Harry Reems, whose life went from starring in the iconic porn film “Deep Throat” to finding God and becoming a successful Park City real-estate broker, has died at age 65.
Reems died of organ failure Tuesday at the Salt Lake VA Hospital, hospital director Steve Young confirmed. Reems had served briefly in the United States Marine Corps. His friend Don Schenk wrote on a Web forum that Reems was diagnosed last summer with pancreatic cancer and had suffered from peripheral neuropathy and emphysema in recent years.
Reems — born Herbert Streicher on Aug. 27, 1947, in The Bronx — achieved notoriety with the 1972 release of “Deep Throat,” considered the first porn film to extend beyond murky X-rated theaters to reach mainstream audiences. It was one of dozens of porn films that starred Reems — who was then billed as “Harry Reams” — but it was easily the most famous.
“Deep Throat” also got him hauled into court. FBI agents arrested Reems in New York City in 1974, and he was indicted in 1975 in Memphis, Tenn., on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines. He was convicted on those charges in 1976, but the conviction was overturned a year later on appeal. His lawyers claimed he was the first U.S. actor to be prosecuted by the federal government just for appearing in a film.
The success of “Deep Throat” allowed Reems to charge thousands of dollars to appear in later films, and he amassed riches including a palatial beach house in Malibu, Calif. But years of partying and alcoholism — he claimed at one point to drink a gallon of vodka a day — eventually led him to live in a Los Angeles supermarket trash bin, begging for handouts.
“Back then, my values and my morality were considerably different than they are today,” Reems said in a 1992 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “I don’t regret the past and I don’t deny the past. Needless to say, I have no desire to return to it.”
His movie career stalled — “I was not hireable, I was such a drunk,” he said in 1992 — and he lived off friends and worked in resort towns selling time-share condos. That’s how he landed in Park City, where he repeatedly landed in the hospital and in jail on alcohol-related charges.
In 1989, he went to a meeting for recovering alcoholics in Park City’s municipal building — where a Park City police officer spotted him. Reems had an outstanding arrest warrant, but the officer let him attend the meeting before running him into the jail in Coalville.
That moment changed Reems’ life, he said later.
“In that 20-minute drive from Park City to Coalville, that police officer treated me with dignity and respect,”Reems said in the same interview. “He told me I was a worthwhile human being and I have a purpose here. Maybe that purpose was to be of service to others with the same disease.”
Reems also found religion, joining the Park City Community Church, a United Methodist congregation, for several years. He later became disillusioned with that church, continuing to meditate and pray outside organized religion.
“If I didn’t put God in my life, I’d be dead now,” he told The Tribune in 2007.
Once sober, Reems found success working as a Park City real-estate broker. He retired in 2008.
Reems is survived by his wife, Jeannie, whom he met in Park City and married in 1990.
Details on memorial services have yet to be announced.