April 1st, 2010
The Definitive Johnny Wadd The Daily Advisor -April, 2010
Chip Rowe recapped his synopsis of A Life Measured in Inches and his recent on-air interview with co-biographer, Jill C. Nelson in his online column for Playboy Magazine as The Daily Advisor.
Jennifer Sugar and Jill Nelson are the co-authors of John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, the definitive biography of the porn legend who was best known for his extra-large penis. Sugar and Nelson interviewed 35 people who knew and worked with Holmes, then compiled a lengthy filmography of some of the more than 2,500 loops and movies he is thought to have appeared before his death in 1988 of AIDS-related complications. We spoke with Nelson recently on The Playboy Advisor Show (Wednesdays on Sirius/XM 99). Here is an edited version of that conversation. playboy.com
Mississauga News November, 2009
Burlington author Jill Nelson will be in Mississauga this Saturday November 28th to sign copies of a book she co-wrote about a controversial and well-known porn star. Nelson will be at Chapters at the Erin Mills Power Centre, at 3040 Vega Blvd., between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to speak about the book she co-wrote with American Jennifer Sugar called John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches. Published last year by Bear Manor Media, the book is a biography of Holmes, a pop culture figure who was arguably the first porn star to gain mainstream appeal. The 581-page book includes three photo sections (including rare nudes) and a 21-page filmography.
Essay on INCHES – widerscreenings.com July, 2009
Australian writer and critic, Robert Cettl, recently reviewed A Life Measured in Inches for his website, widerscreenings.com:
John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches – a book review by Robert Cettl
John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches is the first book by authors Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson and is a work of considerable scope, ambition and importance in its chosen field. Indeed Sugar and Nelson have taken a subject inherently problematic – the history and scholarship of the adult film – and rendered it lucidly accessible to all, whether fans of adult material or not and whether male or female.
Sugar and Nelson have researched their subject considerably and it is evident on every page – John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches is the distinctive Holmes biography, sorting through Holmes’ tendency to fabricate the truth in his own accounts of his life with actual biographical fact and first-hand accounts of the man and his life presented uncut in the actual words of those who knew and interacted with him – from Sharon Holmes (the wife he kept secret to his adult industry business partners) to Bob Chinn (the Chinese-American UCLA graduate turned pornographer who in tandem with Holmes would birth West Coast US porn in the Johnny Wadd series of films, meticulously described in the comprehensive filmography which closes this remarkable book).
Nelson and Sugar arrange their book chronologically in the manner of a traditional biography but with unedited interview extracts punctuating the factual account to give a portrayal of both Holmes the man himself, his developing legend and the way in which he was seen, considered and judged by those who knew him best. This demythologizing journey through the life of porndom’s most famous male star (with apologies to Ron “the Hedgehog” Jeremy it is Holmes who will be forever known as “the King”) begins with Holmes’ troubled childhood (he was neglected and brutalized). Here, authors Nelson and Sugar devote just enough time and targeted interview extracts to suggest the psychological pressures – including the need for attention – which would shape the adult Holmes’ dealings with and attitude to women. However, the authors do not attempt a full psycho-analytical portrait of Holmes – their intent is fact-based oral history and they present both the necessary information and a variety of first-hand accounts to enable the reader to assess the behavioural factors that shaped the humanity of porn’s biggest (literally in terms of penis size – how big was it?) icon.
Holmes’ early relationships, friendships and business contracts soon segue into an account of his life with wife Sharon Holmes (a frequent contributor to the extracted interview material) and his developing working relationship with Bob Chinn. Indeed, Nelson & Sugar have here done the astonishing (and even taboo) thing – interviewing a pornographer and rendering his perspective with both the authority and intelligence it deserves. What emerges is a fully detailed account of the birth of the porn industry, the methods, distribution and business structure of the industry and Holmes’ relationship to it. Importantly, this exploration of the industry that he helped popularize and establish is balanced with the continuing and evolving biographical account of Holmes as a person. Thus, the book frankly describes his relationships with his co-workers, with his wife (whom he tried to keep as separate from his work as possible) and his relationships with younger women – from Dawn Schiller through to Laurie Holmes in the latter stages of his life. Contributions from such adult industry veterans as Candida Royalle, Bill Margold, reporter Jim Holliday and Paul Thomas coalesce for a distinctive picture of the man, fully representative of the adult industry that grew up around him. As such, John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches is both a biography and a valid social document exploring an epoch which has never gotten its full attention due to the hypocritical moral quagmire that still surrounds any objective account of the adult film industry and the people who live it.
