is, “conspiracy to transport interstate obscene material.” Now what that meant was, I had knowledge that an obscene film was being distributed and moved from state to state. Well, it wasn’t obscene in Florida where it was shot? The definition of obscenity is a very subjective thing.

Anyhow, I don’t know why I was selected. I was on trial with, what I later learned during the 12 weeks on trial, was that the producers were 8 members of the Colombo Family, and organized crime was the main element that was controlling the industry. I had no knowledge of that. I was simply an actor. We started to see evidence of dead bodies and people who had beatings, and money that was transported out of the country without any taxes being paid.

Basically, this prosecutor and that administration were trying to say that an actor can be held responsible for his acting, thousands of miles away from where he did the acting. The analogy would be if an artist painted a nude painting in New York City, and it was met with accolades and great reviews. And suddenly, somebody from Texas bought it and put it in their shoe store and it was found to be obscene in Texas, the artist in New York is responsible, and goes to jail because it’s obscene in Texas.

It was the broadest use of the conspiracy laws in the History of the United States. It still remains that way. I’m the first artist of any kind, good or bad, that was ever prosecuted by the Federal Government. Thirdly, they used the law retroactively. The obscenity statutes had changed in the early ‘70s, and they tried me under a 1969 statute. It was a railroad job. I was with a judge that was a Nixon appointee. A District Attorney who was a Nixon appointee. The only reason I never went to prison is because the Democrats took the White House.

I still don’t know why I was named as a defendant and Linda Lovelace and Gerry Damiano were witnesses against me. I think, obviously, they were looking to get some notoriety on the case, and bringing an actor in would certainly get the press rolling, but what I think they didn’t realize, Evan, was that I had a brain on my shoulders and defended myself. I became very familiar with the obscenity laws, conspiracy laws and criminal laws, and I defended myself in the public’s eye. Both on television, radio and print to where the trial itself became ludicrous. People could not believe the violation of First Amendment Rights that were going on.

Whether it was obscene, or whether it was distasteful, well, Judge Rehnquist, who just recently passed away couldn’t define pornography. His comment on pornography was, “I may not be able to define it but I know it when I see it.” That’s not law. That’s definitely not law. Really, this trial should have been an organized crime trial. About murder and tax evasion and brutalizing people. Not about obscenity.

I took this thing so public that eventually it got overturned. And when my conviction was overturned, so were the 8 Mafioso's. So if they just tried those people, under organized crime statutes, or murder, or tax evasion and they had all this evidence. I sat there for 12 weeks in a Federal Courtroom in Memphis, Tennessee, and listened to, and watched video tapes of all these crimes taking place. If they had just prosecuted them on the specifics of their crimes, and not on distribution of porno movie, those people would be in prison. Instead they were set free.

Was it a mistake on the Government’s part? Huge. My conviction was overturned for only one reason, the Republicans lost the White House and Jimmy Carter was elected President. One of his first acts was to overturn my conviction and dismiss the indictments against me for Devil In Mrs. Jones and Memories Within Miss Aggie, which were two other porn films I participated in, that were also being distributed by the same 8 people.

What was that like for you personally when you realized they were coming after you?

Harry Reems: Well, I had been doing many more films than just Deep Throat. I did many before Deep Throat and an awful lot of films after Deep Throat, both of an adult, sexual nature. I just felt like my life was coming to an end. Being abducted by the FBI at four o’clock in the morning from my apartment building. Being shoved on an airplane and sent down to Memphis, Tennessee. To a state that I had never been to in my life, was a very frightening experience. You know, I didn’t make a lot of money, suddenly Deep Throat came out and the name Harry Reems became big cocktail conversation; a name. I was known in the industry for my participation in Deep Throat and Devil In Mrs. Jones, and made a lot of money because of it.

