2017-07-27


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."

What is one of your biggest arguments as you're debating porn?

 

XXX Church talks about the Internet and all the things that are on there involving kids. Here's what I say: “Whoever saw the film ‘Orgazmo’? ‘Class of Nuke 'Em High’?  ‘Toxic Avenger’?  They have huge audiences, and they're renegade, non-union cult films. 'Orgazmo' was a big cult film in colleges. And, as powerful as the Screen Actor's Guild is, they cannot control renegade productions that are non-union."

 

In that same way, when somebody commits a crime on the Internet involving kids, animals, rape, or whatever, some will say, "This is the porn business, and we got to defend it."  I'll say, "No, I’m not. I will prosecute it."  And we have. And I give examples in magazines where the FBI thanked certain members of the adult industry for helping to prosecute kiddie porn rings in the United States and France.

 

If someone wants to commit a crime or do something on the Internet, whether it be amateur porn or whatever, and if they want to do things against the law, you can't stop it. It's on the Internet, which is a wild frontier. Now, these people who make porn films on the Internet, if they want to go get major distribution--meaning DVDs, VHS, stores, satellite, cable channels like Playboy, Spice, Ecstasy, advertising in magazines like Hustler, Penthouse, and Playboy--they have to come to us. And then we'll check out their content, [mandate] blood tests, get model releases, ask for IDs, and we'll see if we want to take that stuff or not. They have to come to the Free Speech Coalition, the Adult Video Association, the Adult Video magazine, or any one of those major corporations that run the adult industry, and then if we like it and accept it, we can then distribute it for them.

 

We will reject anything that's against the law and probably prosecute them. In our debates with XXX Church, I explain to Craig and the rest of the audience that I cannot be held accountable for any kind of crap you see on the Internet. Because it's not part of our world, it's not under our auspices, and we can't control it or stop it.

 

I will defend that which we govern, that which we take over, that which we will distribute. And a lot of that content I don't like. There's a lot of stuff that's under our auspices that I find nauseating, but I will defend it because it's under the Free Speech Coalition and the Adult Video Association.


There was a study a few years ago by the Christian organization Focus on the Family that said close to 20 percent of people who consider themselves born-again Christian admit to looking at porn sites.  What do you think is the reason for this?

 

They're horny, and they're curious, and it's voyeurism. A lot of religious folks get upset that there's all this porn on cable and satellite. Well, I hate to break the news to them, but there's more religious programming on cable, satellite, and network. They complain about Hustler and Penthouse and Playboy in convenience stores. Well, there's a Gideon Bible in every hotel room. Freedom of speech works for everybody.

 

Hypocrisy is out there. Some of the people who make the most noise often commit the greatest crimes. As a courtesy to Craig, I try not to bring up the church because that's just too easy. But, I do bring up the Meese Commission, which tried to make the connection that watching porn leads to aberrant sexual behavior. It doesn't. There was a Williams Committee in England, a Fraser Committee in Canada, a Nixon-Johnson Committee in America, and a Danish Committee in Denmark that all found no correlation or cause and effect between watching adult material and committing heinous sexual crimes.

 

The Meese Commission tried to show that there was a connection, but look at who's on the Meese Commission: Father Bruce Ritter, who got kicked out of the ministry for feeling up little boys at Covenant House in New York. It was a biased panel from the start. It was Reagan-appointed, and it was religiously backed.

 

I love religion. I have no problem with it. But Christians should keep their faces out of some issues, like stem cell research, cloning research, gay rights, and abortion. There's nothing wrong with being religious. Just don't stick your nose where it doesn't belong. If we can cure brain cancer and Parkinson's disease, so be it.

 

Did your mom pass away from Parkinsons?

 

That's correct. My dad told me 30 years ago that the real future of the cure for Parkinsons is going to be stem cell research. My mother was a guinea pig for cryogenic surgery, and it failed. I got a chance to tell Janet Reno that when I met with her. She said, "Well, I appreciate people like your mom for finding that out." 

 

The eventual cure for Parkinsons is stem cell research. Everyone knows it. And Christians don't seem to want to allow it. I think that's one of the things with religion I don't like.

 

Tell me about your relationship with evangelist Tammy Faye Messner (Bakker), whom you met and became friends with on "The Surreal Life"?

 

She's a doll. We get along really, really well, and I still talk to her. She's fighting some serious cancer. Now she's no longer doing chemo or radiation, and she's allowing Jesus to take over. She's lost a lot of weight, but she's been able to go shopping and have a good time. She's enjoying a basic quality of life, but she's in still serious trouble.

 

She really cares about people, and she really cares about making the church accept gays because her audience is largely gay. She really cares about people.

 

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

 

My dad said, "Anything you do, be the best. I don't care if you're a shoe shiner; I don't care if you wash dishes for a living--be the best at it, and own your own shoe shine concession." So, I got into porn and got to be the best known in the business. So, I guess his teachings worked out, in a bizarre way.



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