That Jewish Porn Star

Adult film legend Ron Jeremy on Jews in the porn industry, and what he likes--and doesn't like--about religion.

BY: Interview by Dena Ross

 


Watch a Clip of Ron Jeremy on "The Surreal Life Fame Games."

Ron Jeremy, 53, isn't exactly known as the most faithful Jew on the block. His fame comes from being the most legendary porn star in the adult film industry. He has starred in at least 1,750 porn films--a world record--and claims to have slept with more than 4,000 women. Jeremy says he's "fairly sure" of the existence of God, and that Jews are more accepting of sexual freedom than people of other faiths.

Two years ago Jeremy struck up an unlikely friendship with evangelist Tammy Faye Messner (Bakker), whom he met on the second season of VH1’s "Surreal Life." And recently he participated in a nationwide debate with the anti-porn ministry XXX Church.com in which he argued that porn and faith both have a place in the world. Currently touting his new memoir, "The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz," Jeremy recently spoke with Beliefnet about God's role in a major car accident he had while with comedian Sam Kinison, and why so many Christians are into porn.

Was your family very religious growing up?

No. We're all Jewish. [My family] comes from Russia and Poland, as most American Jews do. Out of all of us, only my grandmother was religious. My brother and I got bar mitzvahed, but we weren't that religious. And as my joke goes, in my documentary I said, "After getting bar mitzvahed, I hardly ever went to temple--unless I wanted some free coffee and Danish." I discovered that food tastes so much better when nobody's paying for it.

 

So you don't really practice your faith much today.

 

Not really. Once in a rare while I might go to a synagogue if there's something going on-- like a friend getting bar mitzvahed. But, as in the case of most of my Jewish friends, we're very, very proud to be Jewish. We feel the heritage, and we do enjoy some of the holidays, but we're not really that serious. I was a Reform Jew in the synagogue. We didn't wear yarmulkes or tallits, except during bar mitzvahs and during certain ceremonies.

 

Years ago you had a major car accident with your friend, comedian and actor Sam Kinison. And right before the accident you were talking about God and religion. Do you believe in God?

 

I think there might have been some amazing creator for a lot of things. I wish I could say I [believe in a creator] 100 percent, but I’m only fairly sure--only because I also talk to people who are really strong scientists, who find other reasons [for creation]. I think of [illusionist and comedian] Penn Jillette, who was describing this beautiful painting of the World Trade Towers, which had the sun and clouds shining on it beautifully. And you know what the caption reads? "Imagine a world without religion." I mean, you see all the bad things that religion has done.

 

[When I was in the accident with Kinison] we were discussing God, and I said, "I think I believe in him." And Sam, being a Pentecostal minister, he knew more about Judaism than I did. He'd studied all religions. And so then he swerves and goes over an embankment, slides upside down into a field, miraculously missing trees. Had we hit a tree, we probably would have been in serious trouble.

 

The car was upside down, so we crawled out of the windows. We might have been crushed to death. We picked glass off our faces and our bodies, and there was not one scratch, not an ounce of blood, nothing. And the first thing Sam says is, "Hey, Jeremy, you believe in God now?" 

 

I said to him, "You go to great lengths of prove a point, Sam." And later on that night, Carl LaBove, Sam’s opening act, and Bill Kinison (Sam's brother), said to me, "Sam wasn't the one proving the point." 

 

That’s some story. Any other stories in your book about religion?

 

There was a good story [about how] when I talk about my fear of death, I think about my cousin who died a hero [during World War II]. He had to change his religion to get into officer training. People don't realize there was anti-Semitism going on even on the American side. It was very hard for a Jew to become an officer.

 

So, my cousin Elliott switched his religion to Christianity. The name Weiss could be either a Jewish or Christian name, so he said he was a Christian.  He wore a cross on his chest. Sure enough, he got into officer training school and became an officer and a pilot. Then, during the Battle of the Bulge, he tried to land his plane to save some survivors, and a German sniper got him. They buried him under a cross in Belgium, and [later] my aunts exhumed the body and buried him under a Star of David.

 

What is the religious makeup of the porn industry?  I've read there are a lot of Jews in porn. Is that true?

 

A lot of men in porn are Jewish [but] very few women. There have been many surveys on that. The survey shows that [Jewish women aren't in porn] because Jews always stress education. Take my family, for example: Everyone got a master's degree. Half my family have doctorates. You'd think that a woman going to college and getting a degree would rather use her mind than her body, even though you get paid more for the body. When [Jewish women] go to school and get all these degrees, they want to feel that they're using them somehow. I think that's one large reason. Another reason is their dads would kill them.

 

Porn is a wonderful career for girls who don't have a lot of schooling. A lot of girls in porn don't even have high school equivalency. Some girls do have a lot of degrees, but the lot of them do not. There are a few [porn stars] who are Jewish and are pretty well known--Nina Hartley, Robin Bird, Gloria Leonard.

 

Do you think Judaism is more accepting of sexual freedom and sexual expression?

 

Absolutely. Jews have always been considered to be the more liberal group when it comes to that. They never do the old "You'll burn in hell. Don't do this, don't do that."

 

Anyone who's religious usually has a problem with promiscuity. If you're very religious, no matter what you are--Jew, Christian, Muslim--then you have a problem with people being wild and crazy. But if you're not quite religious, then Jews are more accepting of sexual freedom and extramarital relations than other religions are. That might be why so many Jewish men are in the porn business---Ed Powers, Jamie Gillis, Harry Reems, myself, Mark Stevens, Randy West, Herschel Savage. I can go on and on.

 

You've traveled around college campuses with the Christian anti-porn ministry XXX Church.com debating porn. Tell me about that experience.

 

On "Nightline," Martin Brashear interviewed the guys in XXX Church and me about our debating each other. They said, "We really, really, really like Ron."  And I said, "I really, really like these guys and I'm glad they're here. I'm glad they do what they do."  Because I think the porn business can be kept in check; I don't mind the fact that there are those who keep us from going a little bit too crazy. I like what they do.

 

If they feel that a girl does not belong in porn, [and] they can lead her to the path of righteousness and Jesus Christ, well, so be it. Maybe she didn’t belong in porn in the first place. Maybe if porn stars like Savannah or Meghan Leigh or Colleen Applegate had known XXX Church, they wouldn't have committed suicide--although their problems went way deeper and way beyond porn.

 

I like that XXX Church cares about people. They're not trying to hurt anybody. No one else feels threatened by them. But, on stage when we’re debating, we're brutal. [At one point] Martin Brashear asked Craig Gross, founder of XXX Church, "Do you think Ron Jeremy will be saved?"  I looked him right in the eye and said, "Yeah. Am I?"  Then Craig started laughing and said, "Yes, he will be."

Continued on page 2: 'I love religion. But Christians should keep their faces out of some issues...' »

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