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In Praise of Adult Film Celebrity

'Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy' celebrates the actor without venturing too deeply into the complexities of his life.

November 30, 2001|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Well into "Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy," its subject acknowledges the secret of his success: Jeremy is a pudgy middle-aged man with whom millions of men can easily identify. He also possesses an awe-inspiring sexual stamina--for one of his 1,600 videos, he once had sex with 14 women in four hours.

In short, the reason for his success is not all that mysterious but rather the result of combinations of proven ingredients. Add this to Jeremy's tireless self-promotion, and it's understandable why he's an icon of sorts to some men.

This 75-minute documentary is accurately titled, for its maker Scott J. Gill means to celebrate Jeremy and accentuate the positive and not peek too deeply into the darker side of his life that crops up around the edges; indeed, it's not inaccurate to call "Porn Star" a puff piece.

So intent is Gill on presenting Jeremy as a virtually flawless human being that he may be doing him a disservice; the enthusiasm of many co-stars and young men who say he's their hero seems a bit prompted. The most credible of his co-stars, who describes herself as his friend, says she'd rather have sex with him on screen than with "some arrogant bodybuilder"; only a few porn actresses say that he's too unattractive to work with. The shrewd, witty, affectionately put-down remarks by a friend, porn publisher Al Goldstein, seem much more revealing and on the mark.

Jeremy was born Ronald Jeremy Hyatt in 1953 and grew up in Queens, the son of a now-retired physicist who is a clearly loving and accepting father and who, once Ron got into porn, asked only that he not use the family name. Jeremy' s older sister is equally loyal and loving. Jeremy has a master's degree in special education but after two years of teaching was too depressed to continue and decided to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.

When a girlfriend submitted a provocative nude shot of him to Playgirl--Jeremy had a sturdy, trim build in his younger days--it led to an offer to make porn movies. He accepted, fed up with struggling to survive as an actor. He never looked back, but now as he ages, he yearns to make it into the mainstream and has in fact appeared in more than 40 films in bit parts.

While Jeremy has a sense of humor and no shortage of self-confidence, he is not exactly Oscar material as an actor. Not surprisingly, Jeremy has experienced Hollywood hypocrisy in trying to get roles. (At the premiere of one movie, he was greeted as a bigger celebrity than the film's actual Gen-X stars.) On the whole, however, Gill leaves the viewer with the feeling that Jeremy's relationship with the Hollywood film industry may be more complex than he suggests.

There is a sense in the film that Jeremy is approaching a crossroads in his life and career. He can't hope to stay in porn indefinitely (nor can he continue putting on weight without endangering his health). A compulsive partygoer, he admits to loneliness and to his inability to sustain an off-screen relationship because of the nature of his work, which he promotes incessantly. While Gill does evoke a degree of uncertainty over Jeremy's future, "Porn Star" is not about to deter his fans from wishing they could live his life.

*

Unrated. Times guidelines: much graphic sexual language, some brief graphic sex scenes.

'Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy'

An Ignition Media and Maelstrom Entertainment presentation. Director-editor Scott J. Gill. Producers Kirt Eftekhar and Gill. Executive producer Tim Goldberg. Cinematographer Ralph King. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Exclusively at the Nuart through Thursday, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-6379.

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