Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Harry Reems relaxes in his Park City home. Reems, a recovering alcoholic, says he wants to let alcoholics know they can change.

PARK CITY — The one thing Harry Reems hasn't changed from his seedy past is his stage name.

Most people who meet the white-haired Reems probably don't know he starred in the controversial X-rated movie "Deep Throat" nearly 35 years ago. They don't know he made hundreds of adult films spanning three decades. They don't know he nearly drank himself to death.

And that's fine with him. He's not that way anymore.

"The only thing I had to change about myself was everything," says Reems, 59.

Getting sober, finding God and marrying a good woman are the highlights of his transformation from a hard-living porn star to a mild-mannered real estate agent.

"Living the public life I had lived was my downfall," he said. "I'm a private person now."

In his heyday, Reems had black hair, a black mustache and tight abs. He hobnobbed with movie stars and partied in the Caribbean. That has given way to white hair, a clean-shaven face, the hint of a belly and quiet nights at home with his wife.

Reems was the first actor ever prosecuted for his work, due to his appearance in "Deep Throat," which co-starred Linda Lovelace. The federal government in 1976 indicted him on charges of conspiracy to distribute obscenity across state lines. He was convicted, but the conviction was overturned on appeal a year later. During that time, alcohol became his escape.

Reems made it clear during an interview in his Park City home, with its Currier & Ives view of a red barn in a snow-covered field, that he didn't want to talk about his days in what he calls a "nefarious industry." The only reason he said he agreed to an interview was to let alcoholics know that they can change.

"I literally should be dead. I know a lot of people who drank a lot less than me, and they are dead," he said. "God has left me on this Earth for a reason, and I think it's to save lives."

Reems once spent 32 days in a New York hospital, including 16 days in the intensive care unit, for internal bleeding, ulcers and cirrhosis. During his stay, he collected quarters from visitors for "telephone calls." On his discharge day, he bought a bottle of vodka with the money. Eight days later he woke up 3,000 miles away in his own vomit at the Los Angeles County jail.

He remembers thinking, "I put a gun to my head or get better."

Reems bottomed out after making his last movie in 1985. At his low point, he drank a half gallon of vodka a day, leaving his Malibu home only to buy more vodka.

Reems first visited Park City in the '70s with friends to learn to ski. He came back every winter after that.

"I fell in love with the community. I knew someday I was going to live here. I didn't know it was going to be in a drunken stupor," he said.

Reems said he woke up in town one day in 1987. "I have no idea how I got here," he said.

He does recall being a public menace over the next two years, urinating in the streets, fighting and breaking into houses. He also entered a 12-step alcohol recovery program. The police picked him up on the way to a meeting one day. While driving him to the Summit County Jail, a police sergeant told Reems he had no idea how useful he could be, that he could save lives if he gave up drinking and drugs.

"That was the first time anyone had ever said I have value," Reems said.

Along with sobriety, Reems found God. An atheist who thought of religion as a crutch, he soon became a trustee in the local Methodist church. "I put God in first position, not me, because anything I had ever done almost killed me."

With his newfound sobriety and spirituality, Reems was ready to take the next step in his transformation.

He briefly met Jeanne Sterret in 1982 but couldn't get her out of his mind. He didn't see her again until seven years later, when she attended an alcohol recovery meeting in support of a friend.

Reems struck up a conversation with her and proposed within five minutes. She declined, and he settled for a date. They married in November 1990 in a red church on Park Avenue.

Though he has distanced himself from his porn movie days, he isn't ashamed of his past profession. "I have no regrets about my film career," he said.

Reems said he wouldn't be the person he is today without his past.

And so the Bronx native, born Herbert Streicher, retains his stage name.

"I didn't want people to have the perception that I was denying who I was," he said.

Not only can he live with the past, he's content with the present.

"I can live inside my skin today. I love myself. Because I can love myself, I can love others."


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