March 20, 2013 08:57pm
Harry Reems Dead at 65
Source: Cinema Seen
by: William Margold
Cinema Seen by William Margold
Outside, the second Sunday evening in February 1986 was miserably cold, and even somewhat damp.
However, I was comfortably snug in my apartment on DeLongpre Ave. with my massive black-and-white cat, Hardcore, purring peacefully in my lap watching "Amazing Tales" on NBC, when the phone rang, and an unrecognizable female voice said, in a rather abrasive tone, "Harry Reems is laying in the gutter outside of the Liquor Locker on Sunset Blvd."
While still trying to pay attention to the TV show, I was, at first, seriously tempted to respond, "So?"
But then, my expected reaction, based on realizing that the lady knew damn well that I, as the already accepted (although I had only been in X for 15 years) patriarch of the Family of X, would rise to the occasion, was, "Ok! I’ll go and get him."
Bundling up so that I could brave the unfriendly elements, I trudged north up the very challenging Sweetzer Ave. hill to Sunset Blvd. And headed east. I squinted toward my destination in the face of a miserable drizzle that was playing havoc with my glasses, and from well over two blocks away I was truly shocked because damned if there wasn’t a twisted body "laying in the gutter in front of the Liquor Locker."
I had never really met Harry Reems up to that point, but I most certainly knew of his lusty legend, and of his star studded rise, his tragic victimization at the hands of a cockeyed Southern judiciary system, his being toyed with by the powers of Paramount Studios, who had dangled the role of the Coach in "Grease" in front of him like a grotesque carrot — only to yank it away when scandalous shove came to potential bad publicity push — and his eventual alcoholic fall.
So I picked Harry up, and I essentially carried him home and deposited him on my couch where Hardcore immediately took up the position next to someone whom she sensed was in dire need of aid.
The rest of the story is not particularly cuddly… but Harry did survive.
And when he called again in 1988, and I rode off to his rescue in my legendary Bearmobile, and spent a day watching him inhale Vodka and expend tears in seemingly equal amounts… well, that story isn’t particularly cuddly either.
But what is perversely cuddly, and remarkably thought provoking as well as inevitably heartbreaking is the play that a gregarious gentleman named David Bertolino has richly written, and has very proudly produced.
It’s called The Deep Throat Sex Scandal (www.deepthroattheplay.com)… and it’s currently enlightening, entertaining, emotionally engulfing, and even educating audiences at the Zephyr Theater (7456 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood).
With remarkable insight and compelling care, Bertolino, and his devilishly deft director Jerry Douglas, ignite the audiences’ guiltiest pleasures by offering the amusing making, and then the sly marketing of Deep Throat in 1972, with very little left to the imagination during Act One.
But then, in Act Two, they slam the audiences’ sensibilities, by presenting the inquisition-like legal machinations of what Harry Reems, the film’s male star, was subjected to during a trial in Memphis, Tennessee, the ramifications of which could have potentially catapulted Freedom of Speech all the way back to the Stone Age.
I have had the great fortune to be aware of Bertolino’s homage to the era when XXX became "Porno Chic" since it was a fevered figment in his mind. And during its many moldings, I was extremely honored to be kept in his mind as getting to "guest star" as the Judge during the first week of its run in Southern California.
(And for the record, I did quell my nerves sufficiently for four performances, delivered my lines with the requisite venom, and in the process gained the highest admiration for the remarkable actors and actresses who generously tolerated my presence.)
Of course the play would have no empathetic basis at all, if it weren’t for the sterling/soulful nuances of Marc Ginsburg who brings more humanity to his performance of Harry Reems than perhaps even Harry himself could muster.
And in the role of Linda Lovelace, a lovely Natasha Charles Parker manages to make the iconic image of a nations’ passion for the perverse worthy of both masturbatory moments and heartfelt hugs.
In an inspired bit of casting procedure, Bertolino reached out to adult industry legends Veronica Hart and Herschel Savage, and they bring richness to their roles, with Hart being genuinely touching as Linda’s costar, and perhaps only friend. Savage is particularly enjoyable, and he displays demanding dimensional depth as "Deep Throat’s" delightful director Gerry Damiano.
Many other actors illuminate the production with Frank Blocker’s salaciously scene stealing serving up of prosecutor Larry Parrish’s final/frothy "oral" argument, Michael Rachlis’ just happy to be there stud Tim, Alec Tomkiw’s Chuck Traynor (Lovelace’s leering Lord and menacing Master), and Bart Tangredi’s supremely Soprano-esque rendering of Vito (the embodiment of the mobster element that realized that XXX could be transformed into $$$), all combining to help make the Deep Throat Sex Scandal something that must be seen… even though you might not admit to having seen it… later!
Because, as I’ve always said, "We live in a society that gets off to us with its left hand… and then denies us with its right."