Arts & Culture » Visual Art

All hail the Hedgehog

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The legend goes like this: One day a young and slender Ron Jeremy was at a summer camp for kids. He bent over to tie his shoe. While bowing down he unwittingly made a discovery that would change his life forever. The boy learned that he was unusually well-endowed. Hung so well, in fact, that he could fellate himself. Said discovery would remain a secret throughout his high school years (where he was an aspiring thespian and appeared in, among other things, a production of Oklahoma!).

Later, after a girlfriend submitted a nude photo of him to Playgirl in 1978, the decidedly uncomely future jizz king — who lived with his father until he was 30 — stepped into the world of porn and became a life-support system for his hefty schlong. His likeness to an insectivorous mammal earned Jeremy the pet name “Hedgehog.” What’s more, Jeremy’s hirsute, everyman mien and his superior skills at self-promotion made him arguably the first actor in porn to become a millionaire (and also its most identifiable star).

The barrel-bellied mook has become ubiquitous — an iconic porn reference point — in pop culture. He has appeared in 55 mainstream film roles (in “Detroit Rock City,” he plays the MC in a strip club); he’s name-dropped with regularity on everything from “The Tonight Show” to “Cribs”; there have been rap and punk songs written about him; and he’s had myriad endorsements too — from cigars and penis molds to porn star T-shirts and beer.

Porn critic David Aaron Clarke once penned this about Jeremy in an issue of Adam Film World: “But in truth, this object (Ron Jeremy) of near-universal derision performs a valuable service for the overwhelming plain portion of the male population that follows porn: He makes them feel better about themselves. To see someone as ugly, as unpleasant, as buffoonish, as the Troglodyte humping a dripping retinue of prime poon — and in front of a camera, for all to see, yet! — bestows that most tender of mercies upon your typical smuthound loser: Hope.”

What’s more, Jeremy — the son of an Army engineer and a vet of 1,600 porn film appearances, most of which are grim, low-rent fast-buck reels — is also the subject of the recent film that kicked up much national press dust. The film (Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy) tells the story of a nice Jewish boy from Queens who received a master’s degree in special education but switched to making porn. In it we find a man who has slept with 4,000 women portrayed as a lonely guy who craves that which he believes has constantly eluded him: mainstream acceptance.

“They see a shlub like me get lucky and there’s hope for everybody else,” Jeremy said in a recent interview. Unlike the way he was represented in his own biopic, Jeremy claims wealth, happiness, and all good things associated with the American dream. In a sense, with the merging of porn into the pop-culture mainstream (it is, according to study conducted by Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., a $10 billion a year industry) Jeremy is living the American dream. Not bad for a kid who, before the beer belly, could mouth his own member.

Ron Jeremy will host Pimp and Hoes 2002 at the Roostertail (100 Marquette, Detroit; call 313-822-1234) on Friday, July 5. Special guests include Slick Rick and DJ Assault.

Brian Smith is the Metro Times music editor. E-mail him at bsmith@metrotimes.com

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