May 24th, 2010
Size Matters – May 24th, 2010 by Rob Hardy (for The Commercial Dispatch)
“John Holmes had an enormous penis. It would be unfair to say that this fact is the only interesting thing about him, but it really was the only remarkable thing. It was also the thing that determined how his life was going to go. It was what got him into pornography and made him a nationally-recognized star, and that in turn got him involved in drugs and crime and AIDS. If there were nothing to his life besides his record-breaking anatomy, Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson would not have had much to compile in their book _John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches_ (BearManor Media). They have, however, dug so deeply into what was written about the man during his career and what people remembered afterwards that this surely will be the definitive biography. It is almost 600 pages long, although that includes 150 pages of filmography at the end of the book, a list of all the known loops and films Holmes was in, along with a list of reviews of his more famous movies. The text of the book is not a traditional biography. It consists of quotations from many articles, books, and documentary films, as well as from interviews the authors conducted themselves. These are arranged chronologically, and if there is a lack of analysis in this biography, it is made up by the immediacy of the words from Holmes himself, his costars, directors, business partners, prosecutors, wives, and godchildren.
Well, first things first. The book’s subtitle makes plain that inches were the measurement of the man. How big was it? Well, big. No one who has seen a Holmes film will deny that; even his costar and competitor Ron Jeremy admitted himself to be second best in the size department. The problem with penis measurement is that even the anatomists have not come up with a foolproof, standardized way to measure a penis, and then there are all sorts of variables like temperature and degree of tumescence. There are no films of Holmes close to a ruler, but there are reports that he approached the fourteen inch mark, and such reports will not be incredible to those familiar with his films. In the films, too, it is obvious that Holmes’s erections were different from those of other men, and not just by size. His erection would not point upward; that’s just a matter of gravity. But also, his erection didn’t have the sort of firmness that typifies a tumescent penis of ordinary size. There was a standing joke that Holmes never got a full erection, because it would take so much blood he would lose consciousness. Annette Haven starred with him in several features, and found that Holmes’s erection collapsed down; it was “kind of squishy when erect, so actually it wasn’t that uncomfortable… it was like doing it with a big, soft loofah…” However, Ginger Lynn, who was lowered onto Holmes while hanging from a bar in the film _The Grafenberg Spot_, said that being in labor and having a child was easier than getting Holmes inside her.
Holmes, however, is given accolades for being a gentle lover. One star after another (girlfriends and wives, too) say that he knew he might cause some discomfort, and was always solicitous, saying things like “Is it okay? Do you want to stop?” Unlike many well-endowed men, he realized that there was a great deal more to lovemaking than just presenting a large package, and he is praised in these pages for his skill at different forms of foreplay. (He is also praised for an unusual skill which was useful for the directors he worked with: he was able to have an orgasm on cue. Annette Haven said, “He was a professional; got it up, got it off, and got the hell out of your hair.”) Many people make remarks on how nice a guy he was, consistently affable and helpful at least before the drug years started. A male costar remembers, “He would help carry equipment in from the truck and help set it up. He was almost an extension of the crew. You’d never see that today.” He enjoyed being a star, and was gracious with fans and fellow performers. Costar Richard Pacheco had his picture taken with Holmes and had Holmes sign it; the inscription shows some of Holmes’s graciousness and humor: “To Richard Pacheco, who taught me everything I know.” A surprising source of praise comes from the children of Bill Amerson, an adult talent agent and film producer. Sean and Denise Amerson were made Holmes’s godchildren, and Holmes was caring to both of them even during his bad years. Sean here tells a hilarious story of when he was called to the principal’s office, and since his father was not available, Holmes was called. The principal asked Sean beforehand, “That’s not _The_ John Holmes, is it?” and got confirmation. Holmes was serious about Sean’s infraction, discussed recompense and punishment sensibly, and everyone walked away satisfied. “Incidentally,” says Sean, “I was famous in high school from that day on.”