Continuing through his porno movie career Nelson and Sugar next chronicle Holmes’ increasing drug use and the toll – physical and emotional – that it took on him. The authors make no attempt to glamorize this drug use but nor do they condemn it on either legal or moral grounds. Indeed, as a work shorn of moralistic judgment, John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches is exemplary, transgressive even. But the reality of drug use in the 1970s is covered and the disastrous effect on Holmes’ personality (turning a gentle lover into a violent pimp) is commented upon by – most importantly – the women in his life directly affected by his behaviour. Yet, in this too Holmes emerges as something of an enigma: as a Godfather to his friend Bill Amerson’s children Holmes was incredibly protective and as devoted as if he were their father yet was quite prepared to pimp out his girlfriend when the need for drugs arose. This humanist moral relativism distinguishes Holmes’ life making it impossible to judge him in terms of moral absolutism – his life and the industry he helped establish remain unaccountable to absolutist good or bad judgement. There is no good and evil here, just humanity – which is not to say that Holmes was not spiritual: as one astonishing revelation contained in the book explores, Holmes indeed developed a special relationship with a Christian police officer with whom Holmes jointly prayed and refused to let be cross-examined by his defense attorney when he was on trial for murder / conspiracy.
Rounding out the book’s chronological development are Holmes’ fugitive from justice period and his re-entry (so to speak) into the adult industry, through to the facts surrounding his death from AIDS after knowingly having sex on film when HIV positive and risking infecting his partners (who included Italian porn star later turned politician Cicciolina). Speculation abounds as to where and when Holmes contracted the fatal disease (linked to his one appearance in a gay film) but Nelson and Sugar balance this with a clever look at how the adult industry in general responded to the AIDS crisis (thanks in no small part to Sharon Mitchell) as much as an account of the disease’s toll on Holmes. Significantly, the book does not shy away from the debate surrounding Holmes’ decision to continue working (revealed in the book) even at the risk of infecting his on-screen sexual partners. To many, this point alone is enough to demonize and dismiss Holmes forever as a mere immoral “lowlife”: however, Sugar and Nelson clearly explain Holmes’ reasoning and, again without judgment, explain and account for the situation (again through expertly juxtaposed interview testimony) so as to if not excuse Holmes’ actions then at least explain them within the biographical account of his life.
Nelson and Sugar are the first biographers / oral historians to compile a work shorn of the (either Patriarchal Christian or radical feminist) morality which automatically discredits any and all adult film as “pornography”. In stripping away any accountability to the imposed morality of those who demonize pornography and its participants what emerges is, as the book slowly segues from the vice squad anti-porn activities to the Wonderland investigation, a simultaneous exploration of the moral hypocrisy of those American authorities who have traditionally demonized pornography and sought to have it deemed illegal and suppressed as a form of either fantasy or generic discourse, both of which it inherently is. The ramifications of the investigation into Holmes’ possible involvement in murder (or conspiracy to commit murder) reveal a cross-section of legal implications ranging from sloppy investigation to – in the decision to hold Holmes in contempt of court when he refused to testify (for fear of his life) against Eddie Nash for involvement in the Wonderland murders – the outright violation of both the US constitution and essential human rights guaranteed by the UN (to which the US Constitution is accountable). In this, John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches carries the broader frame of moral hypocrisy towards the suppression of the adult industry so well documented in The Other Hollywood and re-locates it from the macrocosm of the porn genre in total to the microcosm by focusing specifically on Holmes.
As mentioned at the outset, John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches is the debut work for authors Sugar and Nelson. It is a responsible balance of objective historical scholarship, biography and oral history which not only demystifies the adult industry and the legend surrounding Holmes but raises ethical and moral questions regarding American culture’s legal and moral treatment of pornography as a genre. Although Nelson and Sugar keep their own voices and insight constrained to historical and journalistic accountability, they speak with an authority that should bode them well for subsequent books should they continue to explore adult industry related material. In that, the filmography that rounds out this book (feature films, loops, compilations) is astonishing for the research involved, the detail and – most interestingly – a film by film account of Holmes’ career from the perspective of two talented, intelligent women able to see through the smoke of anti-porn feminism to acknowledge the genre’s appeal for both men and women. The filmography alone, with synopsis, critical comment and credits, is enough to make John Holmes: a Life Measured in Inches the definitive Holmes biography and encyclopaedic Holmes reference book. The back cover to the book boasts a review from critic Dick Freeman who describes the book as “undoubtedly the best porn bio ever written, and will set standards”. This is one case where the book well and truly does live up to the hype: outstanding by any measure of the term.
Hustler Canada magazine article/review excerpts - August 2009 issue – by Keith Carman (This two page article contains candid photos of Holmes, including a nude shot from a pictorial. It also includes photos of the authors.)
“While his infamous Johnny Wadd is still omnipresent in pop culture some 20 years after his death and a few documentaries have struggled to peel back Holmes’ personal layers posthumously, they were of minimal impact. Little was truly known about the true Holmes.
