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As the porn industry's most prolific male performer, Ron "Hedgehog" Jeremy was a certified American pop culture icon despite his squat appearance and participation in an industry once looked down upon. With over 2,000 adult film performances, including "Debbie Does Dallas Part II" (1981) and the video game spoof "Super Hornio Brothers" (1993), Jeremy was cited by the Guinness Book of World Records for the most appearances in porn movies. Even though he made his way as the preeminent male adult film actor, he constantly sought mainstream legitimacy and began appearing in Hollywood films like John Frankenheimer's "52 Pick-Up" (1986), "Dead Bang" (1989) with Don Johnson, "The Chase" (1994) with Charlie Sheen, "Reindeer Games" (2000) and "The Rules of Attraction" (2002). Though most of the roles in these films were bit parts and walk-ons, Jeremy continued to remain in the spotlight and over time turned himself into something of a cottage industry that included appearances on the second season of "The Surreal Life" (The WB/VH1, 2003-06) and in numerous music videos and video games, as well as releasing his memoirs, Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz (2007). Despite his adult film past, or...
As the porn industry's most prolific male performer, Ron "Hedgehog" Jeremy was a certified American pop culture icon despite his squat appearance and participation in an industry once looked down upon. With over 2,000 adult film performances, including "Debbie Does Dallas Part II" (1981) and the video game spoof "Super Hornio Brothers" (1993), Jeremy was cited by the Guinness Book of World Records for the most appearances in porn movies. Even though he made his way as the preeminent male adult film actor, he constantly sought mainstream legitimacy and began appearing in Hollywood films like John Frankenheimer's "52 Pick-Up" (1986), "Dead Bang" (1989) with Don Johnson, "The Chase" (1994) with Charlie Sheen, "Reindeer Games" (2000) and "The Rules of Attraction" (2002). Though most of the roles in these films were bit parts and walk-ons, Jeremy continued to remain in the spotlight and over time turned himself into something of a cottage industry that included appearances on the second season of "The Surreal Life" (The WB/VH1, 2003-06) and in numerous music videos and video games, as well as releasing his memoirs, Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz (2007). Despite his adult film past, or perhaps because of it, Jeremy managed to somewhat achieve the mainstream fame he always craved.
Born Ronald Jeremy Hyatt on March 12, 1953 in Flushing, NY, the future sex icon graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in 1971, alongside classmate and future CIA director, George Tenet. The son of a respected physicist and a former spy for the OSS (forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency), Jeremy grew up surrounded by intellectuals and scholarly liberals. The product of extremely progressive parents, Jeremy was given a great deal of freedom to explore his interests before seeking a career path. Enthralled with performing since childhood, Jeremy decided on an acting career in his early twenties. After earning a fine arts degree from Queens College in 1975, Jeremy took to the stage and became heavily involved with community theatre and summer stock. In the early 1970s, Jeremy landed roles in several off-Broadway shows under his real name of Ronald Hyatt. While he enjoyed the work, Jeremy quickly discovered the meaning of the term "starving artist" early into his career. Chilled by the prospect of lifelong poverty, Jeremy decided to go back to school mid-decade to receive more practical training, enrolling at Queens College where he earned a master's degree in special education. After graduation, Jeremy embarked on a new career as a teacher for special needs students. While Jeremy found the work fulfilling and, in fact, received numerous commendations in his first year as a teacher, his new career was short-lived. Still a performer at heart, Jeremy found that he could not resist the lure of the acting bug.
Resolved to make it as an actor once and for all, Jeremy went back to treading the boards, only to find that work prospects had not improved. As fate would have it, however, mainstream America was just entering a passionate but brief love affair with 'porno chic' during the mid-to-late 1970s - an era wherein porn and mainstream entertainment seemed on the verge of merging. Consequently, many talented actors and actresses decided that having sex on camera was a legit stepping-stone to bigger and better things. In a textbook case of being in the right place at the right time, Ron Jeremy would turn out to be one of the era's biggest beneficiaries. As it happened, Jeremy's debut on New York's porn scene occurred completely by accident; his then-girlfriend submitted a nude photo of Ron to Playgirl magazine. The response to Jeremy's substantial physical endowment was both appreciative and immediate, causing such a sensation that Jeremy was inundated with phone calls. It was at this point that he decided to explore the world of porn under the new, shortened moniker of Ron Jeremy. Jeremy's foray into the world of adult entertainment occurred around 1977, during the so-called "Golden Age of Porn." Marked by comparatively high production values and fairly decent scripts, many of these early productions cast actors based on their abilities to act, in addition to their abilities to have sex on cue. It was here that Jeremy's classical training set him apart from his competition. For the next six years, he enjoyed a steady career in hard-core pornography. By this time, however, much to Jeremy's disappointment, Hollywood's infatuation with Porno Chic had run its course, leaving few options for actors of this stripe who had hoped to achieve mainstream success.
