DVDTalk Interview - Ron Jeremy
by Don Houston
Adult movies are watched by a growing number of consumers of all ages. The porn industry has been estimated as bringing in billions of dollars each year and it has been spreading into other forms of entertainment for a long time. The music industry frequently uses porn actresses in their music videos, cable shows look at the lives of porn stars, and even prime time, network television has begun using stars like Jenna Jameson in recurring roles. At the same time, a number of porn companies, Wicked Pictures, Simon Wolf, VCA, Digital Playground and others, have expanded into feature movies that are becoming more mainstream with higher production values, better scripts, and even, gasp, better acting.
As the lines between mainstream and porn blur at an ever increasing rate, a few names come to the forefront as so called "cross-over" artists. Unsurprisingly, most of the attention goes to the lovely women of porn since eye candy sells as it always has. More surprisingly, the most prolific cross-over artist has been the talented Ron Jeremy who's autobiographical dvd release, Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy, was released this week by a small company, Docurama. In the movie, Ron and friends detail a number of things about his career and the movie industry in general that act as both barriers to crossing over as well as promoting such success, if on a limited basis. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to interview the man and discuss a variety of topics ranging from the dvd in question, his views on the movie industry, and even the recent war with Iraq.
As an icebreaker, I thought I'd ask about your 50th birthday earlier this month. It was considered "The Event" by those in the entertainment industry. A good time was had by all and contrary to popular opinion, you didn't partake in any drug use. Any comments
Isn't it ridiculous? 50 years old. I don't do drugs, smoke, or drink heavily. My biggest vice is working out at the buffets instead of the gym which adds to my high blood pressure.
In the movie, your childhood tragedy was the passing of your Mom when you were young. Few people realize what she did during WWII, and in these times of war, it seems that a lot of people might find it interesting what she did. Comments?
I was annoyed that he [Director Scott J. Gill] left it as a credit in the film. She was an agent for the OSS, the precursor of the CIA. How many people can say their Mom was a Lt., flying all over the world as a decoder and cryptographer, and was shot at as a spy? My Dad did talk about it in deleted scene #1. Coincidentally, an article in the Queens Tribune, ran an article about famous graduates of Cordoza High School in Queens, NY, in which they discussed George Tennant, the current head of the CIA and myself. I was in all the school plays while he edited the year book and school newspaper. He went his way and boy I went mine. He has a lot of pressure on him these days, huh?
Do you keep in touch with your old friends? Maybe chat about old times?
I do a lot of charity work and I'm always running across people I had lost touch with. That's one of the benefits of being famous-everyone knows what happened to you. It's heartwarming to get reacquainted with people 20-30 years later who have gone their separate ways who get in touch with you through the internet or when you're on the road. If I had continued as a teacher, that wouldn't have happened.
Any new projects to talk about? Mainstream cameos? (Hopefully not cut roles this time.)
I have a cameo in a new movie this week, Spun. It has Mickey Rourke, Deborah
Harry, John Leguizamo, Brittany Murphy, and others. It's playing in art
houses this week because it's unrated. I have a lot of cameo roles but they
get cut a lot which is depressing. Sometimes, I get cut because of the porn
thing, other times, I get cut as an after thought like many others do when
the movies run long. In the movie, The Chase, Director Adam Rifkin was told
to cut me but he refused. I only had a couple of lines but I appreciate that
a lot. It seems to me that I was cut out of Ronin for that reason too.
The old ones don't care. Like New Line, in Detroit Rock City, Mike Delucca (who's now in Dreamworks), was happy I was in the movie and made it a point to keep me in the poster. When the people at United Artists, who saw that people applauded when I came on screen, told John Frankenheimer, who recently past away, to cut me out which he did. He kept me in the credits under Ron Hyatt just as he did in Reindeer Games. Time Magazine gave him some publicity for it in the miniseries George Wallace.
Do you get listed under your birth name (Ron Jeremy Hyatt) or your popular name (Ron Jeremy) when you make a cameo?
It depends on the filmmaker. I always want the Jeremy name to be in there but some times they cut that out of the credits. In Caged Fury, with Erik Estrada, they wanted Ron Hyatt. What I do find offensive, and as I get a little older I get even angrier, that when a studio that hasn't shown any moral attitude previously, all of a sudden has a problem with me (personally) will cut me out. Now I don't mind when I slow down a chase scene or if I'm not quite right for it but when they cut me because of who I am rather than whether I'm right for the role, I get angry. Like, I just saw Jackass The Movie and they have things I can't even show in a porn show. Like feces or going the bathroom-you can't show it at all; on the floor, on a sexual device, anywhere. There were three times, when in the movie Jackass, that you saw this kind of thing. A guy took a leak on a snow cone and then you see someone eating it. I can't do that in an adult movie but they can in a movie that's rated R. If I ever make a movie with Paramount, and some executive has a problem with me being in the movie, I'm gonna strangle him. Hypocrisy is something I have real problems with.
