The shocking and disturbing story of John Holmes, the 70s porn star and real life inspiration for Mark Wahlberg’s character Dirk Diggler in the film Boogie Nights.
It’s a tale that reflects the darker side of Tinsletown.
A story of sex, drugs, more sex and drugs, more drugs and murder.
John Holmes was living proof that some men are born more equal than others. John Holmes had a 14 inch penis.
Absolutely the biggest, penis, dick, cock in the history of the industry.
– BILL MARGOLD, 70s porn performer
He was the biggest. He was monumental
– BILL AMERSON, John Holmes Manager
It was like trying to suck a telephone pole.
– SEKA, 70’s porn star
Holmes was porn’s first and biggest male star. During his career he performed in over two and a half thousand erotic films and claimed to have slept with over 14,000 women.
A happy gardener is one with with dirty fingernails and a happy cook is a fat cook, I never get tired of what I do cos I’m a sex fiend.
– JOHN HOLMES
Holmes was the inspiration for the character Dirk Diggler in the Hollywood film Boogie Nights – but John’s true story is far more shocking than the movie. His journey to porn fame began when he arrived in Los Angeles from rural Ohio in 1963. Back then porn was nothing more than a small cottage industry. By the time he died in 1988 it had grown into a multi million dollar international business.
Most of John Holmes friends and colleagues are still living in Los Angeles. They know the real story behind porn’s most famous 14 inches. Bill Amerson is a former porn producer and Johns long time friend and manager.
AMERSON: I was kinda like his mentor and his father and his brother and his best friend
Bill Amerson was one of a small band of pornographers working out of the Crossroads of the World offices in Hollywood. According to Bill in 1969 Holmes walked into his studio looking for work.
AMERSON: Went into the back room and took the Polaroid camera in and I asked him to undress, and when he undressed I knew we had a star.
he wasn’t very good looking and I didn’t even know if he could speak but what he had was something we probably all wish we had (laughs)
Within hours John was cast into a porn film and so began his meteoric rise to the top of x rated cinema.
John’s most famous role was that of Johnny Wadd – a detective who he played in a string of feature length movies. Johnny Wadd was a cross between James Bond and a very Dirty Harry.The character made John a household name in America.
1970’s NEWS VOX POPS
IV: Do you know who John Holmes is?
Black Kid: John Homes, big John Holmes? Yeah
IV: Do you know who John Holmes is?
Old guy: Yes
IV: What do you think of him?
Old guy: Fantastic
Dark Haired lady: John Holmes is attractive, and, I dunno I think he appeals to a lot of women
Guy with glasses: You just read about him everywhere, in all the magazines and everything
Blond guy: Everyone knows John Holmes
IV: They do?
Blond guy: Yeah, just like everyone knows Kirk Douglas and John Wayne
IV: Do you know who John Holmes is?
Lady in Red Suit: No I don’t
IV: Do you really?
Man in Suit: You Know who he is?
Lady in red suit: Yes I do
John Holmes may have been porn’s biggest star but he was also technically a criminal – because back then making a porn film was totally illegal. You could get three years in jail for creating a film and even longer for distributing it.
AMERSON: We cast the picture through word of mouth ummm, we would meet, if we were gonna shoot on a Saturday, we would meet at 7 o’clock in the morning at a restaurant …err police always had an idea of that what we were gonna do so they would be waiting outside the restaurant …and what I would do was I would hire 4 or 5 people just for the morning, and give them $50 a piece just to each breakfast with us …then we would send out maybe 6 different cars in different ways so the police didn’t know who to follow. When we got to the set the phones were disconnected immediately so no-one could call out in case anyone was a police informant. After we would shoot a reel, we would always take it out, and it would go with someone to a certain location so there was never any evidence that we had shot anything, and the profit was pretty strong, you know I would spend 7 or 8 thousand dollars on making a series of films, and I would get back maybe a 70,000 dollar return.
Big money. Generated by illegal business.
In the nineteen seventies the porn industry was rooted in organised crime and Bill Amerson was a player. For some Bill had a frightening reputation.
AMERSON: Were people afraid of me? Yes. A lot of things have been alleged about me..and nothing has ever been actually proven.. I have been accused of a number of things. But no, I’m just a businessman
John and his new manager formed a friendship which was to last for Johns entire life.They lived close to each other in the Sam Fernando valley – part of the suburbs of LA. Outside of work they would hit balls here at the all American batting cage at their local mall and plan their rise to the top of the porn industry. They could never have imagined how horribly wrong it was all going to turn out.
LIQUID LIPS Dialogue: Jesus Christ. I don’t know whether to er charge you double or er pay you.
John Holmes was porns biggest male star.Born in Ohio in 1944 to a bible bashing mother and rail worker father John had an unhappy childhood. But by the time he reached puberty things were looking up and by the early seventies his unique asset was in huge demand.
THE CHINA CAT (1978) Dialogue
LADY: You have something that I want
HOLMES: I cannot possibly imagine what I have that you could be interested in
Bill Margold used to perform in porn films. Merciifully he no longer appears in front of the camera. Instead he has reinvented himself as a porn historian and to him there is only one dick worth talking about.