All was not lost, however. Fortunately for Jeremy, America's fascination with porn resurged with a vengeance in the early 1980s. With the advent of the home video market, scores of once embarrassed patrons were now able to watch porn in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. As sales skyrocketed accordingly, Jeremy's success followed suit and he quickly gained a reputation as one of the industry's most reliable players. Unlike many of his colleagues, Jeremy never had to battle the demons of alcohol abuse, cocaine abuse, or other drug addictions. His only brush with the law occurred in the mid-1980s, when he was twice arrested and faced a lengthy jail sentence for pandering. He eventually won a reprieve as a result of the Freeman Precedent, which, in 1988, legalized pornography. Jeremy was at the peak of his success when he had his first taste of mainstream recognition, being hired as a special consultant for the 1985 film, "9½ Weeks," starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger. It was an advisory role he would later fill again for other porn-themed dramas including "52 Pick-Up" (1986) and "Boogie Nights" (1997). One of the steamiest films of its time, "9½ Weeks" upped the ante set by such predecessors as "Body Heat" (1981) and "Last Tango In Paris" (1973), thereby re-opening the door for later mainstream erotic thrillers like "Basic Instinct" (1991). For some of these roles, Jeremy allegedly paid his own airfare and other expenses just to get 45 seconds screen time in an effort to prove his acting skills. Unfortunately for him, almost all of his scenes in the aforementioned projects eventually wound up on the cutting room floor.
By the early- to mid-1990s, having long since reached the zenith of his acting career, Jeremy began to let himself go physically. Never a sculpted Adonis to begin with, Jeremy's descent into middle age was preserved for the ages on real-time video. As the years passed, the experience of Ron Jeremy performing in sex scenes grew increasingly more amusing than erotic, and his hardcore, onscreen adventures took on an unexpectedly ironic, self-parodying undertone. As a lone relic in a sea of increasingly buff-bodied young studs, Jeremy stood out like a sore thumb. Ironically enough, scores of aging male consumers seemed to identify with Jeremy more for exactly this reason, turning him into a quasi-folk hero. Jeremy often credited his career longevity to the ideal he claimed to have personified better than anyone - that of a middle-aged, unattractive man who had sex with women most men could only dream about.
Still, for all his underground success, Jeremy, a self-described "shameless celebrity whore," never gave up trying to crack into Hollywood's mainstream. From the mid-1990s into the next decade, Jeremy continued to scrounge legit work everywhere and anywhere he could find it. Almost invariably, these jobs took the form of "blink-and-you'll-miss-'em'" cameos in such upscale projects as "Detroit Rock City" (1999), "Ronin" (1998) and "The Boondock Saints" (1999), but he also appeared in music videos - usually playing himself - for such acts as Sublime, Kid Rock, and Moby. In 1996, Jeremy recorded a rap song with DJ Polo entitled "Freak of the Week" which reached No. 22 on Billboard magazine's Hot Rap Tracks chart. In 2001, Jeremy was the subject of a successful documentary, entitled "Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy" which was quite successful and introduced a new generation to his life story.
In 2003, Jeremy's professional prayers were answered when he was tapped as a cast member for the second season of VH-1's "The Surreal Life" (2003-06), where he roomed with such one-time illuminati as former "CHiPs" hunk Eric Estrada and 1990s rap sensation, Vanilla Ice. Maintaining a disciplined balance between his mainstream near-obscurity and his hardcore celebrity, Jeremy stayed abreast with the porn industry in a number of adult-themed projects through the new millennium. In 2006, Jeremy made the "Adult Associate," a tongue-in-cheek spoof of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ) in which female contestants vied for the dubious prize of becoming Jeremy's own "extra up-close-and personal assistant" for a year. The following year, he published his memoirs, Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz (2007), and appeared as himself in the horror comedy about an adult film crew terrorized by a "One-Eyed Monster" (2008). Jeremy next appeared in the straight-to-DVD caveman comedy "Homo Erectus" (2008) and had a brief role alongside other porn stars in "Crank: High Voltage" (2009), starring Jason Stratham. As he continued his regular gig as the official spokesman of HotMovies.com, a pay-per-minute pornographic website, Jeremy suffered a sudden illness on Jan. 29, 2013. Doctors diagnosed an aneurysm near his heart and listed him in critical condition.
By Phil Kim
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