Holmes had two downfalls. One was cocaine, which he started using in the mid-seventies. He had been a Scotch drinker and casual pot smoker, but cocaine, often freebased, took over. Some of his most famous movies are from this time, before the cocaine began to be a problem, but eventually he was stealing props from his sets and selling them, or stealing from fellow actors, breaking into cars, or ripping off luggage at the airport. It isn’t a unique pattern, but it was grim. He worked for a drug supply gang, and stole drugs and money from them. His involvement led to his presence at the horrific revenge murder of the Wonderland Gang in 1981. Holmes was eventually charged with the four murders, but he was acquitted. He thereupon went relatively straight, and any use of drugs became just a recreation, not an obsession. He was able to make a happy comeback into his industry. He had been married, almost secretly, for nineteen years, when his first wife had had enough and sought divorce in 1983, but he formed a strong and supportive second marriage with his comeback costar “Misty Dawn”, a.k.a. Laurie Holmes. He was doing well until he contracted AIDS, the second downfall. It is not clear how he got it, but the knowledge that he had the disease propelled him back to using drugs. He also had unprotected sex with other performers during his final years, including the Italian actress (and member-to-be of the Italian parliament) Cicciolina in 1986, but there are no indications that he passed the disease to anyone. He made public appearances and autograph stops thereafter, but his physical appearance and abilities deteriorated. He died in 1988, aged 43.
Sugar and Nelson have not just given an account of Holmes’s unique life, although they have done that in astonishing detail. They have not been obsequious in praise of “The King,” nor have they neglected to detail his many flaws without excusing the questionable morality of some of Holmes’s off-screen actions (whatever you think of his on-screen ones). This is a look at a time when pornographic movies were going mainstream, an epoch before straight-to-video movies and before the internet. The time included not only Holmes’s first film (1970) in the famous _Johnny Wadd_ series, filmed in one day for $750; but also films with close-to-mainstream production values like the final in the series, The Return of _Johnny Wadd (1986). It’s the period of time covered by the wonderful Holmes-inspired movie, _Boogie Nights_, and any fan of that movie, of adult films, or of Holmes himself will be impressed by the thoroughness of this volume and its, uh, size.”
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches – March, 2010
Authors Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson make it plausible how the enigmatic and evasive John Holmes came to be and perpetuated his own self-myths and lies, and more serious nefarious activities. Before, one could never get a sense of ‘who was the real person’ and though one cannot truly know that person, [the reader] definitely gets a clear sense that Holmes was a real person, in all his conflicts. The Wonderland section of the book (in particular) is very chilling.
I like the way Sugar and Nelson present the accounts of other players on Holmes’ life, not dissecting or over-analyzing them — but the way they lay it all out it is evident that the people around Holmes often did and are doing as much lying and mythologizing about him as he did himself.
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is a thorough and complete biography. It is very comprehensive and humanizes the man without avoiding the dark details. The filmography and synopses really takes it to a higher level, makes it a reference volume as well. The authors could have gotten away with much less.
(The above book synopsis by former school teacher turned self-described “Porn Archeologist”, Dimitrios Otis, was documented in November, 2008)
The Adult Material – John Holmes Biography - January 26th, 2010
Has there ever been a more accurate book title for a life story then this one? I don’t think so. ‘John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches’ has to be the most fitting title for the legendary porn actor. The book tells of his rise from Ohio country boy to Hollywood big cock porn god and all the wild details in between from his cocaine addiction to his involvement in the Wonderland murders. If you want to know more about the man behind the legendary dick, this will make for some good reading.
New Book Co-authored by MSU Grad Takes An Intimate Look at Porn Star John C. Holmes
It’s time to boogie with big (584 pages) John C. Holmes Book
I remember my first “blue movie”. It made a big impression on me. For one, I learned you should take off your socks. I don’t remember the stars or the name and the plot is a little blurry. I think it was the classic door-to-door salesman routine and a pretty, but bored housewife. The movie was shown at what was called a “smoker” in a dusty basement on an 8mm projector. And I think it was projected on a bed sheet.
Porno movies have come a long way since then and we can thank John C. Holmes for a lot of the improvement. Holmes who was called the “King” for a variety of reasons did for the porno industry what Elvis did for rock. He elevated it.