THAT IS, UNTIL NOW.
Even two decades later, Holmes is an icon, making men jealous and women coo. From his portrayal as a ladykiller to his drug dependency, soft-heartedness and yearning for love, to ignoring his own mortality and endangering the lives of others after contracting AIDS, and his unusual involvement in the Wonderland Murders of the ’80s, Holmes was–and is–an intriguing, beguiling figure.
Therefore, it comes as little shock that the world’s first authorized biography, John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches (Bear Manor Media) finds the most unusual of cohorts uniting to tell the in-depth tale of of Holmes’ fascinating, albeit, troubled and dichotomous life: 20 something year-old MSU graduate, Jennifer Sugar, and 50-something hearing aid specialist/mother of two, Jill C. Nelson.”
“And how, exactly do these two very opposing, very distant personalities find one another, let alone collaborate on their shared interest in Holmes, despite having absolutely no previous ties to the industry? Thank the internet. After participating on a message board for Wonderland, Nelson met Sugar who was already in the process of writing Holmes’ biography.”
Sugar: “I watched all of the documentaries, read John’s autobiography and started watching his movies. I had so many questions; I wanted to read an in-depth biography and when I found that there wasn’t one, available, I decided to write it.”
Nelson: “I was blown away that a young woman of her age had taken on such a monumental task, particularly since [Jennifer] was only five years old when Holmes died from AIDS-related causes in 1988,” Nelson relates with pride. “About a year after we’d started communicating, Jennifer invited me to be her collaborator.”
“The end result is a captivating, heart-wrenching account of Holmes life related through intense interviews with his loved ones, colleagues, business associates and fellow stars. Rounded out with narrative links, previously-unreleased photos and a stunning index of every Holmes production throughout his career, John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is a long-overdue tribute to one of the adult industry’s pioneers, let alone the industry itself.”
“Love him or loathe him,” adds Sugar with finality, “John Holmes is a part of pop culture and American history.”
First-time author focuses on life of late porn star – Colourful world of John Holmes turned into biography By Melanie Cummings, Special To Burlington Post
Arts & Entertainment
Mar 27, 2009
Jill Nelson, 51, is an unlikely porn star biographer. Yet she is. The hearing aid specialist has also never tackled writing before, except in her high school days at Central. Yet she did. Chalk up her achievement in getting her first book about the well-endowed adult film actor John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches to sheer fascination mixed with unending, dogged determination.
Her partner in penning this 584-page story is also an unlikely match. At 26, Jennifer Sugar is a generation younger than Nelson and lives a country away, in Michigan.
The pair did have a seemingly unquenchable curiosity about Holmes after watching the movie Wonderland. Intrigued by the main character, the women met while chatting on an Internet website about the porn star, who was addicted to drugs and implicated in 1981 drug-related murders of four people in Los Angeles. “I’ve always been drawn to people on the fringe and their stories,” said Nelson. “(Holmes) wasn’t polished or well educated but he was charismatic.”
It took Nelson and Sugar four years to write Holmes’s biography and, after finding an agent, the book was appropriately launched on what would have been his 64th birthday, last Aug. 8. “A lot of things fell into place with this project,” said Nelson from her home in Aldershot.
She and Sugar made contact in the adult film world that led to the bevy of interviews with key people in his life such as Holmes’s widow, a long-time girlfriend (who hadn’t gone on record before), adult film directors he worked with in the industry’s golden age, two police officers who arrested him in Los Angeles (one was Tom Lange, made famous through the investigation into O. J. Simpson’s murder charge), friends, co-stars and co-workers.
“People entrusted us because we weren’t jaded media nor were we immersed in the porn world,” said Nelson. “It was a life-changing experience.”
The biography is told in a first person story-telling format with some narrative written by Nelson and Sugar, as well as the comprehensive filmography synopses. The pair watched about 114 full-length movies and another 86 loops (silent shorts that are light on plot and long on hard-core action) to put together the film review section.
Holmes’s life story seems to be one filled with contradiction, Nelson discovered.
While porn films in his time were illegal to make, watching such films weren’t. Therefore, Holmes’s entire career in the 1970s and ’80s was against the law. Ironically, porn films were legalized in 1988, the year he died of AIDS at age 44.
He was also a man who wrote beautiful poems about love, yet had unprotected intercourse even though he knew he was HIV positive. “There’s no question he did despicable things,” said Nelson.
While he gained fame for his lengthy appendage (the book boldly includes a full frontal nudity photo of Holmes in all of his glory) his short life had good, bad and ugly in it too, added Nelson.
Before writing the book, Nelson would have deemed pornography immoral. But in the context of the time, the men and women in this industry were also part of the sexual revolution era of the 1960s.
