Harry Reems, star of pornographic film ‘Deep Throat,’ dies at 65

March 20, 2013

Harry Reems, who co-starred in the 1972 pornographic movie “Deep Throat,” a film that brought pornography to mainstream audiences and became a pop culture phenomenon, died March 19 at a veterans’ hospital in Salt Lake City. He was 65.

Mr. Reems’s wife, Jeannie, confirmed the death. The cause of death has not been determined, but Mr. Reems was suffering from multiple medical issues, including pancreatic cancer.

After leaving the Marine Corps in the late 1960s, Mr. Reems began his acting career off-Broadway and then in sex films. He would go on to appear in more than 100 pornographic movies, including “Forced Entry” and “The Devil in Miss Jones.” But it was his role as the male lead in “Deep Throat” that made him a household name.

He had initially been approached to serve as lighting director on the low-budget film, which was about a woman (played by Linda Lovelace) who finds her most erogenous zone to be in her throat. When the leading man did not show up, Mr. Reems jumped into the role and was paid $100 to play the doctor who helps Lovelace diagnose her unusual condition.

The film became a sensation in large part because of law enforcement’s constant raiding of the theater where it was being shown in New York. Then a New York judge ruled the movie obscene, which drew national headlines and constant references on late-night talk shows. During the unfolding Watergate scandal, “Deep Throat” became the code name for the secret source of Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.


“Acting was my true love, and I buried that possibility by going into adult films,” “Deep Throat” star Harry Reems said. (KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AP)

In 1974, the FBI arrested Mr. Reems and others associated with the film on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines. Their convictions were later overturned, reportedly because the film was made before the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling on “contemporary community standards” on decency.

Mr. Reems told New York magazine in 2005 that he tried to find legitimate work after “Deep Throat.” He said he initially won the role of Coach Calhoun in the 1978 movie musical “Grease” before being fired from the production because his reputation would harm box-office profits. (Sid Caesar played the coach.)

“Acting was my true love, and I buried that possibility by going into adult films,” Mr. Reems told New York magazine. “The writing was on the wall. There was no place for me in conventional entertainment.”

Mr. Reems was born Herbert Streicher in Manhattan on Aug. 27, 1947, and raised in suburban Westchester County, N.Y.

In the 1980s, he left the porn industry and moved to Park City, Utah, where he underwent an alcohol treatment program and worked as a real estate agent.

He kept his porn name, telling New York magazine, “nobody under 50 even knows who I am now. Unless you’re a porno historian, and then you’re really sick.”

— From staff and wire reports