They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes. I couldn’t agree more.
Having lived in Hollywood for the better part of a year, I’ve had run-ins with celebrities galore. Seth Rogen at the beach. Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the gym. Hell, Samuel L Jackson cut me off in traffic (“SORRY MOTHERFUCKER!”). When this happens, you act cool. Let the tourists and the famewhores do the gawking. You keep your head down. It’s an unwritten LA code. But every once in a while, you just can’t help yourself. Maybe it’s your favorite childhood athlete, maybe it’s your favorite filmmaker, or maybe it’s just that guy from that thing you really like and you can’t quite remember his name but he was in that other thing with that girl who was in that movie with Samuel Jackson (“I’M IN EVERYTHING MOTHERFUCKER!”). Now this may seem like a good idea at the time, but it always ends badly, like Swedish Fish or cocaine. Tragically I learned that lesson last night.
The first time I ever heard of Ron Jeremy was when I heard the Sublime song "Caress Me Down." (“I’m hornier than Ron Jer-a-meeeeee”) I was maybe 11 years old and spent the next few years blissfully unaware of the significance of that reference. I can’t remember when exactly I put together who he was and why he was famous (and why it was so impressive to be hornier than him), but when I first saw him I was incredulous. This is the guy?? What is this, some kind of joke?? If it was, I didn’t get it. As a pubescent boy coming into my sexual own, porn was serious stuff, and the fact that this greasy haired man-goblin was somehow a sexual paradigm threw me for a fucking loop.
Eventually I started to figure it out. “Oh I get it, he’s kind of goofy and he doesn’t look like these other guys, but he can still fuck really good and everyone loves him. Isn’t that funny!” I finally I understood why this guy was so charmingly ubiquitous: irony. It was ironic that he was a famous porn star, it was ironic to put him in your movie or have him endorse your product, and it was ironic fandom that moved me to gleefully snap his picture yesterday.
Sitting in standstill traffic is as universal an LA experience as putting on your pants. Everyone does it, no matter who you are. It’s what we all put up with so that we can wear shorts on Christmas Eve. So as I was crawling through Hollywood last night, bumper to bumper with the rest of the huddled masses, an aging, disheveled, bulbous Ron Jeremy came ambling down the sidewalk.
There are countless people in this world who look like Ron Jeremy (these people usually work in sanitation or drive a cab or plan 9/11) but this was the hedgehog himself, in all of his, well, let’s say glory. He did not look well. His slumped shoulders accentuated his saggy man-boobs and giant gut, which fell depressively over the elastic waistband of his sweatpants. His jowls hung almost as low as the tresses of that iconic pseudo-mullet. He wore Crocs, a fact I present to you without comment. His gait was slow, depressed, purposeless. He looked like I imagine his penis must look like after its 17th orgasm of the day, trying to muster the will to get to number 18. It was too perfect. I had to capture this moment.
Fumbling for my iPhone, I was able to surreptitiously snag a few shots before he noticed me. As you can see from the photo, he is just starting to look my way, disapprovingly taking stock of the kid snapping cameraphone pictures out the window of his car. If he doesn’t look pleased, that’s because he wasn’t. As he walked by my passenger window I tried to ameliorate the situation the only way I knew how, by giving him the biggest, giddiest, most enthusiastic thumbs up that I could. He returned it with what I can only describe as the world’s stinkiest stink-eye. He gave me a look that was at once confused and contemptuous, but his glare betrayed a deep sadness within him. I found myself feeling pity for a man with a sexual history that would make Caligula blush.
And just like that, he was gone, off to who knows where in his t-shirt and sweatpants. I’d like to imagine he was leaving one orgy and on his way to another, unable to muster the enthusiasm to smile back at me having just left most of his energy on his partners faces. Maybe he had just received some disquieting news on the STD front because, hey, if you play with fire long enough…But as I drove away I came to the insidious realization: Ron Jeremy is probably just an unhappy guy.
The outpouring of “likes” and comments on this picture from my friends on social media reinforces the very tongue-in-cheek nature of our Ron Jeremy obsession. I don’t blame them; I took it and posted it for that very reason. Yet having seen this haggard, depressed man in person, I can’t say that I’ll fully enjoy his pop culture ubiquity with the same ironic glee. Watching Ron Jeremy play the sad clown kind of ruins the joke for me. In retrospect I wish I would’ve played the LA cool guy and kept my eyes front, not making a big deal out of it, and sparing myself a peek behind that chubby, well-endowed curtain to reveal Pierrot, sulking around Hollywood in his Crocs.