“They were educated people who wanted to buck the system and while I wouldn’t want my kids to be porn actors, or me, I don’t pass judgment on them,” said Nelson.
Online sales through amazon.com , chapters.com or johnholmesinches.com — currently the only way to buy John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches — have been steady to date.
The biography will also be sold locally on Saturday, April 18 at Chapters on Fairview Street from noon-2 p. m. Nelson and possibly Sugar will be on hand for book signings.
“It’ll be interesting to see who shows up,” said Nelson.
Rising to the Occasion – Burlington mom cowrites porn star’s biography
Mary K. Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator (Feb 7, 2009)
Reference is often made to “the longest serving member” of Parliament or Congress or city council. But the late John Holmes was as deserving of the title as any politician or statesman.
The legendary porn star, who died of AIDS in its early days, at the age of 43, was famous for his munificent endowment. Thus the title of a new biography, John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, written, surprisingly, by a respectable, middle-aged Burlington mom who sells hearing aids for a living.
Jill Nelson concedes that Holmes is a curious subject for her first book. Not only has he been dead for 21 years, but his only claim to fame beyond his prodigious appendage was his role in a gruesome mass killing in Los Angeles at the home of a notorious drug kingpin.
Nelson’s interest in Holmes’s short, sad, sleazy life was stimulated by the violent 2003 movie, Wonderland, which she and her husband rented one Saturday night from their local video store. Starring Val Kilmer as Holmes, the movie chronicled what came to be known as the Wonderland Murders, a sordid tale of drug trafficking, addiction, the gang underworld, prostitution, pornography, money laundering, bribery, double-crossing, robbery and four murders that Holmes was charged with — and eventually acquitted of — committing.
Nelson was so intrigued by Holmes’s tragic story that she began researching his life online, where she ran into a young Michigan student on a message board. Jennifer Sugar was only 21 but determined to write the definitive biography of Holmes, and she invited Nelson to be her collaborator.
“We wanted to write a fair and unbiased biography — the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Nelson’s 24-year-old son thought it was a bit of a kick, but her daughter, 19, was not entirely impressed. “She said ‘Out of everything you could write about, why does it have to be a porn star?’” says Nelson. Her husband of 30 years worried about possible negative repercussions. “He cautioned me that I wasn’t writing a book about birds,” she laughs.
Between them, Nelson and Sugar interviewed 35 people, including Holmes’s second wife, Laurie. They also watched as many of Holmes’s films as they could find — about 114 full-length movies and another 86 “loops,” silent shorts that are light on plot and long on hard-core action. None would have merited any awards, not for the acting, at any rate.
“We wanted to get beyond the stigma,” says Nelson. “We discovered that there was a real soft side to him, pardon the pun. We believe he was a good guy in the beginning, a big-hearted guy, but when he got into coke, all his demons came out.”
Holmes, they discovered, was not just a sex addict, drug addict and accused murderer who endured a miserable childhood, ran with a bad crowd and had unprotected sex with his costars even after learning he had AIDS. He was also a kind and charismatic man, a loving stepfather who loved gardening, building, poetry, woodworking, antiques and storytelling, says Nelson. His first marriage lasted 19 years, his second was in its fifth when he died.
“He’ll always remain an enigma because that’s the way he wanted it,” says Nelson. “I do like him, despite some of the heinous things he did. If I’d ever met him, I’d probably have been sucked in by his charisma.”
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches – Ottawa X-Press January 8, 2009
Inches? by Geoffrey Brown
John Holmes’ uncut life
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is an almost ludicrously well-researched biography of the first true superstar of adult cinema, the legendary John Holmes (or Johnny Wadd as he was called in many of his films), renowned for being extremely – some might say grotesquely – well-endowed. Jill Nelson, a hearing instrument specialist in Hamilton, says she was drawn to Holmes as a subject after watching Val Kilmer portray John Holmes in the movie Wonderland (which depicts the robbery of a notorious L.A. mobster, night club owner and drug lord by the name of Ed Nash, a man with whom Holmes had become affiliated through a mutual interest in freebase cocaine).
“I found myself wanting to learn more,” notes Nelson. “I couldn’t fathom how an uncomplicated country boy from Ohio had somehow managed to be catapulted to the pinnacle of the erotic movie industry. I was interested to know what made Holmes tick, and in my spare time I began researching him on the Internet.”
Nelson’s co-writer, Jennifer Sugar (the two met on an entertainment message board), came to the subject in a similar manner. “She had watched Wonderland in 2004 and wanted to read a book about John, only to find that one did not exist. She decided to write it herself,” says Nelson, “and about a year after she had commenced writing she invited me to assist her with the project and our collaboration began.”