Now, two authors, Jill Nelson of the Toronto area and Jennifer Sugar from Michigan and MSU graduate, have written the definitive biography of John C. Holmes titled, “John C. Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches”. Sugar decided on writing a book on Holmes after seeing the movie “Wonderland” starring Val Kilmer. The movie is an abbreviated look at the porn star, focusing mostly on a gruesome, drug-related, robbery-mass murder in which Holmes was involved in 1981.
From start to finish, this is the most comprehensive and really the only biography of the “King”. Holmes had authored the autobiography, “Porn King” before his 1988 death from AIDS.
In addition, to some of the most detailed looks at more than 200 Holmes’ video and loops, the two have written a remarkable piece of film history using oral histories of the participants to carry the narrative. For most readers, the first thing they do is turn to the photographs to see “it” and yes it’s there in all its glory. This is one of the first, if not the first mainstream books on the porno industry to include full-frontal nudity. Maybe Iggy Pops’ biography published last year covered new ground.
The only comment that I have heard which isn’t even close to a criticism and actually may be the book’s strongest point is that the book is too detailed.
This book is perfect for anyone involved in the film industry “blue” or otherwise. It is destined to become a basic text for film classes across the country. In the meantime, for us amateurs it is a great read and a stimulating look at the growth of the porn industry.
I was curious where you would go to see all these videos and loops so I asked co-author Jill Nelson. It wasn’t easy. It’s not like the public library has them. She said they rented films (probably got some raised eyebrows after the fifth one); they bought some on e-bay and other porn-related websites; and used a pay as you go website www.naughtynostalgia.com In addition, numerous directors in the business loaned them copies of Holmes’ work.
One real coup was that their research was the impetus for the release on DVD of the first Johnny Wadd movie, filmed in 1970. According to Jill, it was only one of the nine-part series that hadn’t seen light of day or in this case, dimly lit rooms.
The two authors asked around the industry for the availability of the film and one director (Johnny Wadd creator, Bob Chinn) had one in storage. It turned out to be pristine and once again Johnny was able to fill the screen. Jill says the film has broken all sales records for the distributorship.
You can bet this isn’t the last we’ll see or read of these two authors.
(This article appeared in The Lansing News – October 2008 – by Bill Castanier.)
SKUNK Magazine: Volume 5, Issue 3 — The Big O’s – Outdoors, Orgasms & Organics.
BOOK – John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches
Jennifer Sugar & Jill C. Nelson (Bear Manor Media)
“It’s a long road from Ohio Country boy to legendary filmmaker. Making the trip to the top is even harder when the genre of film you specialize in is porn. This book allows you to be a fly on the wall and witness how John Curtis Holmes became Johnny Wadd Holmes, the greatest X-rated superstar of all time. Told in graphic detail by the people who were closest to him, you get to learn first hand how the greatest (and possibly the largest) dick in adult entertainment fucked his way from the shadows of a budding billion-dollar industry to universal hardcore adult fame. John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is to porn what the bible is to religion, the best detailed acccount of a king. Only, in this case, Holmes is the undisputed king of porn whose life swirled down the drain as he was consumed by drugs, bad choices and worse friends.” MI – July 2009 edition
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches Rating: 4/5 stars
By Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson
Reviewer: A. Nicaj
“Everything in life is an act; it’s the performance that counts.” -John Holmes
And John performed.
One can’t help but wonder where the life of the first true porn star, John Holmes, would have gone without the notoriety gained by his atypical physical endowment. Although the length of his penis is often contested, Ron Jeremy, an immensely popular male porn star, openly admits that Holmes “had me beat by about an inch—inch and a half.” But there was much more to the John Holmes than his illustrious career in pornography, his drug abuse, and his involvement with one of the most notorious mass murders in Hollywood history.
Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson’s coauthored biography, John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches (2008), is as girthy as it is informative—nearly 440 pages of detailed first-person accounts from those who knew Holmes personally, as well as from the legend himself. The people interviewed and excerpted throughout the book become distinct through the tone and idiosyncrasies of their voices, providing intimate and multi-layered perspectives.
Sugar and Nelson have organized these accounts chronologically and rather seamlessly—the occasional pairing of certain statements regarding similar subjects help to reinforce each other. The differing perspectives of each account have an undeniable effectiveness in shedding light upon and conveying Holmes’ intriguing story. Holmes’ notorious propensity to lie discredits certain aspects of his posthumously published autobiography, Porn King (1998), since close friends have said that he began to believe his own lies.
