Wet Dreamer

Ron Jeremy lives the Porn Star fantasy, but it's not enough

Every couple of years, it seems, we're obliged to get at least one documentary that provides the revelation that porn stars just aren't happy people. So now we know John Holmes was a drug addict and a criminal, Annabel Chong cuts herself and Stacy Valentine will submit to every surgical procedure known to man in order to stay ahead of the competition. Geez, who knew getting laid every day was such a horrible chore?

If there's any one person who should be overjoyed at such a career choice, however, it's Ron Jeremy. A hair-covered, roly-poly and average-looking-at-best schlub who would look more at home stomping giant mushrooms in a Nintendo game than having sex with even one beautiful woman, let alone the thousands he has actually nailed, Jeremy's career path is in many ways the prototypical American dream. Except, as the new documentary Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy shows, all is not quite as it seems.

Taking as its central metaphor an image of a casually attired Jeremy wandering aimlessly through empty airline corridors--an image undoubtedly meant to recall the opening sequence of The Graduate, another tale of a geeky Jewish kid getting laid more often than he deserves--Porn Star presents a man somewhat helplessly caught up in something larger than he can control. Certainly he has no illusions about what he looks like and understands how lucky he is to have a nine-and-three-quarter-inch cock and the means to use it for a living several times a day. On the other hand, all he really wants is to be taken seriously as an actor, which, despite numerous cameo roles in nonpornographic B movies, doesn't look to be happening anytime soon.

What do porn's Ron Jeremy and Enron's Ken Lay have in common? Neither one is happy that he's best known for screwing co-workers.
What do porn's Ron Jeremy and Enron's Ken Lay have in common? Neither one is happy that he's best known for screwing co-workers.

"I have no self-esteem," Jeremy says early on. "I always hate myself." Certainly he displays a compulsive hedonism that seems to be grasping for deeper meaning in his love of food and obsessive attendance at parties every single night. He doesn't drink or do drugs, but a comparison of some photos taken early in his career with ones from today indicates that big meals have indeed taken their toll on his torso. At worst, the young Ron Jeremy was no Burt Reynolds; nowadays, he looks not unlike Danny DeVito's Penguin in Batman Returns. Of course, he's so firmly entrenched in his career, it doesn't matter what he looks like.

Director Scott J. Gill, a former editor for horror auteur Don Coscarelli making his feature directorial debut with a sure hand, chronicles Jeremy's career from the early days, starting with home movies of the youngster formerly known as Ronnie Hyatt, through the death of his mother at an early age and his attainment of an undergraduate degree in theater and a master's in special ed.

Jeremy comes across as a fundamentally unhappy man, though he is, by all accounts, warm and friendly to everyone. He wants to be a comedian, though his shtick as shown here is clichéd, and even good friend Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis calls his act "shit." He wants desperately to cross over to the mainstream and is proud that the back of his head appears in Sylvester Stallone's Cobra. Despite many director friends (among them Adam Rifkin and John Frankenheimer, the latter declining to be interviewed on camera) who are willing to give him bit parts, the studios often delete him from the final cut because of his day job.

Jeremy figures that his appeal is that of the everyman, noting that the average porn viewer feels empowered when he sees an unattractive guy getting laid by the best bods money can buy. But he's even more of an everyman than perhaps he realizes, desperate to meet celebrities and dogged in his pursuit of the dream of becoming a "real" movie star, now that pornos no longer feature stories or much acting and don't play on the big screen. All this even though he's one of the best at what he does, being one of the industry's 15 or so reliable "woodsmen" and someone able to count down accurately to his own climax without the aid of Viagra. Sure, his ability to have sex in character is no longer of interest to filmmakers who left the idea of "plot" in the '70s, but he can go for four hours with multiple partners, and he consistently tests disease-free. That's gotta be worth something.

 
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