Nelson and Sugar’s objective “was to provide an unbiased, balanced and unprecedented presentation of the events of Holmes’ life, without resorting to a sensationalized account” (despite barely touching alcohol and completely abstaining from using illicit drugs at the beginning of his career, Holmes, in addition to eventually becoming addicted to cocaine, was also arrested for his part in the brutal “Wonderland murders” in 1981 and eventually died of AIDS). To that end, they conducted interviews with 35 people, including Holmes’ ex-wife, Laurie, whom they interviewed at length and who “opened up to us and revealed new information about her personal life with John which was significant to the book, as she is generally guarded about talking to people about her late husband.”
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the book is the very thoroughness of the research, especially the extremely detailed and comprehensive film and scene reviews at the back of the book. “We wrote all of the movie reviews and loops synopses ourselves. I’d say that our film reviews are more erotic in nature, while our loops are sexually explicit, since they are much shorter than the features (only 10 minutes in length, on average) and merely brief set-ups for sex. Jennifer and I indeed watched every single one of the 114 Holmes feature films,” says Nelson, “and all 86 of the loops that are included in the reviews and loops sections of the book. It was definitely a herculean effort.”
CityLife Picks January, 2009
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches
To say porn has gone mainstream would be a gross understatement. Jenna Jameson, famous almost exclusively from fucking, rose from porn a household name. Shit, she even has a wax statue of her own at Madame Tussaud’s. But 30 years ago, in a time where porno was still underground and illegal in some states, the biggest (ha) star of them all was a former meat-packer (ha ha) with a really large wang (ha ha ha). John Holmes, the first king of porn and famous for his gigantic tool, was a star in porno nearly overnight. But drugs, erratic behavior, his oddly large … ego, and alleged involvement in the horrific 1981 “Wonderland” drug murders in Hollywood took over the porn king’s legacy. And even though his death from complications from AIDS in 1988, he lived a crazy life. Authors Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson’s new biography, John Holmes, A Life Measured in Inches — along with widow Laurie Holmes — plan to tell you all about it at the Erotic Heritage Museum, and where better to celebrate the man’s career than during the Adult Video News Network’s annual convention? There, everything from the murders to speculation of the actual length of Holmes’s famous ego (OK, I’ll stop) can be discussed with the best of them.
Also, if you’re not busy the night before, Ginger Lynn, widely considered one of the first famous porn stars, also MCs a night of art, live music, autographs and, of course, live S&M demo, also to be held at the Museum. It’s a whole lot of debauched fun, and seriously, how often can you celebrate the proto-years of porn with other members of the adult entertainment community outside of your own bedroom? Aaron Thompson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Holmes, a Life Measured in Inches book signing, with Jill C. Nelson, Jennifer Sugar and Laurie Holmes
Sat., Jan. 10, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.
Erotic Heritage Museum
3275 Industrial Road
John Holmes Is Back
20 years after his death, the porn icon is spotlighted in new bio, DVD reissues
By: Jared Rutter Posted: 10/31/2008
CHATSWORTH, Calif. – Twenty years after his death, porn icon John Holmes is back in the spotlight thanks to the re-release of two of his landmark movies and the publication of his first full-length biography.
The re-releases, Johnny Wadd, (1970) from VCX, and The Return of Johnny Wadd (1986), from Adam & Eve, neatly bookend the star’s career. They were his first and last incarnations of the private eye character who became his on-screen alter ego.
Johnny Wadd was made in 1970 in the porn industry’s fledgling years. Director Bob Chinn made it in one day for $500 from a script he wrote on the back of an envelope. It was the first of many Wadd movies with Chinn at the helm. The director recently unearthed a pristine first-run answer print from which VCX made its DVD. Extras include an interview and commentary with him.
The Return of Johnny Wadd was one of Holmes’ last features, produced by his friend Bill Amerson for Penguin Productions. Written by Raven Touchstone and directed by Patti Rhodes, it co-stars Kimberly Carson, Sheri St. Clair, Mai Lin and Billy Dee.
According to Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson in their biography John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, The Return of Johnny Wadd was made after Holmes’ release from jail (in connection with the drug-related Wonderland murders) but before he tested positive for HIV. The actor was 41 and had not made a Wadd movie for eight years. He wanted to revive the franchise and got permission from Chinn, then living in Hawaii, to give it a try.
Touchstone says in the book that she thought her script would be the first of a new Wadd series, but it turned out to be the last. Not long after its release in early 1986, Holmes came down with the first symptoms of the AIDS-related illness that would kill him two years later.
Fans of the original should be alerted that Adam & Eve’s version starts off with a wholly unrelated sex scene that appears to have been incorporated into the movie some years after the movie’s initial release. It features an unidentified woman and a young Tony Tedeschi, who did not enter the business until the early 1990s. Otherwise, the movie plays just as it did when shot on video 22 years ago.