Throughout A Life Measured in Inches, you will find that three black-and-white photo sections of John from early childhood onwards supplement most chapters. The reader learns the trivialities of Holmes’ wholesome Ohio upbringing during the late 1940s and his tendency to drink gallon(s) of milk per day. The paternal figures from his childhood and early adolescence devolve into abusive alcoholics and force the teenage Holmes to drop out of high school and enroll in the Signal Corps. Along with a few other odd jobs, Holmes also drove an ambulance and a forklift in a meatpacking plant before finally volunteering in a stag movie in 1964.
Sugar and Nelson provide the historical framework for Holmes’ story, detailing the infancy of the adult entertainment industry before the era of “free love” with Hugh Hefner’s first Playboy publication in 1953. The next few decades would transition from scantily clothed stills into the 8 mm and 16-mm film used for more explicit material during the “Golden Age” of pornography.
Holmes’ freelance acting granted him unprecedented flexibility with production companies. Aware of the extensive demands of the porn industry, Holmes took on a variety of sexual roles to reach a wider audience by participating in gay scenes, masturbation loops, and sex with pregnant women. In a time where records were lost through the havoc of police raids and general disorganization, the nebulous facts regarding Holmes have contributed to the perpetuation of his legend. Although his prolific career includes two decades worth of adult loops and feature-length movies, the length of his penis (10-14 inches), the number of women he slept with (estimated at 4,000), and the age at which he lost his virginity (six and up), remain unverified, crafting an epic character with a tragic downfall.
The decadence of Holmes’ health from his drug abuse began damaging his career and triggered his involvement with the Wonderland Gang, a lethal group of cocaine dealers situated in LA during the early 80s. His association with this gang only increased his obsessive compulsion to sell stolen items to support his developing drug habit, further entrenching him in the drug exploits of Ed Nash, a high-profile crime figure.
The sections exploring the Wonderland murders and the ensuing trial immerse its readers into a fast-paced world of drugs and fatal deception. The dialogues exchanged between Julia St. Vincent, a romantic partner of John’s after having acted in Tell Them Johnny Wadd Is Here, and Dawn Schiller, John’s naïve teenage mistress and drug-using cohort, recall their involvement through vivid narrative. Following his sentencing of 119 days in jail for contempt, Sugar and Nelson end the chapter with a resonant distinction: “John was never a murderer; he was a drug addict! (311)
From the first recorded scene with “snowballing” to Holmes’ preference to brunettes, A Life Measured in Inches offers an incredible gamut of information. The book concludes with a consummate filmography of John’s works, along with selected feature film reviews and the delineation of 150 loops, 306 features, and 27 compilations.
The vicissitudes of Holmes’ life offer a thought-provoking view of a time past, of a life lived dangerously and passionately. A Life Measured in Inches is a must-have for any fan of John Holmes and anybody interested in the origins of the fastest growing and most internationally lucrative industry today.
Sex Herald.com © The Adult Entertainment and News Authority: Volume 6, Issue 9 June 7th, 2009
Hot … Off the Press: Erotica in Print March 11 2009
by marq – XX Factor
John Holmes was the world’s first porn star and the only straight male performer whose name had greater box office value than any female star.
When I was 22, Jack, a friend of mine, insisted we drive to New York City (we were living near New Haven at the time) to see a porno film starring some guy named “Johnny Wadd.” I had never heard of Johnny Wadd”, but neither had I ever seen hardcore porn in a public theater, so I was in.
This friend was “straight,” but he didn’t have any problems with me being gay. On the way home from the movie — I don’t remember the title — Jack insisted we stop at a rest stop and jack off. I was pretty terrified to jack off in a public area with a straight friend, and I don’t think I came, but Jack did. (Years later, I’d learn that the definition of straight could have as many curves as the trail left behind by a slalom skier.)
That was my introduction to John Holmes, a man whose legend has finally, and deservedly, eclipsed the size of his 14-inch penis.
