Mocumentaries screw with our mythological realities — degrading them, laying them wide-open to expose their ridiculous, naked truths to our relatively highbrowed snickering. If Christopher Guest (the writer and star of parodies from This is Spinal Tap to Best in Show) had scripted a take on the American porn industry from behind the scenes, it might have ended up like Pornstar: The Legend of Ron Jeremy. But in spite of its subject — a ridiculously unlikely pornstar and his comic adventures in and out of the sex industry — this is the real thing: an actual documentary on an ironic, minor American hero, B-list celebrity and pop-culture icon.
Filmmaker Scott J. Gill makes Ron Jeremy’s biography into a comic parody of a Horatio Alger story, a fractured American fairy tale. He assembles media clips (including the softer moments of Jeremy’s hardcore performances), talking-head interviews with Jeremy’s fans, colleagues, friends and family, with home movie footage and slices of the titular pornstar’s off-screen life into a collage that documents the tale of a Jewish boy from Queens, New York, who jerked himself up into dubious stardom by his own overstuffed jockstrap.
John Holmes may have loomed larger (literally and figuratively) in the adult film business, and this isn’t the first documentary on the subject. Holmes, known as the king of porno, is dead (one of the industry’s first and, perhaps surprisingly, few performers to succumb to the AIDS plague) — and documentaries such as Kamikaze Hearts (1986) on Jeremy’s colleague Sharon Mitchell (who makes a cameo appearance in Pornstar) share at least a shadow of Holmes’ tragedy. Jeremy admits to the anxiety and loneliness of a long distinguished run in the professional sex trade. Though Holmes may be porn’s tragic king, in this farce Jeremy is its zany clown prince.
Humor arises from a clash between codes and reversals of our mundane order, making Pornstar a true-life comedy with the laughs on Jeremy — and America. Even the idea is ludicrously laughable: a guy so fat, hairy and ugly that his nickname is “The Hedgehog” makes it into the minor leagues of American celebrity as a sexual superhero? Strange, but true. Gill’s sharp use of these ironies cuts away at our myths about heroes, celebrity and glamour. It seems that in America, any kid can grow up to snatch the gaudy gold ring (a magnet for chicks and bucks) of the mythological superpimp — as long as he has a really big dick.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
E-mail James Keith La Croix at firstname.lastname@example.org.