John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is packed with information that even the closest student of the porn legend’s life may not be aware of. It’s the work of two non-professional writers who developed an interest in the late stud bordering on obsession and tracked down just about everyone who ever knew him. Holmes’ life story, told primarily in the words of the interviewees, like an oral history, is endlessly fascinating.
The book has some terrific extras: an amazingly thorough filmography (and loopography) as well as detailed reviews of the major movies. This is no small achievement. Video stores would be well advised to stock it in their Classics section. Copies can be ordered from www.bearmanormedia.com or from www.johnholmesinches.com.
Holmes Biographer Talks About Her Experience Writing ‘Inches’
By Bob Preston X-Biz Thursday, Oct 30, 2008
Jennifer Sugar’s real name sounds like a porn star name, but she’s just a regular Michigan woman who’s writing about an adult legend.
Sugar teamed up with another writer, Jill C. Nelson, to write “John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches,” a biography of the industry icon who gained notoriety for his prolific performing and prodigious endowments. Holmes died in 1988.
A graduate of Michigan State University, Sugar first became interested in Holmes after seeing the 2003 drama “Wonderland,” which starred Val Kilmer as Holmes. The movie followed Holmes during the investigation into the 1981 Wonderland murders, which left four people dead and cast suspicion on Holmes himself. Also appearing in the movie were Lisa Kudrow and Kate Bosworth. Sugar’s research began at the beginning: Holmes himself.
“I was curious really because he was a boy from Ohio who went out to Hollywood and became a porn star,” she told the Lansing, Mich., State Journal. “It just seemed like he was an important person. … A pop culture icon … I wanted to see him as more than just a penis.” After that, Sugar dove right into the adult scene, meeting industry veteran Bill Margold and attending a 2004 party that honored Holmes’ birthday.
Sugar’s research also included an extensive trip through Holmes’ filmography.
“Some of them were really funny,” she said. “The more I watched them, the more I liked them. … Then they got repetitive.”
“John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches” is available now.
MSU grad, Toronto businesswoman team up for ‘King of Porn’ bio
By BILL CASTANIER October 29th Lansing City Pulse
The story of how two women came to write a biography of the unquestionable “King” of Porn,” John C. Holmes, is almost as fascinating as their subject. Almost.
Recent Michigan State University graduate Jennifer Sugar, of Michigan, and Jill Nelson, a businesswoman from Toronto, have written a fascinating account of Holmes’ rise to fame and dramatic fall in their 581-page book “John Holmes: A Life Measured In Inches.”
Most know of Holmes for his extraordinary endowment, which helped make him the star of thousands of pornographic movies during the “golden era” of porn. His most notable achievement was the “Johnny Wadd” series, in which he played a detective or, as it’s known in the trade, a private dick. Those less familiar with his work know about Holmes from the movie “Wonderland,” which not only details his life in the industry, but also his decline and fall, which led to cocaine addiction, his entanglement in a drug robbery and murder and his ultimate death from AIDS in 1988. Sugar became fascinated with Holmes’ life after watching “Wonderland” as an MSU student in 2003. “I hadn’t watched a John Holmes movie, and (after watching “Wonderland”) I said I’ll never watch a John Holmes movie,” Sugar said.
The promise to look away was short lived. “I was most interested in the murders at first,” Sugar said. Sugar watched documentaries on Holmes and read everything she could find. One thing she could not find was a biography of the porn star. Undaunted and naïve about how hard it would be, Sugar decided to write it herself. “I just thought it would be kind of fun to try,” she said. In August 2004, Sugar who calls her self “shy,” went to Hollywood alone for the “Fit For a King” event, a celebration of Holmes’ life. She returned to California over the next three summers to conduct more than 35 interviews with Holmes’ co-stars, directors and the police officers involved in the investigation of the robbery-murders.
One major player who helped make contacts for Sugar was Holmes’ widow and former porn star, Laurie Holmes, who also gave her and her writing partner access to audiotapes from Holmes’ autobiography, “Porn King.” “I think my age and not having any experience as a journalist or author let them open up to me,” Sugar said. By the time Sugar interviewed director Paul Thomas while on a shoot, she was quite familiar with the industry. “What was shocking was that I wasn’t shocked,” she said. Later, she and Nelson shared the responsibility of watching 114 feature films and another 86 loops starring Holmes to complete the section on Holmes’ filmography.
Sugar met Nelson online in a chatroom about “Wonderland.” They corresponded through e-mail for more than a year before Sugar asked for help with the book. “As I got to trust her, I told her it was too much for one person,” Sugar said. Nelson said her initial interest in Holmes stemmed from her fascination with Val Kilmer, who played him in “Wonderland.” “I knew about John Holmes, but other than knowing he was well endowed, I wanted to see how Val Kilmer would portray him,” she said. Her interest grew, and Nelson found herself wanting to know more.