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is a massive (600 oversized pages) biography and memoir of Holmes, as told by the people who participated in his life — his wives, lovers, friends and business partners. It is an unusual book in that its authors, Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson, do not so much write about Holmes as they collect and edit the words of others, including Holmes himself.
At first, this makes for frustrating reading. It is too episodic, playing in the mind’s eye more like an extended script for an episode of television’s This Is Your Life. But soon you realize that the commentary isn’t going to segue into traditional biography, and you get used to it. Who, in fact, is more qualified to speak about John Holmes than the man himself and those who knew and loved (or hated) him?
Holmes’ life is truly laid bare for the reader, with no details withheld about his marriages, his lovers, his movies, his involvement with the horrific so-called Wonderland Murders, his AIDS diagnosis in 1986 and his death less than a year later. John’s few gay films are duly noted, as is the fact that, as a hustler, he accommodated gay clients.
My most serious criticism of John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is that the authors do not step in at the end to provide a summary or overview of any kind. Holmes’ life may have been measured in inches, as J. Alfred Prufrock’s life was measured in coffee spoons, but a tome of such heft as this one seems obligated to provide a larger view of the Holmes legacy, rather than leaving that job up to the readers.
There are numerous black and white photographs interspersed with the text (some breasts and penises but nothing hardcore). There is also a “Film and Loop ography” of Holmes” more than 1,000 on camera appearances, and nearly 125 pages of selected reviews of Holmes’ feature films.
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches has the great good fortune that its authors were able to assemble their biography while the people best able to tell the story are still alive to speak. It merits the attention of any porn fan, regardless of gender or sexual orentation.
“Johnny Wadd” was a fictional detective that Holmes played in a number of different porn films, and many fans came to think of that as his name.
March 2008 edition
Review of John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches
March 9, 2009 by Christina @ AIPdaily.com.
There is only one word to describe John Curtis Holmes and that word is legend. In this book from first time authors Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson (that’s right, they are both women), we get to hear first hand from the people that knew the man the best. Some contributors include such legends as Buck Adams (who unfortunately died in 2008), Dr. Sharon Mitchell, Marilyn Chambers, Mike Horner and Ron Jeremy.
This book is one of the most in depth biographies on John Holmes. It does focus mainly on his career in the adult industry, his trouble with the law and especially, his alleged involvement in one of the worst crimes in California history: The Wonderland Murders. More important than anything in the book is that the authors go beyond the stigma that John was just a porn star, arguably the most famous male porn star ever, maybe even the biggest porn star period. They delve into what the man was really like by interviewing friends and colleagues.
Some of the most interesting parts, I found anyway, were the sections about his heavy drug use. How he was still able to perform and how it ultimately caused his demise is quite fascinating. Of course, no book about the legend would be complete without talking about his death. I’m sure most of you reading this know already that John died due to complications from AIDS, due mostly to his reckless sex life off camera, as well as the practice of not using condoms in movies at that time.
His life was short lived, dying at the age of 44, but it was a life well lived, and the fact is he lived his life to the fullest. I obviously recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about the man who played “Johnny Wadd” or for anyone that is interested in the adult industry. The book, on top of having many excerpts from interviews, also includes many photos from many stages of his life. Some are nudes, but I suspect if you are reading a book about John Holmes, you are ok with nudity.
I would like to end this review with a quote from John himself. It is really quite deep and it shows you that not only was he physically gifted but he was gifted in thought, as well.
“The tree of life represents the roots of man. The branches are the different directions a man can take, live or exist. When you’re dead, those that you leave behind will put you in a part of that tree. It represents what was, what is and what will be. It’s eternal.” – John Holmes
You may be able to find this book at a book store if you want to check it out, but I do know that they have it at Amazon.
HUSTLER BOOK CLUB – HALL OF APPROVAL
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches By Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson
The March 2009 Edition of Hustler magazine has selected John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches as their premier “book of the month” pick, on page 24 of the “Bits and Pieces” section.
