Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy

2001, NR, 79 min. Directed by Scott J. Gill.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 25, 2002

Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy

“Who are these people?” is probably the second most-asked question when it comes to porn, right after “Why do all the guys look like either Paulie Walnuts or Big Pussy from The Sopranos?” It's true, though. The rank and file of American adult film stars consists of overweight, balding, and too-often downright creepy individuals who appear more likely to startle you in a dark alley than to get it on with a roving band of wayward Catholic school girls. At the top of that hedonistic heap is the “legendary” Ron Jeremy, a chubby, 48-year-old ex-schoolteacher from Queens who's been, uh, pounding out stuttery adult loops for going on 20 years and shows zero signs of slowing down despite his increasing girth and a hirsuteness that borders on the simian. Dubbed the “Hedgehog” by co-worker William Margold, Jeremy has performed in more than 7,000 porn films dating back to the mid Seventies, when blue movies actually had plots and dialogue, as opposed to today's less demanding work, which more often than not consists of little more than a quickie caught on digital video. What's interesting about Jeremy -- and what makes this 80-minute documentary (which screened last year at South by Southwest) so eminently watchable -- is that the man comes across as less of a porno prima donna than an oversexed version of some Borscht-Belt comic, part Henny Youngman, part Lenny Bruce. Jeremy wears both his thick Queens accent and his stereotypical Jewishness even when he's wearing nothing else, and his penchant for low-brow yuks and equally legendary parsimony (the wealthiest male actor in the business, he still flies coach everywhere and often dines on the cheap) make him a double aberration in a society consumed by the future. Porn, let's not forget, is a multi-billion-dollar industry that has in the recent past driven both the home-video revolution and now the Internet. Fueled by a debased epicurean desire for unrelenting pleasure -- Jeremy's less-than-flattering profile comes from his overriding fondness for gastronomic excess -- the former Ron Jeremy Hyatt is a comical dervish, at once eager to discuss the already much-remarked-upon size of his equipment with anyone foolish enough to ask (“How big is it? Two inches … from the floor!”) and simultaneously driven by a desire to break into the world of “real” filmmaking. As Gill and his crew follow the porcine actor on his rounds, from film sets to conventions to the countless airport concourses in between, various friends and co-conspirators chime in with fond memories and Hedgehogian anecdotes, few of which can be printed here. Screw magazine editor Al Goldstein, Hustler magnate Larry Flynt, porn babe Jenna Jameson, and even Grandpa Munster himself, Al Lewis, pop up in cameo appearances, while Jeremy wanders throughout the proceedings with a goofy grin plastered below his Seventies-era French tickler mustache. In the midst of the film's brazen deconstruction of the Myth of the Hedgehog are a few genuinely affecting moments. Jeremy at one point confesses to no small amount of self-loathing as well as the desire to be taken seriously as an actor (he served as a consultant on Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights and has had numerous cameo appearances in non-porn productions), though a brief interview with the performer's father, who seems not at all fazed by his son's choice of professions, is more odd than touching. It's a bizarre, informative, and, above all, comical take on one of the most recognizable and enduring performers in show business, and one who, so far, doesn't need to rely on Viagra to fill the bill. Only in America, folks.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, Scott J. Gill

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