Skip to main content

'Two inches," quips Ron Jeremy, cradling a diet Coke. "From the floor."

He's answering the obvious question about the dimension of his priapic appendage, an organ that has earned him -- and it -- iconic status in the wonderful, wide world of porn.

And rightly so. Because in fact (let's get the number out of the way), Jeremy rises to most amorous occasions at an eye-popping nine and three-quarter inches.

Quite the apparatus. Indeed, in a film career that now spans almost 25 years, Jeremy's prodigious assets have been featured in more than 1,700 porn flicks and been serviced, in one fashion or another, by between 4,000 and 5,000 women. In his very first outing ( Tigresses and Other Man Eaters, with Samantha Fox), only the instrument appeared. "I spent an hour in makeup. They never once shot my face. I was so pissed." He earned $150 for the performance.

"[The late]Wilt Chamberlain claimed he'd slept with 20,000 women," says Jeremy, casually garbed as always in track pants and a T-shirt printed repeatedly with the words "porn is good." "Absolutely impossible. No way. Me and Gene Simmons [from Kiss]are more honest. Four to five thousand." Among his favourite sexual partners: porn stars Tabitha Stevens ("She's virginal, no matter how many times she's messed around, and anatomically small") and Christie Canyon ("I like natural double-Ds"). But like most guys, he says, he always wants the one he hasn't had.

A month shy of his 49th birthday, packing 225 serious pounds onto his mesomorphic frame, the good Jewish boy turned special-education teacher (he has a master's degree) from Queens, N.Y. is a millionaire idolized by two generations of testosterone-driven young males. And not just the younger demographic: Dozens of celebrities, including Sting, Mandy Patinkin and James Taylor, have wanted their photos taken with the most celebrated name in porn.

That, at least, is the implicit message of Porn Star, the Legend of Ron Jeremy, director Scott J. Gill's 79-minute documentary of his life (opening today at Toronto's Royal Cinema).

Jeremy's in Toronto to promote it, running the standard gauntlet of print, radio and TV interviews, including an appearance on Mike Bullard's late-night talk show (where he was cheekily paired with Conservative leader Joe Clark).

In conversation, as in other aspects of his profession, Jeremy's a natural, a fast-talking comic who bathes contentedly in the constant light of attention, delighted to appear at porn conventions and strip clubs and sign his name to breasts, buttocks and other parts of the anatomy. Affectionately known as The Hedgehog, because of his hairy back, he's won his following in part because of his ordinariness. He's gained weight, lost hair, dresses like a vagabond. "If a fat zhlub like me can get laid," he reasons, "so can anyone."

In a perfect world, Jeremy would be a serious actor in mainstream films. That's where his heart is. And he's actually been cast in 55 such movies, seven HBO specials, and 11 music videos (including his own rap song, which made the Billboard charts). He served as a consultant on Boogie Nights and 9½ Weeks. "I'm more proud of that stuff, yeah. Cuz look at the competition I had to fight to get it. To get into porn, I had to fight maybe 10 guys -- you know, be larger than average, be well endowed, and get a good erection in front of the camera. But you act like a hill of beans. To get into mainstream films, you have to go through screen tests, you have to audition, you have to beat a thousand people who want that same job."

His career in porn was in part an accident; an old girlfriend sent his nude photograph to Playgirl magazine in the late 1970s. At the time, Jeremy was a struggling actor in New York. He assumed the editors would call to arrange a photo shoot. Instead, they published the photograph, a right angle of Jeremy, horizontal, and the essential part of him vertical. The phone scarcely stopped ringing, with calls from both women and men. One was from a porn producer. The rest is videotape.

Of his career in porn, his parents -- a third-generation American family, all doctors, lawyers and academics -- were largely understanding. "If you want to get into this crazy business, fine," his father told him. "Just never use the family name [Hyatt]" Jeremy is his middle name.

During the 1980s, when Reaganite conservatives in America were trying to shutter the industry -- it was not illegal to distribute or watch porn films, just to make them -- government lawyers offered Jeremy a deal: Get out of the business and we won't prosecute.

But his brother Larry, who had always wanted him to get out of the business, said, " 'Don't ever quit for that reason. Quit because you want to, not because the government tells you to.' And that support gave me the power to tell the lawyers to go f--- themselves."

For the past two years, he's had an open relationship with his girlfriend Natalie, meaning that neither objects if the other sleeps with other people. "We're R and R," explains Jeremy, "roommates with romance. I'd prefer she slept with another guy than she went for dinner with one. I've always believed that you can be emotionally monogamous, but not necessarily genitalia-monogamous."

Though size definitely matters, what has made Jeremy a star in the genre is not simply length and girth. As the documentary recounts, Jeremy is also considered the industry's leading practitioner of cunnilingus, can produce and hold an erection virtually on cue, and has developed a unique ability to time his ejaculation, the so-called money shot, to the second, counting down from 10 like the launch of a space rocket at Cape Canaveral. In contemporary America, from such talent does celebrity, as it were, spring.