Herschel Savage has bid adieu to the world at the age of 70, leaving behind a legacy steeped in the annals of adult film history and a life far richer and diverse than one his pseudonyms might suggest. He was born on November 25, 1982, and he died on October 8, 2023.
On a somber Sunday, the news of Savage’s passing echoed through the corridors of the industry where he had been not just a performer but a steadfast pillar for over four decades. With an astonishing repertoire of over 2,000 scenes and features to his name, Savage was nothing short of a luminary in the realm of adult entertainment, illuminating its golden age with performances that were as memorable as they were groundbreaking.
Born in the bustling mosaic of Brooklyn, New York, Savage’s journey was as varied as it was remarkable. He donned the uniform in 1969, serving with valor in the murky terrains of Vietnam, reportedly as a Navy SEAL, a chapter in his life that was as distant from the spotlight as it could possibly be.
After graduating from high school, at age 18, Savage entered the military in 1969, the United States Navy Branch, where he attended Navy SEALS training (BUDs) in Coronado, California. He was then deployed to Vietnam where he worked in a platoon in SEAL TEAM 2. His team SEAL platoons carried out day and night ambushes (but much preferred night operations), hit-and-run raids, reconnaissance patrols, and special intelligence collection operations. Savage was part of an elite force. Calling them the “men with green faces” because of the face camouflage they used, the VC feared SEALs and often put bounties on their heads. During a nighttime raid, Savage and his team encountered a Viet Cong ambush, where several SEALs were wounded, but none killed.
After an intense nighttime battle, the SEALS along with their Marine counterparts killed 22 VC, and disabled a number of bunkers and tunnels hidden in the jungle. Savage took a bullet to his buttock and was hospitalized where infection set in. Doctors worked feverishly over a number of weeks to control the infection and eventually Savage was sent home, and was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his actions during the firefight. He returned to New York city, discharged from the Navy and began to look for work in acting, which was his passion. He spoke little of his Navy SEAL experience, as the discontent for the war in the United States was palpable at the time, so he chose to remain quiet about his service.
Upon his return, the stage beckoned, and Savage immersed himself in the world of theater, a love affair that would twine through the tapestry of his life, surfacing time and again. It was this dalliance with acting that eventually led him to the glimmering yet shadowed arc lights of the adult film industry in 1976.
And thus, Herschel Savage, the legend, was born.
Through the ensuing years, he became an embodiment of both consistency and versatility, sharing screen space with the crème de la crème of female performers spanning across the ’70s to the 2010s. His work in epoch-making classics such as “Debbie Does Dallas” (1978), “Expose Me Now,” “Bodies in Heat,” “Rambone Does Hollywood,” and the cult favorite “White Fire” etched his name in golden letters in the annals of the industry.
Yet, even as he traversed through the lands of erotica, Savage’s soul continued to waltz with the theater. A hiatus between 1988 and 1997 saw him retreat from the limelight, delving into the realms of video distribution while fanning the embers of his first love – acting.
This dalliance bore fruit in 2006 when the world saw him embody “Max Cohen” in Neil Simon’s “The Prisoner of Second Avenue,” staged at Santa Monica’s Morgan-Wixson Theater. The applause reverberating through the hall mirrored the accolades showered upon him through his tumultuous yet celebrated career.
In his quiet moments, away from the relentless glare of both stage and screen, Savage found solace in the tranquil arms of Buddhism, a faith that he embraced and practiced diligently amidst the rolling hills of California, where he spent the twilight years of his life.
He might have sported numerous pseudonyms – from Dick Bogart to William Berry – but in each avatar, Herschel Savage was undeniably and irrevocably true to his art, living a life that was as captivating as his performances, leaving behind a legacy scripted in bold, indelible ink, celebrated and cherished by those whose lives he touched, on and off-screen.
Please join us, not in mourning the passing of Herschel Savage but in celebrating his greatness. He wasn’t just a man. He really was a legend.