Harry Reems RIP

by 13 comments
Harry Reems, actor and real estate broker, passed away today at 2 PM Mountain Standard Time in the Hospice suite at the Sale Lake City V.A. Hospital. He is survived by his wife Jeannie, and a brother whose name I do not know.

This happened about an hour and a half ago, and story has not yet hit the news media.

My wife and I had been visiting him at the hospital every afternoon. This time we called his wife before heading down the hill to Salt Lake City, and she informed us had passed.

I met Harry some 20 years ago, long after he had left the adult film industry - an industry that almost destroyed him. Over the years my wife and I have become close friends with Harry and his wife, and began to spend time on the phone with them several times a month, ski with them every winter, and go visit during the summer.

Harry, whose given name was Herbert Streicher, was thrust into infamy in 1972 when he stared in "Deep Throat," the first adult film made for wide screen, but because he was a union actor with a Screen Actors Guild card, the film's producers had to create a new name for him.

The funny thing is Harry was not even supposed to be in the film. He was hired to handle the lighting. Writer/Director Gerard Damiano ran into a casting issue when the fellow hired to play the lead part didn't show up. Harry was thrust into the job, for which he was paid only $250.

Damiano came up with the name Harry Reems. At first Herbert (Harry) really disliked the name, but in time, as the name became famous, he adopted the name, and continued to use it for the next 40 years - long after he left the adult film industry.

Harry's father (who passed away at age 47) had been a bookie for the New York mob, and the film was financed by the organized crime-mob's money.

Harry is the only actor ever tried and convicted of pandering obscenities for being in a film. The conviction was overturned on appeal, but the damage to any possible career for Harry in "legit" films was done.

Eventually Harry became an active alcoholic. Although he was clean and sober by the time I met him, he told me the lowest point in his life came when he was homeless, because of his addictions, and had to panhandle on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood just to survive. There he was, a one-time famous actor, now on skid row.

He left the film industry in the mid 1980s because, between his reputation, and his active alcoholism, he could no longer find work. For a new career, Harry became a salesman for a time-share company, selling condos in Jamaica. Eventually he moved to Park City, Utah, a town he loved, and became a RealtorĀ®. He earned a full broker's license, and was a certified investment RealtorĀ®.

In July 1989 he took his last drink, became sober, and hasn't had a drink since. He also became active in Park City's 12-step recovery community, and Harry found God. Several times I have heard him refer to himself as "born again," although he never was obnoxious about it or tried to convert the World.

A year or so after becoming sober, he had his first date with Jeannie, and he proposed marriage to her on their first date. She laughed, and told him if she was still dating him in a year, she might consider it. They eloped 4 months later, and have been totally devoted to each other for 22 years. He idolized her, and she him. It was the first marriage for each.

A few years ago Harry's health began to deteriorate due to peripheral neuropathy and emphysema, forcing him to retired from real estate. This past summer he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which the doctors discovered during a routine test for something else, and Harry went through months of chemo and radiation treatments.

On March 5th, Harry entered the VA Hospital due to jaundice. His liver was failing. Next his kidneys began to fail as his body started to shut down. My wife and I have been driving from Park City down to the Salt Lake City VA Hospital to visit with Harry and Jeannie every afternoon.

Harry slipped into a coma 4 days ago, and passed this afternoon.

Harry went from living a bizarre lifestyle, though a 180 degree almost miraculous change to find a Higher Power he called God, and become a truly nice guy who cared for others, and helped a lot of people in Park City, UT.

Here is what wikipedia has to say... Harry Reems - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Don
#off topic
  • Profile picture of the author thunderbird
    Thank you for sharing this. Fascinating story. It shows that one can turn one's life around and does not have to be forever shackled by ugly definitions of oneself, whether created by others or by one's own misperceptions or misguided mistakes. Just confirming -- you wrote this, Don?
  • Profile picture of the author Don Schenk
    Yes. This afternoon right after I had learned Harry had passed, I wrote this and put it here. I skied until about 2:15 at Deer Valley in Park City- one of the ski areas here, and as we were leaving Deer Valley, I gave a phone call to Harry's wife to tell her what time my wife and I would be at the hospital. Jeannie said that Harry had passed 15 minutes earlier. Harry was an inspiration because of the changes he made in his life, and because of the help he gave to hundreds of others to make changes in their lives.

    :-Don
    • Profile picture of the author thunderbird
      Originally Posted by Don Schenk View Post

      Yes. This afternoon right after I had learned Harry had passed, I wrote this and put it here. I skied until about 2:15 at Deer Valley in Park City- one of the ski areas here, and as we were leaving Deer Valley, I gave a phone call to Harry's wife to tell her what time my wife and I would be at the hospital. Jeannie said that Harry had passed 15 minutes earlier. Harry was an inspiration because of the changes he made in his life, and because of the help he gave to hundreds of others to make changes in their lives.

      :-Don
      My condolences.
  • Profile picture of the author jacktackett
    Sorry for your loss,Don.
  • Profile picture of the author HeySal
    What a wonderful piece you've written here, Don. You should consider sending a copy to his relatives if he has surviving family - histories from friends can be cherished memorabilia for future generations, who get to see more than stark facts about their ancestors.

    My sincere condolences to you, and his family.
    • Profile picture of the author Don Schenk
      Originally Posted by HeySal View Post

      What a wonderful piece you've written here, Don. You should consider sending a copy to his relatives if he has surviving family - histories from friends can be cherished memorabilia for future generations, who get to see more than stark facts about their ancestors.

      My sincere condolences to you, and his family.
      Thanks Sal,

      His wife (widow - wow that seems weird to write) just called us this morning, and was asking about how to get an obituary written. I read this article to her. She has a couple appointments near our home here in Park City, and is coming to our place so together we choose what parts of this post to put in the news media, and to fill-in any missing details - like the fact that Harry served in the US Marine Corp.

      Don
  • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
    This was on BBC news, it even mentions your name.

    BBC News - Deep Throat porn actor Harry Reems dies aged 65

    Did you do an interview or did the author embellish?
  • Profile picture of the author Don Schenk
    I received a phone call from a reporter at Associated Press. She had read they WF article, and wanted more information. She also had the phone number to reach Jeannie Reems. Later that afternoon, I then spoke with Jeannie who had a conversation with the same reporter from the AP to verify the info.

    :-Don
  • Profile picture of the author Richard II
    Thanks for sharing and my condolences to you and his family.
  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    I am sorry for the loss of your friend and appreciate seeing the other side
    to his life. Dan
    • Profile picture of the author Don Schenk
      Originally Posted by bizgrower View Post

      I am sorry for the loss of your friend and appreciate seeing the other side
      to his life. Dan
      Yes, it is the other side of his life, what he had become, that is important. He considered himself a survivor from the adult film industry.

      He would never talk about the salacious stuff.

      One time I asked Harry why he kept the Harry Reems moniker rather than going back to his given name, and he said it was about integrity. If he used his given name, there would always be some people finding out about his past, and it would look as if he was trying to hide. He didn't try to hide the past, because what he had been in the past was no longer what he had become.

      :-Don
  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    Don,

    Very interesting action of integrity. I like that.

    I've read that Stallone did a porno when he was a struggling actor - before
    Rocky. Probably one of the things that motivated him to create Rocky. I recall
    him saying in an interview that he had to do something substantial to make it as an actor and get out of dire straits - hence Rocky.

    Traci Lords is another turn around story as well.

    Dan
  • Profile picture of the author Jacqueline Smith
    I'm sorry for your loss Don.

    What a great friend you were to visit everyday and to write such a detailed and inspiring post about him.

    It sounds like a great friendship you will always have to treasure.

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