“Porn Star John Holmes led a seedy and sordid life that included drug addiction, the notorious Wonderland Murders and AIDS — all of which makes for a helluva read. The intricate and gory details of the master cocksman’s existance are exposed in John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches. Whether or not, you were a fan of Mr. Wadd, you won’t be able to put down this fascinating biography by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson. (Available now.)” – by Keith Valcourt
SWANK Magazine Book Review Excerpts – February/09
The latest issue of SWANK magazine is now available and on the newstands until March 28/09. Included in the February ’09 issue is a full two page article and review about the new bio, John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches – text by Ron Jeremy, in the column “XXX Reality Check – Ron and the King!” The article is appropriately titled, “John Holmes versus Ron Jeremy” and can be found on pages 42/43, including four images. Below are some selected excerpts:
“What brings about this column about the famous porn stud that died over 20 years ago? It’s because of the release of a fascinating new book about Holmes, a biography titled John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson (http://www.johnholmesinches.com/) and released by Bear Manor Media (http://www.bearmanormedia.com/).
Holmes and I had a very, very friendly rivalry back in the late 1970s when I was starting to do a lot of the X-stuff, and he had become a big draw at the box-office. Back then of course, there was no internet, no DVDs, no VCRs, and porn-lovers who wanted to see an X-rater had to go to an actual movie theater, and in those days they went to see Holmes do his thing.
We co-starred in several features together and various loops as well… There were lots of them back then, I can hardly remember, but luckily in addition the book contains reviews of hundreds of Holmes’ feature films and shorter clips as well as a very comprehensive filmography, to get you up to speed.
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is written in a very interesting and provocative style that I found very compelling. A chronology of Holmes’ life as told through interview excerpts by the people who were with him at the time, and from things he had written himself, and recorded himself, as part of Holmes’ own personal archives of documents and tapes. And then the authors intersperse their own observations and musings as the chapters lead the reader from Holmes’ early life, up to his tragic death — he turned out to be the first-ever real X-industry superstar, but the first known porn star to contract HIV and die from AIDS. Talk about irony?
As I told the book’s authors through hours of interviews I gave them over a period of months, I’d always liked Holmes, he was a very nice personable guy, and always nice to me. But obviously, his drug problems led him to do a lot of things that can’t be condoned. But, in general, I think you have to look at a person’s entire life and and examine both the positives and the negatives if you want to be fair. And while John had a big downside later in life, and he paid the price for it, we can never forget the upside as well.
It is hard to know what to say in talking about John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches because so much of it is personal narrative, of the persons closest to Holmes telling their personal stories involving him. The tales and insights in the book are so human and intimate — on all levels — the only way to truly appreciate how the Holmes story is told is by reading it yourself. Just be prepared for a very long and touching, and disturbing journey.
And in the final analysis [Sugar and Nelson] present a fair, balanced and complete look at “The King”, John Curtis Holmes, without anti-porn hysteria on one hand, and without sugar-coating on the other — just the good, the bad and the ugly of one man’s life. May “The King” rest in peace.”
Holmes Biography – Also Measured in Inches – Friday December 12, 2008
Written by Gram Ponante gramponante.com
John Holmes single-schlongedly embodied the American narrative of success, downfall, and redemption in its porn context, which means something different from any other context. And his story as told in a new book by Jennifer Sugar and Jill Nelson, John Holmes, a Life Measured in Inches, unfolds that story as comprehensibly as possible.
I say “as possible” because Holmes seemed pathologically incapable of telling the same story to everyone. And it wasn’t just bullshit and bravado – he would add and drop entire skill sets depending on the group he was with. Even though he worked under his own name, Holmes’ best friends didn’t know who he was. It wasn’t until his death in 1988, for example, that most of the porn community found out that Holmes had been married for the entirety of his adult career.
Not only that, but prior to the drugs, that marriage to Sharon Holmes had been sexless but happy.
If any single figure in the adult industry past or present deserves a book, it is John Holmes. Then Larry Flynt. Maybe Nina Hartley, but is a story really interesting if someone just keeps getting better?
Holmes’ success roughly parallels the so-called Golden Age of Porn, in which the money was piled as high as the cocaine and “porno chic,” a term that arose from the fame of Deep Throat, made legitimate celebrities of performers long before anyone bothered creating a Jenna Jameson Crossover Star of the Year Award. Holmes was a boner-fide star.
And he was complex. While his wife of 19 years, Sharon, said Holmes could hardly boil water and wouldn’t approach the kitchen, friends in the adult industry remember Holmes cooking feasts (director Roy Karch, who was the production manager for 1979′s Dracula Sucks, starring Holmes, Jamie Gillis, Serena, and Paul Thomas, told me that one late night during the weeklong shoot he walked into the kitchen of the Palmdale-area castle to find Holmes, cooking stew for 50 people for the next day.)
Not only that, but Holmes was also a cop magnet. Years before his use of drugs sidelined his career and landed him at the scene of 1981′s Wonderland Murders, Holmes was an informant for the L.A.P.D.’s anti-porn unit, escaping jail time by providing info on other porn sets.
But drugs were Holmes’ downfall, inasmuch as it was he who chose to take them. According to the book, this casual Scotch drinker and pot smoker devolved quickly into a basehead, stealing from fellow performers, ripping off luggage from the airport, and breaking into cars to steal for his habit.
All the while Holmes could be a loving boyfriend to various women (who knew nothing of each other) and a father-figure to the children of Bill Amerson, a longtime producer and his partner in Penguin Video.
Inches provides an extended study of Holmes’ involvement in the robbery of club-owner and drug dealer Ed Nash and the murders of the Wonderland Gang two days later, as well as Holmes’s imprisonment for contempt, flight across the country, and his eventual, if reluctant, exoneration.
But it is the aftermath of Holmes’ release from jail in 1982, up to the point when he contracted AIDS around 1986, that I found fascinating. Because it was in this time that he seemed to make the best use of this window for redemption. Accepting a divorce from Sharon (she had had enough, finally) and dumped by longtime girlfriend Dawn Schiller (she had had enough, finally), Holmes began a strong relationship with Misty Dawn on the set of his comeback movie. He eventually married her and she became Laurie Holmes.
But it all slid backward when he contracted AIDS, perhaps from a gay actor in a big-budget gay-for-pay movie. Knowing he had the disease, Holmes hit the drugs as hard as he could. He also knowingly worked with other performers during this time, including the Italian actress (and future member of the Italian parliament) Cicciolina. It is believed that Holmes did not pass on the disease to anyone else.
Inches is an oral and text history, meaning that Sugar and Nelson pored over existing interviews and added dozens of their own, quoting dozens of subjects in full paragraphs.
I learned many things about Holmes and the history of the adult industry from this book. As Sugar says, the differing viewpoints let the reader come to his own conclusions about Holmes’ life.
My only complaint about the book is that the authors sometimes let their interviewees ramble past the point of usefulness and relevance, and the oral history aspect sometimes means that key events in Holmes’ life get presented more casually than one might expect. I don’t always want to have to come to my own conclusions.
Like Holmes himself, Inches is a massive and compelling book. Just don’t drop it on your feet.
Read also Gram Ponante’s related article – 2008 in review: Comeback of the Year — John Holmes
Read also Gram Ponante’s relationed article – Porn Valley Two-Headed Donkey Tour: The Wonderland Murders
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, by Jason S. Martinko – Author of “Adult Films 1968-1988″. Publication date: Spring 2010 by McFarland & Company.
“Inches” is truly a landmark in the history of adult cinema. In the future, it will be impossible for an author to write about John Holmes without referring to Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson’s fabulous book. Extensive interviews with friends and family, as well as quotes from Holmes himself paint a colorful picture of the man.
While it is difficult to draw lines between the man and the myth, “Inches” comes as close to stripping away the mystery of Holmes’ life as any book is likely to. “Inches” includes many rare photographs, not to mention an astounding film(loop)ography that lists 150 loops, 306 features and 27 compilations, making it priceless to any collector of adult films and vintage erotica. Highly recommended!
A New Biography of the Top Gun in the Porno Industry – November 6th by Ben Castanier
Book Review Excerpt from Mittenlit Book Blog
Two women totally unconnected to the porno industry have written an incredible biography of porno’s leading man.
This past week the two authors of a new biography on John C. Holmes did a book signing and discussion in Lansing. It was their first mainstream appearance. Here’s a look at this controversial new book.
