LOS ANGELES — Members of the adult film community celebrated the life of pioneering porn actor Harry Reems, who died on March 19 at age 65, Saturday night at the Zephyr Theater in Hollywood. The event came after a performance of David Bertolino’s play “The Deep Throat Sex Scandal,” now in the midst of a successful run.
There was no formal program, but there were a few people who knew him well and more who knew him mostly by reputation. Some shared their thoughts with sexologist Dr. Susan Block, who was broadcasting her Internet chat show from the theater’s courtyard.
The best tribute to Reems turned out to be the play itself. It charts his meteoric rise to fame opposite Linda Lovelace in “Deep Throat” followed by harassment at the hands of a dogged Memphis prosecutor who put him on trial for obscenity, making him a reluctant martyr to the cause of free speech and dashing his dreams of Hollywood crossover.
The ending, after Reems recovers from alcoholism and builds a new life in Utah, gained extra poignancy because of his passing.
Bill Margold, the evening’s host, worried that “there aren’t a lot of people around anymore who knew Harry” — although he knew him well. He spoke briefly, proposing a toast. “Harry was a victim of the immortality forced upon him by what he went through.”
He declared him “the father of the freedom of X” and installed him on his “Mt. Rushmore of X,” along with John Holmes, Jamie Gillis and Ron Jeremy.
The play features two real-life former stars from a later porn generation: Veronica Hart and Herschel Savage, who takes on the dual roles of Gerard Damiano and Alan Dershowitz. Savage, also a theater actor turned porn stud, said he entered the business in 1976, the year of Reems’ Memphis trial, but “had no idea any of that was going on.”
Tom Byron, who appeared in earlier performances as the Memphis judge (as did Margold and director Paul Thomas, also on hand), revisited the play with director Rob Black. Ron Jeremy, on the mend from his recent heart surgery, showed up later, preceded by a large floral tribute.
Eric Edwards, a co-worker of Reems and one of the few survivors of the‘60s generation of porn pioneers, was on the arm of his close friend, former Vivid Girl Hyapatia Lee. Seeing the play for the second time, he was deeply moved. “The first time I saw it I teared up a little. But this time I was bawling at the end…now that Harry’s gone. This is really the end of an era.”
A fitting benediction came in a post-curtain speech from young actor Marc Ginsburg, who memorably incarnates Reems. “We hope Harry is in a better place where he can fuck who he wants to fuck without being judged.”
Among other names on hand were Alana Evans (who has a vivid cameo in the play), Luc Wylder and Alexandra Silk, Rebecca Bardoux, Melissa Hill, Rob Spallone, Valentino and Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof.