Skip to main content

'Deep Throat' porn legend Harry Reems dead at 65

By Alan Duke, CNN
March 21, 2013 -- Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT)
Harry Reems was best known for playing Dr. Young in the 1972 adult film classic
Harry Reems was best known for playing Dr. Young in the 1972 adult film classic "Deep Throat."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Larry Flynt: "He was an icon from the beginning of the erotic film industry"
  • Reems was a pioneer in the fight for First Amendment rights for porn actors, Ron Jeremy says
  • His obscenity conviction for "Deep Throat" was overturned on appeal
  • He "found Jesus" and sold real estate in Utah after leaving the adult film industry

(CNN) -- Harry Reems, the porn star best known for playing Dr. Young in the 1972 adult film classic "Deep Throat," died Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman at a Salt Lake City hospital. Reems, whose real name was Herbert Streicher, was 65.

Reems, who appeared in numerous pornographic films in the 1970s and '80s, was a pioneer whose battle for First Amendment rights paved the way for the adult film industry to enter the mainstream, said fellow actor Ron Jeremy.

Jill Atwood, spokeswoman for George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center in Salt Lake City, would not disclose the cause of death for privacy reasons.

Click through to see people who passed away in 2013. Click through to see people who passed away in 2013.
People we lost in 2013
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: People we lost in 2013 Photos: People we lost in 2013

Reems' big break came in 1972 on the set of "Deep Throat" when the actor cast to play the feisty Dr. Young failed to show up for filming. Reems was promoted from extra to co-star, which meant an unforgettable sex scene with leading lady Linda Lovelace.

The film's budget of $25,000 included just a few hundred dollars for Reems, but the notoriety of the movie -- highlighted by well-publicized legal troubles -- made him one of the top porn stars in the United States in the 1970s.

Reems, who grew up in the New York's Bronx, "was the original," Jeremy said. "It was Reems and John Holmes. They were the biggest names at the time."

"Everyone who has ever seen a porn film knows who Harry Reems is," Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt told CNN through his representative. "He was an icon from the beginning of the erotic film industry."

"Deep Throat" went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars after criminal investigations and the prosecution of Reems for obscenity and conspiracy brought it global attention.

His obscenity conviction was overturned on appeal, but the legal battle became an important First Amendment fight for some in Hollywood.

The battle over "Deep Throat" became a "cause celebre," said Paul Fishbein, founder of AVN (Adult Video News).

"Because Harry Reems was famous for 'Deep Throat,' I think people forget he was sort of the face of '70s obscenity," said Fishbein, who is now president of X3Sixty Network, a cable network dedicated to programming about the adult industry. "When he got indicted for that movie, it was a big deal."

Hollywood stars including Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty supported Reems' defense, Jeremy said.

"It made him a pioneer," Jeremy said.

Reems followed up in 1973 with "Devil in Miss Jones," another rare porn film remembered by many 40 years later.

Reems' Internet Movie Database page lists 139 productions in which he acted between 1970 and 1986, when he left the industry.

Although he aspired as a young man to be a mainstream actor, that goal evaded him in the wake of his porn reputation. He was initially cast to play Coach Calhoun in "Grease," the 1978 smash musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, but producers ultimately replaced him with Sid Caesar.

Jeremy spoke fondly of his 1980s friendship with Reems, with memories of hanging out in Bernards, a bar off New York's Times Square that attracted both Broadway and porn actors. It was a hangout where the two men would pick up women and sometimes "go to the bathroom to do a little smoochie."

"We were on a bunch of sets side by side," Jeremy said. "We did threesomes on set a couple of time."

"We were both Jewish boys with a big mustaches," he said. "We both loved doing dialogue in movies, more than just an 'uuuuhh!'"

Reems left the adult movie business in 1987 and moved to Utah, where "somehow he found Jesus and decided to go Mormon," Jeremy said.

"He said he was glad to be far away from it," Jeremey said, referring to the porn industry.

Reems' new career was real estate, which he initially sold using his birth name, Herbert Streicher.

Eventually, though, he decided to use his famous name to sell real estate. "Maybe he wasn't selling enough," Jeremy said. "He used Harry Reems, and business was booming."

Jeremy said Reems' death was not a shock because he had known his health was deteriorating.

Reems' friends plan a memorial on Saturday after a performance of a stage play that tells his infamous story -- "Deep Throat Sex Scandal" -- at the Zephyr Theatre in West Hollywood, California, Jeremy said.

People we've lost in 2013: The lives they lived

CNN's Abbey Goodman and Jim Kavanagh contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1521 GMT (2321 HKT)
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT