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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- June 21, 1976
- Vol. 5
- No. 24
Harry Reems, King of the Porno Actors, Finds Himself in Deep Throes
Yet a federal jury in Memphis, Tenn. ("The buckle of the Bible Belt," Reems says) recently took only 15 minutes to convict him of conspiracy for his role as the doctor in Deep Throat, the most celebrated dirty movie of all time. It has grossed about $25 million, yet Reems got only $100 for his on-camera heroics. The conviction could bring him up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Reems's prosecution was facilitated by a 1973 Supreme Court ruling that gives lower courts the power to apply "contemporary community standards" in judging obscenity. However, when Deep Throat was produced in 1972, it was necessary only for the film to have socially redeeming features to be legally acceptable. "The conviction is an outrage," says Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of criminal law at Harvard, who will handle Reems's appeal. "Here is an actor who works on a film when the type of work he was doing was constitutionally protected. One year later the Supreme Court changes its ruling and the actor is charged with a crime."
The case already has cost Reems at least $125,000. And this fall he will go on trial a second time in Memphis for his role in another porn blockbuster, The Devil in Miss Jones.
Reems and his lawyers give reluctant credit to the work of the Memphis prosecutor, U.S. attorney Larry Parrish, an elder in the First Evangelical Church of Christ. "He's bright, it's too bad he's such a zealot," says Reems. The 33-year-old Parrish, who has gained a national reputation as the bogeyman of porno, will try a dozen obscenity cases this year. "The laws have been on the books for years," he says, "and, though some like to argue differently, they have not changed."
Whatever the outcome of his case, Reems would like to move back into serious theatrical work. "I have been labeled by my appearance in these films," says Reems. "Now I have to show I have a mind and integrity."
Reems was born in New York, the youngest of three children. He went to the University of Pittsburgh for a year. After a hitch in the Marine Corps, Reems studied theater in New York, then dabbled in B-grade movies before finally making it in the pornos. He lives in Manhattan, with a puppy named Parsley, in a bachelor apartment stocked with antique furniture and toys. He has never been married and says he doesn't even have a girlfriend at the moment.
"I've always been pretty much a free spirit," he says. "When the guilty verdict was announced, I was stunned. I couldn't speak for three days. The whole thing has come close to destroying me—in my head and in my heart. Right now I'm just trying to keep a smile on my face."
September 24, 2016
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