Do you worry that much about things you can't show (without opening the door to legal problems) in porn movies? You've directed over 250 movies. Do you think about things such as the Cambria List (a list put out by a lawyer of sex acts that invite prosecution)?
How'd you know about that? When the [Iraq] War ends, if terrorism ends, then they'll start focusing on us again.We have lobbyists in Washington who've kept us informed that we're next on the list of priorities when the current trouble is over. The government tried to use me to indict a guy in Tallahassee, Florida who later pled guilty to protect a number of people. The Republicans, now back in power, have always been the ones to cause us problems using the legal system, such as before Clinton. They'll look for places in the South as they know the major city's are tougher to prosecute us in. Interracial scenes, black men with white women in specific, are used in such Southern markets to get juries to convict (or at least indict). The movies I make are pretty tame and have white bread sex. I'm probably the last guy on Earth to be indicted these days. You'd think the FBI would use transsexual, gangbang, multiple partner or other extreme movies but they focused on interracial. I made a speech about it at one of the adult conferences that I thought it was disgusting for the FBI to do this. It has to do with Stereotypes and what's more racist than that?
Paul Cambria made this list of things that were more likely to get a company in trouble and interracial was something that porn had been doing for years. Just as the industry has pushed technological advances (VCR's, DVD, internet, etc.), it has also been helpful in pushing advances in race relations. Then along comes this lawyer who scares the company owners into taking 10 steps back.Vivid cut out their entire interracial line and that's totally disgusting. As sick as this is, if it weren't for 9/11, a lot of filmmakers would be in jail right now. Part of what the soldiers are fighting for is the freedom to choose and to keep this a free country. If you sell these movies in Iraq, you'd be killed. America is the land of freedom, and we don't need a "mother" to tell us what we can and can't buy. Some of the biggest sellers are titles like Black Dicks In White Chicks by companies like Red Light District-there's a big market for these titles and the government should mind it's own business.
Why make two versions of Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy?
The R rated version is for Blockbuster but I prefer the unrated version better. There's more nudity but it still isn't a porn movie. Most reviews have been very positive but all said it put a nice face on the industry.
Tell me more about what you've done outside of the porn industry.
I've made 14 music videos and starred in one that was pretty high on the Billboard charts. I travel a lot for public appearances whether signings, strip clubs, comedy clubs, or the Nudes A Poppin' show in Indiana. I wish the movie would've shown better bits of my comedy act but Scott must've wanted to let it fit the comments made in the interviews.
Speaking of comments by the interviewee's, both Larry Flynt and Al Goldstein suggested that you're gay. They then said they were kidding but it seemed less than funny the way they came across. Want to set the record straight (no pun intended)?
I'm not gay. I have nothing against gays and wish any of my gay fans the very best. Al's just upset that no one watched his documentary.
Okay, the length of Porn Star is just over 76 minutes in the unrated version. Scott Gill followed you around for a couple of years and must've had a ton of footage to choose from. While it's undeniable that the finished product was very good, why did he cut so many juicy segments that the two of you talked about in the commentary track? Not all of it could've been related to the copyright or financial reasons.
He's a big putz! I like him a lot and we got along really well but he's still a big putz. I was depressed about all the things we couldn't get the rights to. In the original release, we had segments with Eddie Murphy, Jerry Springer, Jay Leno, Samuel Jackson, and more but when it came time to get the rights to everything... It was a nightmare. Thank God we got Kid Rock, Gene Simmons, Don Johnson, Saturday Night Live's Jon Lovitz, MTV, and Rodney Dangerfield, but even getting those pieces was so tough. The individuals wouldn't be a problem but the agents screened us out, the companies made it financially impossible (gouging us with prices that were way out of line for the few seconds we requested).
So, can we look forward to seeing a double disc, Ultimate edition release in the future?
Here's a secret, you can take this to the bank, I'm not supposed to say it but you can put this right on the internet, but in the Australian version you can see a lot of things that you couldn't see here. There wasn't anything more sexual but you could see the Barbara Walters piece, the bit from the Weakest Link, Jay Leno, and footage from a music video. I had to go to people directly because Viacom, agents, and producers would keep us from getting the stuff we wanted.
If you could've changed anything about the documentary, what would you have done?