“I wanted to find out how a country kid from Ohio could get caught up in pornography and be catapulted into stardom,” she said. Nelson also brought a different perspective, since she was twice Sugar’s age. “I knew the ‘70s,” she said. “I lived through them.” Nelson said sifting through all the material was a lot of work. Much had been written about Holmes, but there was no complete biography, and that was the authors’ goal. They wanted to know what went on behind the scenes and who the man was. They each conducted interviews and reviewed movies. “We both respected each other’s opinions,” Nelson said. “I think that’s the reason it works. We’re both determined and perfectionists, and we’re both meticulous.”
Each woman is proud of her accomplishment, which is the best look to date at a porn star who helped redefine a film genre, bringing it from seedy art house to a new life at video stores. The book is also the first mainstream biography of a porn star to feature full frontal nudity. Both authors agree it had to be included, and it’s the first thing readers turn to. Now the authors are on the circuit to promote the book, making appearances everywhere from mainstream bookstores to the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas in January.
For the record, Sugar’s “favorite” Holmes’ movie is “Eruption,” and Nelson favors “Jade Pussycat.” Neither would elaborate, but Sugar did recently see “Eruption” on a large 35 mm screen. Perfect to watch John C. Holmes.
Paul Thomas: The Fact that John Holmes Got AIDS and Died from IT was Perfect Adult FYI – Gene Ross 09.05.2008
Porn was really cool back in the Eighties. Then when John Holmes died of AIDS in 1988, all of a sudden, it wasn’t as cool any more. The book John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is an oral history of the most famous and controversial porn star of all time.
Holmes had the mythical monster cock and the party personality to go with it. But when Holmes died, it was the effect of someone turning the lights on the party and calling the cops. And the spirited Free Love movement which began in the Sixties and proceeded pretty much undisturbed over two decades all of a sudden had its rude awakenings, repercussions and finger-pointings.
In the blizzard of quotes and assembly of porn junkie recollections and anecdotes, one comment in this fascinating book by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson really leaps off the page. Paul Thomas offers his thoughts upon hearing of Holmes’ death.
“When I found out he had AIDS,” says Thomas, “I was in denial because then I was scared that I had it. I wouldn’t test. It seemed the proper ending for Holmes, or anyone else in this business. It seemed not surprising at all, in fact, it was surprising that we all didn’t have it. That was amazing: not that he had it, but that we all didn’t have it. I’d crossed swords with him many times. He was with a girl and three seconds later, I was with her, so it was surprising that we all didn’t get it. The fact that he got it and died from it was perfect. Tragic, but perfect.”
By the way, Holmes knew he had AIDS and continued to perform.
John Holmes Book Debuts Friday – First bio of late porn legend launches at Book Soup on his 64th birthday
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — “John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches,” the first full-length biography of the legendary porn star, will be launched at Book Soup this Friday, August 8—his 64th birthday. The book, by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson, is a “celebration of Holmes’ erotic films and his legend.”
The event at the West Hollywood store, 8818 Sunset Blvd., from 7 to 9 p.m., will be followed with a free midnight screening of Eruption, starring Holmes and Lesllie Bovee, at the Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Blvd.
Laurie Holmes, the star’s widow, Bob Chinn, director of the “Johnny Wadd” films, industry veteran Bill Margold and Cass Paley, director of the documentary Wadd, The Life & Times of John C. Holmes, are scheduled to speak at the event.
Porn icon Ron Jeremy is a special invited guest. Golden Age favorite Rhonda Jo Petty, cameraman Mark Novick, and photographers Joel Sussman and Kenji are expected to be in attendance, as are directors Julia St. Vincent (Exhausted), Don Fernando and Alan Colberg.
On August 7, Sugar and Nelson will appear on Playboy Radio’s “Nightcalls” with Christy Canyon and Vanessa Blue. The first-time authors will discuss the book and their own story of being drawn to the story of Holmes, “the best-known performer in the XXX world.” Neither woman had been involved with the adult industry before taking on the project.
The co-authors conducted extensive interviews with Holmes’ former co-stars and colleagues, including Laurie Holmes, Chinn, St. Vincent, Bill Amerson, Paul Thomas, Jeremy, Seka, Jamie Gillis, Marilyn Chambers, Candida Royalle, Petty, Dr. Sharon Mitchell and Margold, among others, as well as Detectives Tom Lange and Frank Tomlinson.
