“Deep Throat” quickly became an international sensation: the subject of debates, pro and con, concerning its redeeming social value, and of self-congratulatory cocktail-party chat among the intelligentsia.
It was responsible for turning Mr. Reems, with his immense black mustache and shirts, opened to the navel to reveal an almost preternaturally hirsute chest, into a one-man avatar of the ’70s.
It was also responsible for his conviction on federal conspiracy charges and, he said afterward, his descent into alcoholism, destitution and homelessness before finding faith, a happy marriage and bourgeois respectability…..
Mr. Reems’s Schwab’s drugstore moment came after Mr. Damiano hired him to be the lighting director on “Deep Throat.” When the original male lead failed to show up for work, Mr. Reems stepped in.
For the film, which was widely reported to have grossed more than $600 million, Mr. Reems was paid about $250.
However, as he told it, there were other compensations: parties at the Playboy Mansion, hobnobbing with celebrities and fending off (or not) throngs of adoring women.
Then, one day in 1974 Mr. Reems was arrested in New York by federal agents. The next year he and 11 others, many of them organized-crime figures, were tried in federal court in Memphis on charges of conspiracy to transport obscene material across state lines. (“Deep Throat” was widely reported to have been financed by associates of the Colombo crime family.)
It was during the trial, Mr. Reems said, that he began drinking heavily.
After he and his co-defendants were found guilty in 1976 Mr. Reems became a First Amendment cause célèbre, with a string of Hollywood celebrities speaking out on his behalf.
“Today, Harry Reems; tomorrow, Helen Hayes,” Warren Beatty was reported to have declared.
Represented on appeal by Alan M. Dershowitz, Mr. Reems had his conviction set aside by a federal judge in 1977…..
But pornography is a young man’s game, and by the mid-1980s demand for Mr. Reems had abated. By then he was adrift, drinking, by his count, two-and-a-half gallons of vodka a day.
He fetched up in Los Angeles, begging on the streets and sleeping in Dumpsters. He contemplated suicide, he said, but could not summon the nerve.
In 1989 Mr. Reems, then living in Park City, Utah, stopped drinking with the help of a 12-step program. He converted to Christianity, obtained his real estate license and married Jeanne Sterret in 1990.
For the most part Mr. Reems led a life of contented small-town obscurity in Midway, Utah, golfing, attending church and collecting Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia. He retained the name Harry Reems, he said in interviews, as a proud emblem of an odyssey he did not regret.
There was, Mr. Reems told The Ottawa Citizen in 2005, one lingering affinity between his early career and his later one as the owner of a successful real estate brokerage.
“I’m still selling dirt,” he said.