Ron Jeremy has a big penis. “How big?” you ask. The answer he likes to give is “Two inches ... from the floor!” (He credits this line to Milton Berle, who was also known for his generous endowment.) In fact, Jeremy measures the length of his penis at nine and three-quarter inches, significantly smaller than that of the porn star John Holmes, but nevertheless his greatest asset. For its size and his endurance and control of it, Ron Jeremy’s phallus has made him what one trade magazine called the “top porn star of all time”; he has performed in more than 1,700 porn films with over 4,000 partners. “Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz,” written with Eric Spitznagel, is an X-rated “Candide” that recounts the journey of a lad with ambitions as large as his genitals from a childhood in Queens to bawdy adventures in the sex industry to a rather melancholy epilogue in which the woman he loves breaks up with him because he won’t forsake his swinging life for monogamy.
The book makes the case that its author is more than a mere sex machine. Educated at Queens College, he studied Stanislavsky and Brecht. He describes himself as a nice Jewish boy who never smoked, hardly drinks and loves his parents. “My youth was almost unreasonably happy,” he writes, “like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.” He was the class clown and a beloved hotel waiter during summers at a Catskills resort; he was kind to his dying mother and is a “big softy” when it comes to stray animals in need. One of his most endearing qualities is that he knows he is not a handsome demigod. “I got older and fatter and my already hirsute body sprouted hair like a Chia Pet. ... I was short and chunky and undeniably furry” — all of which earned him an industry nickname, the Hedgehog. Except for his member, he has the looks of Joe Average, which perhaps helps male viewers of his movies better identify with his on-screen exploits.
Like the films of the directors Ed Wood and Russ Meyer, much of Ron Jeremy’s work has an in-your-face amateurishness and is energized by fanatical enthusiasm reminiscent of Art Brut. In one day before noon, he shoots a picture called “Put It in Reverse, Part 3,” where his job is to have sex with 14 different women in a row. “Am I a lucky bastard or what?” he asks the reader. He directs one called “Space Vixens,” in which astronauts land on what they think is another planet. But when they stumble across a group of cave women, they realize they have gone back in time on Earth. “It was exactly as hilarious and corny as it sounds,” he writes. “There were some truly spectacular astronaut/cave-woman sex scenes. Really, what more could you ask for?”
Interspersed with tableaus from Jeremy’s picaresque life are such self-help sidebars as “Sexual Hygiene” (avoiding S.T.D.’s), “The Grip” (erection advice) and “Self-Fellatio 101.” He lists his favorite movie titles, including “Innocent Bi-Standers,” “Oral Majority” and “For Your Thighs Only.” Like memos stuck all over a refrigerator, his memoir is scattered and colorful and, all told, a revealing collage. Even if you start reading with a sneer on your face, you may conclude that Ron Jeremy is a likable guy. It’s disarming to meet a porn star whose great joy in life is spooning on the couch with Fetus, the partly blind, hairless pet rat he adores.
Like most one-shot autobiographers, Jeremy is a name-dropper, even if most of the names don’t belong to A-list notables. Tammy Faye Messner (the former Tammy Faye Bakker) ran away from his naked pool party, but subsequently became a good friend. He has palled around with Joey Buttafuoco and directed John Wayne Bobbitt in his porn-film debut. He almost persuaded the Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss, to appear in a porn film, but it didn’t happen because Fleiss decided the movie would not help her image in her court case.
Jeremy’s story made us think of another man with an illustrious penis. In the mid-20th century, the playboy Porfirio Rubirosa married the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo’s daughter, the French actresses Danielle Darrieux and Odile Rodin, and Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton (two of the world’s richest women). His oversize member inspired Parisian waiters to name gigantic pepper mills “Rubirosas,” and he is said to have bedded hundreds of famous actresses and socialites. Rubi played polo, competed in Formula One races, and clubbed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Aly Khan and King Farouk. Ron Jeremy’s anatomy led him on an entirely different path, to a world where it was a great social coup to sneak into the radio studio of the old “Howard Stern Show” to make a porn movie with Crazy Cabbie, one of the show’s regular miscreants. The contrast between Rubi and the Hedgehog tells us that even if size does matter, how you use what you’ve got matters more.