How Ron Jeremy became the greatest porn star ever
Ron Jeremy (whose real name is Ronald Jeremy Hyatt, and who incidentally, was in the same high school graduating class as former FBI Director George Tenet) was hospitalized this week with a heart aneurysm, and Amanda Hess of Slate has an article on how Ron became synonymous with American pornography:
Legendary porn star Ron Jeremy was hospitalized this week to treat an aneurysm near his heart. The medical emergency triggered an outpouring of concern for Jeremy—he’s currently recovering from surgery with the assistance of a respirator—and renewed public fascination in his unlikely career. How has this short, fat, hairy, bowling-shirted, pinky-ringed Jewish man from Queens managed to troll our sexual subconscious for so many years?
It’s tempting to attribute it to sheer force of will. While most of his aging male peers have retired, transitioned to directing, or died, Jeremy is still hawking penis pills, bottling ironic self-branded rum, and making the reality television show rounds. But Jeremy’s success actually says more about us than it does him: For three decades, he’s kept pace with porn’s evolving conception of masculinity, reflecting how we feel about a man performing sex—and a woman watching him.
Ron Jeremy did not always look like this. When he first entered the porn business, after stints as a special ed teacher and a struggling mainstream actor, he resembled something approximating the 1970s masculine ideal—hirsute and physically fit, with a Selleckian mustache and a sizable penis. In 1978, Playgirl found his nude photographs fit to print. From there, he served as a character actor in the pornographic films of the time, which really were films. Modeled after Hollywood features, they were released publicly in movie theaters and targeted a wide national audience, from suburban couples to bohemian sexual revolutionaries. These films were overwhelmingly male-oriented—1972’s Deep Throat was about a woman who could only orgasm through the penile stimulation of her clitoris, which was located in her throat—but in trying to fit in with the era’s women’s lib/sexual revolution, they required reasonably attractive male performers to ape the style of their Hollywood counterparts. Modern-day female performer Chanel Preston once described the look to me as ‘The Brawny Paper Towel Man’—pretty fine for a lumberjack.
By the way, Mr. Jeremy had heart surgery soon after his hospitalization, and while he was in critical condition at one point, the latest reports are that he will remain hospitalized for a couple of weeks so doctors can monitor his recovery.
Let’s all wish The Hedgehog a speedy recovery.