Time Magazine - 8/26/08
If gold medals were handed out for making porn movies, Ron Jeremy would be the all-time champion. He has made close to 2,000 of them, including On the Loose: Viva Ron Vegas and San Fernando Jones and the Temple of Poon, as well as about 100 mainstream movies, such as The Boondock Saints with Willem Dafoe. He tells the story of his XXX-rated career in a steamy new book, The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz: Horny Women, Hollywood Nights & The Rise of the Hedgehog! (Harper). And yes, it's illustrated. TIME senior reporter Andrea Sachs spoke with Jeremy from his Hollywood home:
How did you get your start in the porn industry?
Like many Jewish boys, I was working up in the Catskills, as a waiter and the maitre d' at the Paramount Hotel. I was doing theater, and it was a very difficult situation, especially in New York, where you couldn't be an extra unless you were part of the Screen Actors Guild. I was making no money. We agreed my girlfriend Alice and I to take some pictures in the deluxe wing of the Paramount. We knew women could do Playboy and that might lead to a career in theater, film. I thought I would try it out and at least get some kind of exposure, pardon the pun. So my girlfriend took the photographs and sent them to Playgirl. I thought maybe they would agree to bring me to L.A. for a layout, and while I'm in L.A. I'll try to get some work in Hollywood. Then Playgirl called and they said we have good news and bad news. The bad news is they weren't going to fly me anywhere. The good news is that they were going to use the pictures we had taken.
How did the public respond to the photos?
I had used my real name: Ron Hyatt, from Queens, New York; likes to go hang gliding and sailing when he gets the chance, and working on his master's degree in special education. A lot of people looked up R. Hyatt in Queens, New York, but they were getting my grandmother, Rose Hyatt, who lived downstairs. My poor grandmother was being woken up night and day, mostly by guys. Playgirl likes to think that their audience is mostly women, but no, no, the majority is gay. My poor grandma had to move. Then my dad sat me down and said, "I don't know what cockamamie business you are getting into. You want to do something, fine, you're an adult, but don't you ever use the family name again." So I used my middle name, which is Jeremy.
What was your path to the porn industry?
I quit teaching because I was making no money. After Playgirl I went to see a filmmaker I knew. Joe said he only did adult movies, so I said that's kind of sleazy. Then I did theater for a few months and starved. So I went back to Joe and thought, it's not so bad. I asked my family what they thought and they said, [we] aren't crazy about the idea but if you really want to do this go ahead, if you think it may be a shortcut to the mainstream. So Joe put me in my first adult film, Tigresses and Other Man-eaters. I spent an hour in makeup and they never once saw my face.
Were you embarrassed during the filming?
Yes, a little. There were some professionals there who had done it for a while. I wasn't getting the liftoff as quickly as they did. It was embarrassing. It's funny because now, years later when I am not taking Viagra and the other guy does, I am still slow to the punch. I am the slow man on the totem pole. It was embarrassing because I was not used to being nude and having sex in a room full of people.
Were your friends shocked that you were doing this?
The funniest dialogue came from the Catskills, where I had been working as a waiter for so many years of my life. They had this thing called "Bungalow Bunnies," where the women would stay up in the Catskills and their husbands would leave to work. They didn't really care if their wives were messing around because they were doing the same thing with their secretaries back in Manhattan. We were up in the Catskills, and I had a very good sex life, to the point where when I was once late to dinner and told the maitre d' I was with a girl. He said, and I remember his exact words, "Anybody else I would forgive but with you it's like brushing your teeth. You're late; you're being docked pay." So when they heard, Ron's doing porn, they said, "That's not a big shock, is it?"
What did you enjoy about making these movies?
This might sound corny or cheesy, but I just loved acting, doing dialogue. All my friends were still doing theater off-off-Broadway and I was doing film. Yes it's porn, but it still goes into theaters. They still had acting back then. They had big scripts. There were no videos back then, no DVDs, no Internet. I came at a time they called the Golden '80s.
Did you enjoy the sex or did it become tedious?
