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The truth is that Ron Jeremy is more of a social climber than a sex god. He's driven by the glamour of celebrity and longs to cross over into mainstream roles. Sure there'll always be his cameos as a zookeeper or a pimp, but he's yet to play a serious part worthy of legitimate praise. While his porn feats have vaulted him, his reputation is also his biggest barrier. In spite of his efforts, he'll seemingly never be recognized as anything other than 'The Hedgehog.'
That nickname stems partially from his animal-like appearance, and partially because of the rooting around that's associated with his chosen profession. Watching him work is quite a spectacle. One can only hope that his female counterparts are well compensated, for his distorted, hairy body is truly reminiscent of a four-legged rodent. His arms and legs are nearly the same length and shape, his chest and stomach are bloated and hairy, and his glaring reproductive organ is excessive, closer to a horse's than a hedgehog's, but hardly worth wishing for.
Needless to say, the opportunity to meet a man so uniquely distinguished is quite intriguing. Especially after Mr. Jeremy seemed quite excited about talking to filmcritic.com. Our telephone interview was scheduled for 3:00 in the afternoon. When he failed to answer at the prearranged time, I disappointedly left a message, only half-expecting to hear back. Surprisingly, not only did he call; he even battled the labyrinthine automated voice mail system at my office to leave several apologetic messages.
Our interview was re-set for the next day, but when he answered the phone his voice was scratchy and hoarse; he sounded totally out of it. When he couldn't remember calling me the previous day, I should have suspected something strange was brewing.
I asked what Ron thought of the recent Academy Awards. He replied, 'I haven't seen any of the films and didn't watch the awards.' I asked about his thoughts on Iraq. And I asked whether executives and actors in the porn industry are as liberal in their politics as their counterparts in Hollywood. No response. 'Excuse me, Mr. Jeremy?' I asked. Still there was nothing. 'Mr. Jeremy? Ron! Hello? Are we conducting an interview here?' I pleaded into the phone. There was about 15 seconds of silence and then a grunt that sounded like a snore. Finally, a response, 'Uh, oh, sorry. What's that? Oh yeah, politics of porn. Yeah they're quite liberal.' Had Ron Jeremy, the legendary porn star, just fallen asleep in the middle of our interview? I leveled with him, 'Come on, give me something to go with here. You've got to answer my questions.' 'Oh sure,' he replied, 'I, uh, just did the Mancow show here in Chicago, and I've been up since last night on the red eye from L.A. Sorry man.' Thank God I'd watched the outtakes and realized that Ron is narcoleptic.
Flustered, I continued on, next asking whom he admired most between Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner, and little-known yet trailblazing porn executive Reuben Sturman. 'Sturman,' he explained, 'That guy was the real pioneer of porn films. He was the richest of the bunch and the true innovator. Plus, he stayed out of the spotlight and made most of his fortune under the radar.' I asked if he could relate to him as an innovator. 'Of course. One thing the film left out was my previous troubles with the law. I beat the rap every time, but I went to trial several times and had to fight the system for my freedom of expression along the way.' Ron was warming up, but still sounded half-awake.
I then inquired whether he'd ever been publicly humiliated or disparaged. 'No, never,' was his immediate response. The film made it appear as if he had a sense of humor, so much for that. In fact, throughout the documentary, part of Ron Jeremy's charm is that he did not really seem to take himself too seriously. He scoffed at monthly HIV tests, showing no fear, expressed a willingness to sleep with any woman no matter how ugly or old, and chuckled at his rep of having notoriously poor personal hygiene. As long as people seemed to love him, Ron Jeremy was happy. But not even one militant feminist had ever thrown a pie in his face?
My intention of asking off-the-cuff questions was to offer him a breath of fresh air. How many times has he been asked, 'How big is it?' Or, 'How many women have you slept with?' Or, 'Do you have a healthy sex life outside of porn?' I figured he'd appreciate the change of pace. I wasn't sticking to any script based on the documentary; I wanted to know what whirls in the mind of Ron Jeremy.
Apparently: Not much other than, 'How can I make more money and get more attention?' But based upon his crassness, I immediately thought of my next question, which was, 'What do you say to all the people out there who think you're a fat sleazeball?' I wish I'd had the guts. Instead I asked whether or not he was satisfied with his progress in mainstream film. He used it as an opportunity to promote his upcoming films, Peoples and Creepies, due out this year, only he couldn't remember the names of his costars!
The one scene from the documentary I did ask him about was the moment right before a sex scene where he walked off to a dark room and asked for the cameras to stay behind. Unbeknownst to him, the cameras followed Jeremy into the corner of the small room. He is shown with his back to the camera crouched in deep concentration, holding himself and talking at his crotch. I asked what was going through his mind at that precise moment. 'I was clearing my thoughts. Focusing on the task at hand. It takes an incredible amount of energy to perform like that on demand.' In the film he talks about how Viagra has changed porn and adds that he has never needed to rely on such a crutch. He continued, 'Not many people can do it under the bright lights and under all the pressure.'
This is certainly true. In porn circles he's got the talents of Michael Jordan and the longevity of Cal Ripken. But is he fulfilled? In the film he claims only to have fallen in love once and that he doubts it'll ever happen again. I asked about the legacy that he'd like to leave behind when he finally does retire. 'I'd like everyone to know that I did it my way.' How appropriate that The Hedgehog stole a line from Old Blue Eyes, for Jeremy is certainly to adult films what Sinatra was to the lounge act.
When he does retire, or just keel over -- as it would appear that is the only thing that could ever keep him from working -- he'll certainly have left his mark. But unless it's your destiny to be the envy of frat boys across America or to be the glorious number 500 in the next great gangbang, there's really very little to desire about the life of a narcoleptic porn star. Or, as Ron Jeremy would prefer you to perceive it, an up-and-coming celebrity.