The biography is available through its website at JohnHolmesInches.com, and also at online retailers Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. For more information, visit the Book Soup events calendar. http://www.booksoup.com/author-events.asp
NEWS STORY John Holmes Biography to be Published in August
Two women collaborate to make the story of “the King” their first nonfiction novel
By Joanne Cachapero
Thursday, Apr. 3, 2008
TORONTO — “John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches” is set to be released by Bear Manor Media in August. The biography is a collaboration between two first-time authors, Jennifer Sugar and Jill Nelson.
Neither of the women were adult film fans or had a background in the adult industry prior to starting the project. The authors told XBIZ the project was born out of curiosity surrounding Holmes’ legend and also the star’s well-publicized fall from grace.
“It was a twist of fate,” Sugar said, who explained that she was inspired after seeing the 2003 movie “Wonderland.”
“After the movie, the true crime aspect of the story initially intrigued me,” Sugar said. “But I felt there was more to the story about the murders and also about John. I decided to write a book since there wasn’t one in print — although ‘Porn King,’ his autobiography, is still available as an e-book.”
Nelson said that her interest also was piqued by “Wonderland,” which starred Val Kilmer as Holmes.
“Part of my fascination was due to the fact that I had relatively zero knowledge about the adult film industry,” Nelson said. “Prior to watching the movie — and like many other mainstream people — I had preconceived notions about the industry and the people in it.”
In August 2004, Sugar attended an event celebrating Holmes’ birthday and met several Golden Age adult celebrities, including Bill Margold, Cass Paley, Rhonda Jo Petty, Bill Amerson and photographer Kenji. From there, she began networking to research Holmes’ story.
Eventually, Sugar, who was a full-time college student at the time, enlisted the help of Nelson to complete the massive project.
Sugar and Nelson conducted in-depth research in an effort to present what they say is a fair and multidimensional portrait of Holmes as a performer and as a man.
Included in the book are interviews with several adult industry personalities, including Holmes’ widow Laurie, former Los Angeles Police Department detectives Tom Lange and Frank Tomlinson, Vivid contract director Paul Thomas, Ron Jeremy, Seka, Marilyn Chambers, Candida Royalle, Petty, AIM’s Dr. Sharon Mitchell, Holmes documentary director Julia St. Vincent and Margold, among others.
Amerson, who was featured in special interview footage for “Wonderland” as the talent agent that discovered Holmes, and Bob Chinn, who directed Holmes in the famous Johnny Wadd series, were also interviewed.
Sugar and Nelson pointed out that with a larger-than-life iconic figure like Holmes, it was not always possible to pinpoint accurate or consistent information.
“According to our research and the people we’ve spoken with, John Holmes was a chameleon; he had the ability to be whatever people wanted him to be at any given time,” Nelson said. “He could be very crafty, and he was street-smart, but he was also bright, funny and as most people know, he had the ability to fabricate and tell entertaining stories that would go beyond the realm of believability.
“He enjoyed seeing how far he could push the boundaries, which is probably one of the reasons he told outlandish tales,” Nelson added. “More importantly, he was smart in the sense that he knew how to sell his product, and the lies he told were actually a great marketing tool, as they served to perpetuate his legend.”
“It was difficult to prove some things that people had said, and the more research we did, it seemed as if many stories had changed over the years since John’s death, at least in subtle ways,” Sugar said. “I think a great thing about Holmes’ life story is there are so many questions that will never be answered, so we just laid it all out there for our readers to consider.”
“John Holmes: A Life Measured In Inches” can be preordered at the book’s website. It also will be available online at Amazon.com, as well as at bookstores such as Barnes & Noble.
John Holmes Bio out in August - A Life Measured in Inches
LOS ANGELES – Jennifer Sugar and Jill Nelson have announced the completion of their book, John Holmes: A Life Measured In Inches. The biography of the late porn performer will be published in August by Bear Manor Media.
The book will be available for purchase at Sugar and Nelson’s website, as well as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other outlets.
According to Nelson, the book was conceived four years ago. The publication date, August 8, coincides with what would have been Holmes’s 64th birthday.
The book traces the performer’s life from his hard-scrabble childhood in rural Pickaway County, Ohio through his glory days playing fictional character Johnny Wadd to his cocaine-addled final years that included an alleged involvement in the infamous and unsolved “Wonderland murders” and Holmes’s AIDS-related death.
Included in the biography is new interview material gathered from Laurie Holmes, Bill Amerson, Bob Chinn, Julia St. Vincent, Detective Tom Lange, Detective Frank Tomlinson, Paul Thomas, Ron Jeremy, Seka, Marilyn Chambers, Candida Royalle, Rhonda Jo Petty, Dr. Sharon Mitchell, Bill Margold, and others. Also included are over 100 reviews of John’s most notable films, photos and a filmography. AVN.com
Please also see: FYI Press Release