I did to an extent. The acting I always loved because it's taking on a role, but the sex was 50-50. There is always a little nervousness that you are going to be naked in front of a room full of guys and a couple of makeup artists. You did some dialogue and then they would say, "OK, Ronnie, let's go." It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but once your body and your mind told you you've done it before, you can do it again. It became kind of fun.
What kind of people were in the industry?
In the '70s it was a hippie-dippie-sexual-revolution-Woodstock kind of gig. Flower children in many ways. Pot smokers, though once in a while you would see cocaine or a pill. Most of them had been to college. Some have come from broken homes, some from abusive homes. What I tell kids when I lecture in colleges is that porn is largely a microcosm of Hollywood itself. There were kids who wanted to do something goofy and crazy. Some were actors who wanted to go for an acting career, like me, and settled for this because acting was just a murderously difficult thing to get into. It's thousands of people chasing so few jobs, with everyone driving a taxi, working as a waiter.
Did you get rich doing it?
I did well, not so much through porn but because of the marketing that came from porn: the rolling papers, the penis pills which I'm on a lot of infomercials for the skateboards and the T-shirts made me fairly wealthy. Also the reality shows, which came because of porn both here and in Europe. I go to topless clubs and nude clubs, crack jokes and do a burlesque act while the girls are stripping. I make jokes and then we do autographs, meet and greets, like the ambassador of good will. That has added real good money to the bank account.
Have you been able to have romantic relationships while living this life?
It's very, very difficult. If you look at statistics, the majority of marriages around the world don't work, which is very sad because they can work. Now let's go to porn. Very rarely do they ever last a long time. There are a few I'm proud of that are going strong, but it's so difficult because you have to have the alternative lifestyle attitude. I don't know if we were meant to be totally monogamous. Early cultures weren't; Greek, Romans, some Asian societies today, but it's the Judeo-Christian attitude that came along that made us feel guilty of straying. You could love your wife to pieces and it's only your genitals that are doing the traveling, but it's a hard thing to understand. You can be emotionally monogamous and physically not monogamous. I think Viagra is one of the greatest gifts to monogamy. You may not need it to be with the blonde down the street or get a lap dance, but to be with your wife of 20 years or your wife who's 50, you may need Viagra.
Are you still doing any porn?
I just did one a few days ago, a benefit for a great New York director who has serious colon cancer. We all did a free porn film. I did a sex thing with a sweet girl named Candy, she's actually here because we did a scene and she is staying over. (Giggling in the background.) I am also doing a horror film in Arizona called Blood Moon Rising.
Is it still fun?
I would never admit this, and my dad warned me of this, but the libido does lose a little as you get older. Nature is cruel! As you get older, as you get into your 50s, it is more effort to get into liftoff. I'm 55, and it's a bit of a strain, but it's not to the point where it's a chore because then I just wouldn't do it. I don't have to do porn anymore for economic reasons. However, I like to stay current. I don't want to be an ex-porn star.
Ron Jeremy at UM-St. Louis
The Current, 12/3/07 - Porn actor Ron Jeremy visited UM-St. Louis Wednesday to participate in a debate about pornography and its effects on society with Craig Gross, porn pastor and the founder of http://www.XXXChurch.com.
The Current had the opportunity to sit down with the entertainer and pop culture fixture nicknamed "the Hedgehog," to talk about his career and views on the adult entertainment industry.
The Current: Ron Jeremy was born Ron Jeremy Hyatt. Are they the same person, or is 'Ron Jeremy' a character for your adult and mainstream films?
Ron Jeremy: No, I play characters in movies. But 'Ron Jeremy' is my name for non-union, adult movies and some lower budget movies.
I've used Ron Jeremy for some of the mainstream stuff I consulted on, like "Boogie Nights," and I think I was Ron Jeremy in "Boondock Saints." But I was Ron Jeremy Hyatt in "Killing Zoey," "Reindeer Games," and "The Chase." If the studio wants "Ron Jeremy" out of the credits, I'll cut it.
They can call me "Joe Shit" for all I care. I just want to work.
The Current: Suspending any moral judgments about pornography, has your career in pornography had any positive or negative impacts on your romantic relationships?