But..., I didn’t have a lot of money. Just paying the retainer to the attorney who defended me in Memphis bankrupted me! Nowhere to live. I couldn’t pay for a motel. I had my life taken away from me for over 4 years while all this went on. Or 3 years, whatever it was. It was a very defining moment in my life, and how I chose to handle it..., I’m very proud of. I survived all this and I basically got the public’s opinion in my favor. This prosecutor would hold the Bible up in the courtroom and say, “I would rather see drugs on the streets then these films.” The Judge saying, “If it weren’t for people like Harry Reems, we wouldn’t have films like this.” The judge was a Nixon appointee and so was the prosecutor.

It was a railroad job from day one. Linda Lovelace, Gerry Damiano, the Director/Producer, they were both witnesses against me. They were given immunity and testified on behalf of the Federal Government. That yes, I was the actor that he directed in this movie and had hardcore sex. And Linda Lovelace stood up there and said, “Yes, he’s the actor I had sex with in front of the cameras in Gerry Damiano’s movie, Deep Throat.” And they were let go and I was prosecuted. To this day, I have no idea why.

I was in Memphis yesterday, doing some press for the release of this DVD, and it’s ironic. I stayed at a grand, ole hotel called The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee. You know, it’s one of the true monuments of Memphis. And 30 years ago, I was prosecuted for a film that flew over the state called Deep Throat. The other night I could have rented Deep Throat, the original version, in my hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

Times have changed.

Harry Reems: Yes, they have and Larry Parrish, the prosecutor, was contacted and when he was told that I had been in town, he said, “Well, if I were Herb Stryker, if I were Harry Reems, I wouldn’t come near Memphis, Tennessee again.” It was a threat.

Oh wow...

Harry Reems: It was a threat.

Even now?

Harry Reems: Even now. This was the same prosecutor in the movie, Inside Deep Throat, the documentary, that swears that he still has nightmares. That he still has upsetting visions from Deep Throat. This man is stuck in a very bad mode in life. Obviously, he wishes the past was still the past. Today he’s in private practice and does not do very well as an attorney in Memphis. But yes, you can go to Memphis and you can go to the finest hotels, and you can rent Deep Throat right in your room.

Seeing how much your life has changed do you regret your involvement in the pornography business?

Harry Reems: Not a bit. And I’ll tell you why, obviously I did these films for many years, I did a few hundred of these films. And I met with a bad bout after the trial was over, and while the trial was on I habit of stopping by the liquor store and buying a bottle of wine every night. Just to forget the days courtroom proceedings. Then the next morning I’d get up, go to court again and do it all over again. Well, by 1985, I was a fall down, low bottom drunk. An alcoholic. And in 1989, I finally got sober. And I found the rooms of a 12 Step Recovery Program. And I diligently worked those 12 Steps, and I have changed my life dramatically. I’m happily married. I converted to Christianity. I became a trustee at the local methodist church. I contribute time, money and energy to many community issues. Such as “Habitat for Humanity,” and Women’s Cancer and I contribute a great deal to my community. I’m deeply in love with my wife. I have a very successful real estate business, and I don’t think I would have the life I have today, if I hadn’t gone through what I went through. If I didn’t find out, or learn, that I was an alcoholic and I didn’t take the 12 Steps of Recovery, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. So, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I think this film captures very well what the sexual revolution was about back then, and what society is all about now. The perfect one liner is, “Deep Throat was prosecuted in Memphis in 1974, and today in Memphis you can watch it in your hotel room.” And that shows some of the changes that have happened in America over the past 30 years, and I think the film does an excellent job of telling that story.

Inside Deep Throat hits stores September 20th, 2005.

Check out more recent content from INSIDE Deep Throat...

{/dvd/news/news.php?id=9237|Enter our INSIDE Deep Throat Autograph Contest!}

{/dvd/news/news.php?id=9237|Watch our exclusive INSIDE Deep Throat video interview clips!}


Dont't forget to also check out: Inside Deep Throat [Rated NC-17 Version]

INSIDE Deep Throat was released February 11th, 2005 and stars Dennis Hopper, Gerard Damiano, John Waters, Larry Flynt, Erica Jong, Ruth Westheimer, Dick Cavett, Camille Paglia. The film is directed by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato.



Sources: Evan Jacobs

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