December 25, 2013

The Legend Of Heather I Deepthroat: An Incomplete Story Of America’s Greatest Porn Star

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The name Heather Harmon isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Linda Lovelace, Jenna Jameson or Ron Jeremy. Yet she’s a porn star so deeply ingrained in the millennial male culture, that if you slip the reference into any hetero conversation, the remark is always met with a nod of appreciation and a grin of reminiscence. Arriving on the scene nearly a quarter century after “The Golden Age of Porn,” Harmon didn’t spring from the Pool Boy, Private “I” fantasy plots of the San Fernando Valley. Instead, she worked a webcam, a deep throat and her Southern charm to make the moniker “Heather I” a household name. Then she was gone.

Before the age of high speed internet, porn production required a lot more resources – equipment costs, talent, distribution and a small stipend for the “Fluffer”. With such a high barrier to entry, the industry was run by heavy hitter production companies who churned out enough goods to satiate man’s quest for loosely sewn plotlines and intercourse. But then the internet came around and revolutionized the industry. There was a wider range of acceptable production quality, distribution was an upload and consumption was a click. No longer was smut exclusive to the x-rated shops by the off ramp, or your weird uncle’s cornucopia of mags and Polaroid’s. Men who are today in their mid-20s and thirties, who came of age during this transformation, can remember first visiting websites like Sublime Directory and The Hun. Each URL brought an infinite buffet of salacious videos and pics. And within this buffet, no category of smut became more plentiful than the Amateur genre.

Between 1999 and 2000, during the climax of this industry shift, a young couple started doing webcam shows on an adult site called iFriends.  The wife’s name was Heather, a lab technician in some undisclosed southern location, and the husband, Jim Harmon, was a forklift operator. They’d bought a $400 computer from a neighbor, and a webcam, and began showcasing Heather’s recently discovered talent – deep throating. This skill needs no further explanation, other than that Heather didn’t seem to have a gag reflex, and Jim resembled a thoroughbred below the belt.

"Heather Brooke"
“Heather Brooke”

It wasn’t long before their iFriends’ shows acquired a cult following of sorts. Encouraged by the fanfare, Heather and Jim launched their own website in June of 2000 – ideepthroat.com. The site had twice-daily webcam shows and videos of Heather and Jim in various deep throating scenarios – on the road, in the bedroom, at the office. The films weren’t shot in exotic locations, and they didn’t follow the typical “here to fix your cable” plot lines. It was, in a sense, everyday life. In an early interview with the couple, they explained their incredibly simple approach, “We realized all we have to do is be honest, and nice, and we might be able to do okay”. And that unedited, cinema verite approach to felatio, coupled with Heather’s incredible looks and unique skill, catapulted them to internet fame.

The viral nature of the internet, the same characteristic that now launches cute kittens and Canadian kids into immediate stardom, is one of the main contributors to Heather and Jim’s success. The best videos would be passed along from one user to another, with a speed and reach that could never be paralleled offline. In porn, “pass along” used to be the physical act of stealing your father’s VHS and sharing it with that lucky kid in Bunk 7. Now it meant link sharing in forums and file sharing on networks like Kazaa. One of those files was a threesome that Heather did with a friend named “Brooke” – the filename appropriately labeled “iDeepThroat_-Heather_Brooke__RoomMate_-_threesome.mpg.” Fans misattributed Brooke’s name as Heather’s surname, and the alias stuck. It’s an anecdote that illustrates the power of the web – a 3-minute ménage-a-trois video led to millions wrongfully referring to their favorite smut star as “Heather Brooke.”

From 2000 to 2004, iDeepThroat.com was regularly updated and everyone from the porn addict to the casual consumer was familiar with Heather’s videos. But around 2005, the site’s content began to slow. It seemed as though Heather and Jim had taken a sabbatical. Unfortunately for their fans, that break soon looked more like retirement, and the deep throat queen was never heard from again. Many speculated the departure was due to the couple wanting to raise a family and use their newfound riches to start a fresh life. One forum post hints that Heather and Jim had two young children prior to starting their site. Perhaps as those offspring aged, and their oblivion receded, the couple saw a need to retire the webcam. In an early interview, the radio host asks Heather, “Does anyone ever recognize you in public?” Although the answer was “no”, it’s clear that things must have changed rather quickly. I often imagine a fan running up to Heather and Jim in the supermarket, a Boar’s Head kielbasa and black Sharpie in hand, asking for an autograph.

There was an insanely, almost frighteningly passionate forum post on AdultDVDTalk.com, about the legend of Heather Harmon. It started with the warning, “I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, so this is rather long,” and ended with the plea “Heather, if you read this. Please come back. We still need you.” Between that innocuous opener and closer were 1,200 words of intensely graphic adulation. Though slightly disturbing, it leaves one realizing that Heather and Jim were not only pioneers when it came to being at the forefront of online amateur pornography. They were visionaries as to where this medium could go. They had a community of devoted fanatics, a large audience of everyday fans and a webcam as an ATM. But the web was expanding rapidly and the devotion it would take to maintain their success and relevance would come at a cost. The second option seemed best. They took a Koufax-like departure, left on top, and remained immortalized by eccentric forum contributors and desperate writers like myself.

Heather and Jim’s videos are still out there. In fact, one clip has generated close to 19 million views on YouPorn.com alone. But they’re lost amongst the troves of clips that now populate the web. Today’s adolescent porn user has limited knowledge, or regard, for Heather and Jim. Nor can they remember a time when endless porn wasn’t a URL away. The same cannot be said for those youngin’s predecessors. Test Heather’s influence during your next barstool chat with a twenty or thirty-something companion. Give a brief mention, and you’ll undoubtedly get that look of acknowledgement. It’s the look fellow Bonesmen exchange to one another while sipping martinis at a State Department cocktail function. But for the non-protestant non-ivy-leaguers, we bond through something else – the shared appreciation of a deep throating queen. TC mark

Hersh Bavnik

Hersh Bavnik is a freelance writer living in New York. His work has been published in The Atlantic, Vice Magazine, …

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