Ron Jeremy: It's tough. You travel a lot, and the lifestyle [interferes] a little bit. It's not even the sleeping with other woman that is the problem because most men have a problem with monogamy anyway.
I believe in emotional monogamy. Gene Simmons (bass player for Kiss) and I preached that same message a few weeks apart on The View. You have to live that life.
A lot of husbands, wives, girlfriends don't want to know you 'hide the bacon' for a living. It's tough. I haven't dated much within the business, but I have dated people that understand the lifestyle.
The Current: How would you react if you had a daughter that wanted to become a pornographic performer?
Ron Jeremy: I would be a little surprised. But hopefully my daughter will go to college. Not many girls in porn have gone to college.
Not that there's anything wrong with it. But if my daughter had her heart and mind set to it, to do porn, I would hope she would do it in a smart way.
Like Jenna Jameson-she could go and make $14 million in the business, then quit and go start a separate business.
The Current: You are one of the few performers in pornography that have had any crossover success. Why do you think that is?
Ron Jeremy: Well, everyone in college knows "Boondock Saints." And I have more stuff coming out. A few reality television shows, and "National Lampoons: Homoerectus," which is a caveman comedy.
I'm a good actor. I've got a bachelor's degree in theatre from Queens College. I work hard. I audition for parts.
You don't get anything by accident. You really have to kill yourself. You can't sit back in relax. You have to work hard.
The Current: Oscar Winner Ron Jeremy. Could it happen?
Ron Jeremy: If "Boondock Saints" had been released theatrically, I don't know.
Maybe a best supporting actor award? I was a lead in "Orgasmo." I've been in some art house films that didn't go far enough.
To get an Oscar, you have to be in a film that not only do you do a great job in, but the film has to get out there.
If you give a great performance and nobody sees it, it's not going to mean a thing. Could it happen, I'd like to think so. But I've gotten a lot of AVN awards in the meanwhile.
Also ... From the Hartford Advocate - 5/4/06
By Nathan Conz - On Tuesday, April 25, Ron Jeremy, one of the worldīs most famous pornography stars and currently on the circuit debating opponents of pornography, debated Michael Leahy, a recovering porn addict and executive director of BraveHearts, a nonprofit aimed at educating students against the lure of porn, in a packed Jorgensen Center on the University of Connecticut campus. A few days later, we talked to Jeremy, who has starred in more than 1,600 adult films, about defending porn, his hypothetical daughter, and that nasty incident at UConn. (Oh, and before you even ask. He wears a size 10 shoe.)
Advocate: How did you start debating?
Jeremy: A couple years ago, I was debating with Susan G. Cole. Sheīs a feminist from Toronto and [an editor at NOW Magazine , a Toronto-based alternative newsweekly]. She definitely does not like the biz [porn business]. Did you catch the one I did with Michael Leahy at UConn?
A: Yes. I thought some of the kids were sort of surprised that it was actually a debate though.
J: Like I was going to do a live sex show on stage ...
A: How is your debate with Leahy different than the ones you do with Cole?
J: Itīs a whole different kind of argument, which I think is interesting. Itīs an interesting debate. With Michael, itīs more [from the perspective] of a recovering addict, who also doesnīt like the business. Itīs more about the proliferation of porn through all kinds of technology, how itīs so accessible to everyone including kids -- these are things that really bother him. Susan Cole is a different kind of thing. Sheīs just upset about how women are portrayed in the movies -- sociologically itīs not a good thing to look at, itīs not a good form of entertainment. She thinks there are a lot of things wrong with the business.
A: So, who else do you debate?
J: I also debate [a man] from XXX Church [a Christian porn organization], Craig [Gross] whoīs a pastor. ... Heīs pretty much against all forms of masturbation. We leave that out because the kids would tear him apart. We try to keep it a porn issue. We learned to be smarter in the second debate. [In the first one] he came out against masturbation. I tore him apart. Then, he was roasted by the kids. At that point, it didnīt even become a porno debate. It became about: What the fuck is he smoking? As a courtesy to him and for the sake of the debate, we donīt bring that up.
A: Do you guys get along?
