Harry Reems died on March 19. He was 65. His death was reported in national news sources. It was reported almost as a punchline, offering comic relief in contrast to the others whose deaths should truly make us sad. Because, you see, Harry Reems’ main claim to fame was as a pornographic film actor. He had a leading role in “Deep Throat”, a role for which he was convicted on federal obscenity charges (a conviction which was later overturned).
His life after “Deep Throat” was not good. It included alcohol addiction, cocaine abuse, legal battles, jail time, mental institutions, and major debt owed to the IRS. His health, physical, mental, and spiritual, was in shambles. He frequently contemplated suicide.
In 1989 he was arrested for public drunkenness in Park City, Utah. His arresting officer gave him the opportunity to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He took that opportunity and it changed his life.
The AA group he attended met in the basement of the Park City Community United Methodist Church. This is how I became aware of Harry Reems. The pastor at Park City at that time was Mark Heiss, a friend of mine from seminary.
Mark met Harry and heard his story. They talked about the power of God to change lives. They talked about the “higher power” named Jesus. Harry had been raised an atheistic Jew. He was skeptical at first, but interested in learning more. Mark gave him a Bible and suggested passages for him to read. They met several times over coffee discussing what it meant to be a Christian.
One day Mark Heiss got a phone call. It was Harry. He was ready to be baptized. He joined their church. He even became a Trustee.
And Harry Reems was not the typical “born again” celebrity looking for personal redemption. His relationship with Jesus led him to a life of serving others. His mission in life became helping other addicts and alcoholics. In 1989, when he first showed up at the Methodist Church, there were three recovery groups in Park City. Today there are over 40. Harry either started or was involved in starting every one of them.
Pancreatic cancer cut his life short. I wish others could know that he did more with that life than star in pornographic films. Well, I guess now a few others do know.