Scott did a great job and it became a critically acclaimed movie but he left out so much stuff that I really liked. He had the final edit rights and left out things we had the rights to. Almost all the Trey Parker stuff was chopped, the Bill Kinison stuff, Slash, this was stuff for free. People getting the VHS are going to miss out! I've done a lot of stuff since the interviews took place 3 or 4 years ago. A lot of major stuff.
Do you watch a lot of dvds? Any favorites?
I don't watch a lot of dvds since I'm so busy. I prefer watching ones with people I know in them. Anything by Rodger Avery such as Killing Zoe, and The Rules of Attraction, Odd Jobs, John Frankenheimer-he used me 6 times, Godfather, Quest For Fire, The Rope by Alfred Hitchcock.
Do you spend much time online? You mentioned www.ronjeremy-themovie.com and www.ronjeremy.com as ways to keep up with your current exploits.
I don't spend that much time online, even when I'm not so busy. I prefer hearing someone's voice over sending emails back and forth. If I want to send out something to a lot of people at once, the computer is great but I'd much rather keep that personal touch. I mean, if people want to talk to me, call and leave a message-I'll get back with you. I'm very old fashioned that way.
Any comments on the ladies of porn either from a director's standpoint or a male performer?
The prettier the girls are or the more money they make, the flakier they get. They'll cancel at the last minute, get lost on their way to a shoot and never show up, or otherwise act like a Prima Donna. This is especially true of the newer girls. The industry vets, like Nina Hartley, Tabitha Stevens, Shanna McCullough, Veronica Hart and others are always great to work with. It's getting worse too.
Are you still with Metro as a contract performer and director? I know they've had a lot of turnover in staff lately.
Yes, it's probably a good thing that they changed some things around. It will help keep it fresh and I think it's a smart move. I wore the Metro T-shirt all through the documentary. I'm great at promoting them.
How's your love life?
I'm still seeing someone romantically that I care about. I'd like to settle down someday and have kids but...
What do you think about the current war with Iraq?
Two things: If they don't find any weapons of mass destruction, I think someone should sue the government. That's the main reason why we went in. I'm not against the war, I come from a family of veterans, but I want to see something tangible in terms of WMD. The second thing is that we've been told that none of the money that Iraq makes from oil goes to the people. Well, look at the news reports where all those Iraqi's are trying to get food and water now that their military is absent. The poor people must've been getting some money from the oil or they wouldn't be around. I'm sure they weren't getting a fair share of it but that's not what we're being told, what we were told before all this, as a reason for going in. If we don't find any WMD, we're going to look like idiots to the rest of the world. Here's a fact that'll knock your socks off. Remember in 1994, when a poor little putz landed his small airplane on the lawn of the White House? It was a private plane and he landed not far from the oval office. The guy was a Pakistani and the date? It was 9/11/94. Check it out online for yourself. He probably was a terrorist but due to faulty equipment, he missed his mark and landed instead. Don't you think someone should check out what the religious significance of 9/11 is to these people? [I think they're aware that the significance of the numbers 911 is to most Americans-it's a Universal number to call for emergency services that would never be forgotten.]
Is there anything you'd like to say to your critics?
I see a constant slam on from the critics in terms of my pursuit of fame. Most actors had to struggle very hard to break through-Barbara Streisand, Tom Cruise, Michael J. Fox, and others-and no one mentions it to them. Axel Rose, most musicians, actors-all the same thing. I'd leave porn for mainstream if I could get enough work. I've had some real good shots but it just didn't work out. Jenna Jameson made a good move with her role on Mr. Sterling-it's been admitted that she increases their ratings. Advertising drives network television and the executives are being hypocritical when they pursue the profits of porn but only when they can distance themselves from any open involvement.
Look at the Meese Commission. None of it's members were experts in related fields but they got up there and tried their best to kill the porn industry. How many of them were later convicted of child molesting, stealing, or other crimes but had no problem sending a lot of good people to jail for crimes of questionable morality? And I'm not just ranting against people who don't like porn. I have a lot of respect for people like Jesse Helms and Jerry Falwell who probably hate my guts but they are exactly who they say they are and I don't think either of them have hidden skeletons in their closets. I believe in free speech for everyone, even my critics who I'd like to thank for all their comments, good and bad, over the years.
Thanks for the interview. I learned a lot and appreciate all your time. I know you're in great demand all over the place. I think most people with any interest in porn or pop culture would do well to check out your movie Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy since you really have established yourself as an icon.
I'm really happy with my life and that's one of the things I think the documentary could've made clearer. Thank you for your patience and I look forward to the interview on DVD Talk.