Pornography, drugs, and murder; who wouldn’t want to read a biography that is absolutely saturated in sex, cocaine, and a mass murder? From Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal as Dirk Diggler, a physically talented but drug addled porn-star in “Boogie Nights,” to Val Kilmer’s graphic yet stunningly vivid and accurate characterization in “Wonderland” John C. Holmes legend has grown in proportion to his legendary appendage.
In “John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches,” authors Jennifer Sugar of Michigan and Jill C. Nelson of Canada provide the first and more than likely the most detailed biography ever of porn superstar John Curtis Estes, aka John C. Holmes, aka Johnny Wadd.
In a book that utilizes years of research including hundreds of hours of interviews with friends, family, co-stars, police officers (essentially those who knew Holmes at his most intimate moments), John C. Holmes’ life before, during and after porn is described and chronicled with painfully hard memories.
These two first-time authors (one actually went to a filming of a XXX movie to interview a director who was extremely close to Holmes during his extended run in the pornography game) put together a 582 page biography that reads like a college textbook on speed with a side of steroids. In addition, to pages upon pages that recount a fascinating life that coincided with the criminalization and then legitimization of pornography, Jennifer Sugar and Jill Nelson provide the reader with hundreds of synopsis’ of Holmes’ films including little-known reels from the earliest days of pornography that conclude with brazenly poignant reviews such as “…John gets the girls prepped for a shared facial—a personal memento from Mr. Big.”
“John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches,” is a narrative similar to other star biographies with one major exception; the pages and pages of quotes and personal accounts of nearly every major figure in John’s life. Instead of unverified accounts given by outsiders with no obvious connection to Holmes, these authors included the personal accounts of many of his peers which allow readers an inside view into Johnny Wadd’s troubled life.
Review of A Life Measured in Inches, written by Ian Jane at AV Maniacs
Clocking in at a whopping 581 pages and including many photos from throughout Holmes’ life and career, this ridiculously well researched book features interviews with Holmes’ family and friends such as Sharon Holmes and Dawn Schiller as well as co-workers like Bob Chinn, Jamie Gillis, Bill Margold, Annette Haven and many, many, many more.
Careful not to choose sides over the various controversial aspects of Holmes’ life, the book starts with a look at Holmes’ early years and follows him throughout the early days of his adult career in the sixties through to his rise to stardom as porndom’s main marquee star in the seventies with the advent of the Johnny Wadd films. From there we learn of his struggles with substance abuse which lead to the controversial ‘Wonderland Murders’ and his subsequent legal troubles. Of course, from there we learn of his comeback and ultimately his battle with HIV.
The book manages to paint a portrait of a man both troubled and proud. At times sincerely nice and kind, and at other times completely full of shit, Holmes makes for a fascinating subject and the care and attention to detail put into this project, the obvious desire to paint an honest portrait of his life rather than to simply focus on the more sensationlist aspects of it, makes this a book very much worth reading.
Anyone with a passing interest in the adult film industry or who just enjoys a good biography in and of itself owes it to themselves to check out this meticulous and fascinating study of one of the most infamous and recognizeable adult film icons of all time. – Ian
The Long Hard Life of John Holmes - September 11, 2008, by Phil Hall (Film Threat)
So, who was the biggest male star in movie history? Those with a flippantly dirty mind can produce the obvious answer: John Holmes.
Most people know John Holmes from the publicity surrounding his extraordinary endowment. And for those who enjoyed 1970s-era porn, Holmes’ on-screen persona as tough guy detective Johnny Wadd left a memorable impression.
Yet beyond the scintillating on-screen fun was a life that spiraled wildly out of control. A cocaine addiction wrecked his personal and professional life, and his involvement in setting up the robbery that resulted in the 1981 Wonderland Murders should have finished Holmes completely. Remarkably, he was able to regain career momentum and enjoy personal stability. But his recovery was too brief, and his 1988 AIDS-related death sealed his reputation as one of the most bizarre life stories in the entertainment world.
In the new book “John Holmes – A Life Measured in Inches,” authors Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson separate legend from fact and piece together Holmes’ strange and often tragic story. The result is an emotionally exhausting yet truly compelling real-life adventure. Published by BearManor Media, “John Holmes – A Life Measured in Inches” is the first biography on the late porn star and an invaluable history on the rise of the 1970s porno business.