J: I like all three of them and they also like me and have said so. I like Michael a lot actually. We once were sitting in a Jacuzzi in Baton Rouge -- he always talks about this with all his friends -- about to do a big debate. We were discussing theology and I couldnīt really understand the concepts of Heaven or Hell. The Jews arenīt much into the hell thing, and I was just curious. What is it? If you burn, wouldnīt you just get used to it after a couple of days go by? Was it watching Gilliganīs Island reruns? So, he sent me a book around Christmastime because he couldnīt answer a lot of those questions either ... [and signed it]: "Love and kisses, your spiritual advisor, Michael." You got to love this guy!
A: Howīd you describe your debating style?
J: The thing that is interesting I guess is that they have to go first [during opening statements of the debate]. They have to go first because they attack me. Then Iīll strike back on the exact points they bring up. Iīm only on the defense; Iīm not on the offense. Iīm fine with them. They have the problem with me .
A: Last September, three male UConn students were arrested after they watched a porn and then took turns ejaculating onto a female student as she slept. While no one at the debate specifically asked you about this (although the school paper later did), one student did ask you if you thought porn perpetuated a "rape culture." How do you respond to those who believe that pornography promotes such things?
J: That never came from porn. Whoa, whoa, whoa. In a porn film, the person was wide awake and saying, "Come on, give me that cum. Come on give me that." You never in your life see girls sleeping and getting popped on. Youīll see bukkake [a series of males ejaculating onto a female] in porn. I donīt really like those scenes; Iīve never done a bukkake in my entire life. The thing is Iīll defend it, even though I donīt like it, because it is a part of the adult industry. Some of the major video companies do make them.
A: So can you see that maybe thatīs where the idea came from?
J: Well come on, thereīs a difference between the girl sleeping and the girl being awake. We show lots and lots of sex scenes, but you never once saw one with the girl sleeping. Basically, thatīs rape, isnīt it? Itīs not giving consent. Unless the girl says before she goes to sleep, īListen, when I fall asleep, I want you to jizzum on my face so I can wake up and feel like a glazed donut.ī Well Iīve never seen a film like that in my life and weīve never done it. So, weīre totally innocent of that disaster. Secondly, using porn in that way [to place blame] is a very dangerous game to play. There are so many cases where a person saw something in a movie and did the exact same thing. If theyīre going to indict us for things they see in a movie, then every time someone takes a Smith & Wesson and plugs it in some guyīs head and says, "Make my day," and shoots it, theyīre going to have to indict Clint Eastwood.
A: Whatīs the most interesting question youīve been asked by a student at these debates?
J: The toughest one by far, hands down, the most difficult question weīre ever asked is "suppose your daughter [he doesnīt have any children] wanted to do it?" Thatīs a tough one. A lot of girls in porn have not been through college, very few have. I always like to say once [my daughter went through college] Iīd like to think sheīd like to utilize her mind if sheīs been through that. Why go through all that and then go and use your body for a job? Although, thereīs nothing wrong with it. If she really insisted on it -- "Dad, I really have to do it. I want to do it. You did it." -- Iīd only hope that I could help her make the right decisions like avoid the bukkakes and work with your boyfriend only or something, you know, that kind of thing. Keep in mind, a lot of the girls in porn today do not have very wealthy dads. I like to think that Iīve amassed a certain amount of money so that I can say, "You donīt need to make this money. You donīt need to do this. Iīll cover you through college."
A: What do you hope students take away from your debates?
J: Thereīs really not much of a message. Again, Iīm on the defensive. To stand up to them is my main purpose -- to simply show that theyīre wrong. Thereīs nothing wrong with porn. Itīs OK to view it, if youīre viewing it properly. Itīs junk entertainment. Look, I donīt like watching porn. To me, itīs like a reality show. I donīt mind doing them, I donīt like watching them. But they have a right to exist. If people want to choose to watch some junk entertainment, watch it. You can get a nice dinner, or you can get a quick dinner at a fast food place. Porn is junk entertainment, thatīs a quote from Al Goldstein [founder of Screw magazine]. Thereīs nothing wrong with it.
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