You don’t have to spend any time in the triple-X section of the video store to know who Ron Jeremy is. Originally a teaching student from Queens, NY, Jeremy got his start in adult entertainment in 1978, when his then girlfriend sent a nude picture of him into Playgirl magazine’s guy-next-door contest and they published it. Since then he’s starred in more than 1,700 adult movies, directed over 250 and served as a technical adviser on Hollywood sex classics 9 1/2 Weeks and Boogie Nights. He also starred in the third season of The Surreal Life, Detroit Rock City and Men in Black, and was recently the subject of a documentary entitled Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy. While his 9-and-3/4-inch penis and remarkable stamina earned him acclaim in the adult industry, it was his husky stature and profusion of body hair that earned him the nickname “The Hedgehog.”

As I approached the Metro booth at the AVN Adult Expo, I saw that Jeremy’s autograph line was the longest of the entire convention. I caught the attention of one of his security guys, handed him a business card and asked him to pass it along to Jeremy’s manager. Within a few minutes, he flagged me in, introduced me to Jeremy, and told me to come back in a few hours for a sit-down with the prince of pornography. When we met, the first thing I wanted to know was how many women he’d bedded down, which he estimated at some 4,000 to 5,000.

“It’s funny,” he said, “I was on The View once with Gene Simmons, and they asked us both that question. I said, ‘Well, he’s a rock star—girls sleep with him because they want to; girls sleep with me for the paycheck.’ He gets girls that look like Shannon Tweed. When I’m not making movies, I get girls that look like Gene Simmons.”

Jeremy came across as an intelligent, jovial, mellow guy—much like many of the wise-older-hippie types I’d grown used to meeting working at HIGH TIMES. It’s no coincidence, as Jeremy was part of the protest culture of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

“Along with the whole antiwar movement came the sexual revolution and free love,” said Jeremy. “There was just a certain feeling in the ’70s, and porn fit perfectly into that whole outlaw, freedom-loving attitude and lifestyle.”

Over the past few decades, Jeremy has watched the adult-film business transform from a niche genre to a pervasive, multibillion-dollar industry: “There were actual story lines back then—real dialogue, scenes, thick scripts and budgets from $100,000 to $250,000. Then the budgets got smaller; there was less plot. Now it’s finally starting to get back to having dialogue in the movies. Also, the actresses have gotten much prettier recently, because more and more girls see the success of Jenna Jameson making millions of dollars, and they want to do the same.”