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What did you enjoy about making these movies?
This might sound corny or cheesy, but I just loved acting, doing dialogue. All my friends were still doing theater off-off-Broadway and I was doing film. Yes it's porn, but it still goes into theaters. They still had acting back then. They had big scripts. There were no videos back then, no DVDs, no Internet. I came at a time they called the Golden '80s.
Did you enjoy the sex or did it become tedious?
I did to an extent. The acting I always loved because it's taking on a role, but the sex was 50-50. There is always a little nervousness that you are going to be naked in front of a room full of guys and a couple of makeup artists. You did some dialogue and then they would say, "OK, Ronnie, let's go." It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, but once your body and your mind told you you've done it before, you can do it again. It became kind of fun. (See TIME's sex covers.)
What kind of people were in the industry?
In the '70s it was a hippie-dippie-sexual-revolution-Woodstock kind of gig. Flower children in many ways. Pot smokers, though once in a while you would see cocaine or a pill. Most of them had been to college. Some have come from broken homes, some from abusive homes. What I tell kids when I lecture in colleges is that porn is largely a microcosm of Hollywood itself. There were kids who wanted to do something goofy and crazy. Some were actors who wanted to go for an acting career, like me, and settled for this because acting was just a murderously difficult thing to get into. It's thousands of people chasing so few jobs, with everyone driving a taxi, working as a waiter.
Did you get rich doing it?
I did well, not so much through porn but because of the marketing that came from porn: the rolling papers, the penis pills which I'm on a lot of infomercials for the skateboards and the T-shirts made me fairly wealthy. Also the reality shows, which came because of porn both here and in Europe. I go to topless clubs and nude clubs, crack jokes and do a burlesque act while the girls are stripping. I make jokes and then we do autographs, meet and greets, like the ambassador of good will. That has added real good money to the bank account. (Read TIME's 1970 article, "The Rich Pornocopia.")
Have you been able to have romantic relationships while living this life?
It's very, very difficult. If you look at statistics, the majority of marriages around the world don't work, which is very sad because they can work. Now let's go to porn. Very rarely do they ever last a long time. There are a few I'm proud of that are going strong, but it's so difficult because you have to have the alternative lifestyle attitude. I don't know if we were meant to be totally monogamous. Early cultures weren't; Greek, Romans, some Asian societies today, but it's the Judeo-Christian attitude that came along that made us feel guilty of straying. You could love your wife to pieces and it's only your genitals that are doing the traveling, but it's a hard thing to understand. You can be emotionally monogamous and physically not monogamous. I think Viagra is one of the greatest gifts to monogamy. You may not need it to be with the blonde down the street or get a lap dance, but to be with your wife of 20 years or your wife who's 50, you may need Viagra. (See pictures of famous couples.)
Are you still doing any porn?
I just did one a few days ago, a benefit for a great New York director who has serious colon cancer. We all did a free porn film. I did a sex thing with a sweet girl named Candy, she's actually here because we did a scene and she is staying over. (Giggling in the background.) I am also doing a horror film in Arizona called Blood Moon Rising.
Is it still fun?
I would never admit this, and my dad warned me of this, but the libido does lose a little as you get older. Nature is cruel! As you get older, as you get into your 50s, it is more effort to get into liftoff. I'm 55, and it's a bit of a strain, but it's not to the point where it's a chore because then I just wouldn't do it. I don't have to do porn anymore for economic reasons. However, I like to stay current. I don't want to be an ex-porn star.