BILL MARGOLD: Absolutely the biggest penis, dick, cock in the history of the industry. I discount an assortment of black dicks that don’t function er long dong silver never got it up, so what the hell good is his dick, but the biggest, definitely the biggest caucasion dick in the history of the business, and functional dick to a certain extent.
Whether or not it ever got rock hard I don’t know, its been likened to a wet sock and someone else said a loofer
Bill Margold starred in a number of films with John Holmes but his first encounter was the most memorable.
MARGOLD: The king was brought in to be the guest star in a movie called the disco dolls and hop skid and 3D, you know the king in 3D is like having everybody else in 6D. Essentially I was the star of this movie, Harry Balls, and I am being blown by a magnificent actress named Leslie Bulvay (sp?)) who
reputed to be the best of all cock-suckers in the history of this business, I was enjoying myself quite happily, when all of a sudden I heard this sort of ‘oops’ and somehow the king’s dick had gotten away from all 4 women, and it sort of came out and was wobbling over my head and I looked up and looked at it and low and behold I said ….oh my god that thing looks like the opening shot of star wars. My dick which was very happily ensconsed in Leslie Bulvay’s (sp) mouth, went down into the ground, and was not seen for an hour. Totally intimidating
It is perhaps hard to believe now but before the days of home video, porn was shot on film and had something resembling characters and storylines.Although it was illegal to shoot and distribute the films they could be screened perfectly legally in X-rated cinemas like the Pussycat theatre people would go and see them on a Saturday night often with their dates.
Johnny Wadd was a huge box office attraction and the original film spawned sequel after sequel – a first for the fledgling porn industry.The films were shot in the back streets and car parks of downtown LA. Director Bob Chinn created the Johnny Wadd character. Bob Chinn is still living in LA and still working as a porn director.He believed he was elevating porn to a higher level.
BOB CHINN: When we started making the Johnny Wadd films, New York were making burlesque comedy type films, here they were making stupid old high school teenage films, orgies things like that, things with no stories and no plots, what we tried to do was was give the audience something that didn’t insult their intelligence.
Bob Chinn shot his first Johnny Wadd film in 1972 and amazingly used a special lens to make John’s appendage look even bigger.
While Bob found John easy to work with, the real star of the show was harder to control.
BOB CHINN: In the early days it was pretty easy for him to get an erection, a full erection now that’s something else because it’s so big it required a lot of blood and John would have to be really turned on to get a full erection and you know in those days you can’t be turned onto every girl. Now you have Viagra
CHINN: On a set John was unlike anybody else, he was going a mile a minute, always talking, always telling stories most of them untrue. Whatever subject came up he was an expert at it, and if he wasn’t he would, which he usually wasn’t, he could make up all kinds of, all kinds of fantastic stories that you just sat there and… (laughs)
I did the orgy trip for er 2 or 3 years almost every weekend in between er tricks and er freebies and girls in films and keeping track of the films and averaging out how many girls you’d go to bed with in each film helped a lot – slightly over 14,000 ……….
– JOHN HOLMES Exhausted (1981)
John’s claims of 14,000 conquests may be excessive but with two and a half thousand porn appearances during his career few men could have slept with more women than John Holmes.
In the 1970’s his most famous co star was Seka.
SEKA: It is difficult to give head to Johnny, I mean its like trying to suck a telephone pole (laughs) um its always fun to try, I mean I wish I could put more of it in my mouth because I mean its just a wonderful cock, but I just can’t. When we did the scene in blood fire it was one of the first times I’d ever worked with John, and we were totally unaware that anyone else was there I mean it made no difference to us whether there was film in the camera or not, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I think it was the best lay I ever had, I mean John was very um very sensitive with me, he was very gentle when he explained everything… scene went beautifully even though it was a rape scene. It was beautiful
Seka wasn’t the only co star to enjoy spending time with John.
Laurie Rose met John on a porn shoot in 1982 and eventually married him.
She started seeing him at the house where John was staying with manager Bill Amerson
John was 38, Laurie was a teenager and a star struck fan.
LAURIE: I was buying coke from John. I didn’t do coke. I was one of the few porn stars that actually didn’t do drugs. I was too busy making money. I couldn’t care less about drugs. Umm but I was coming up here and I was buying coke from John just to see him, just to maybe get, spend, five minutes with him you know and I didn’t really like the stuff. I’d go back home to my apartment in Tarzana and I’d give it to my friends – they loved me I gotta tell ya, it was like ‘oh here’ you know
Laurie’s pretend coke taking paid off and she soon moved in with John although as the conversation continued she became less sure about whether they used to take drugs together or not.
LAURIE: I had this bedroom right here and we had an adjoining bathroom and his bedroom was –well of course I never slept in this one I always used that one, but the bathroom was great it was a great freebase place in the early days, you know when I first went it, and it was a great sex place, it had this nice big tub you know. Um Johns thing – he loved to cleanse himself, you know he was a very clean person, especially when he came from a porno set it was almost like a ritual – got to wash the smutt off you know kinda thing, and we’d do our little by the bath thing and you know it was nice. There was so much laughter when I remember John, I don’t remember this (makes wide hand gestures), I remember the laughter.
Back then Laurie was a porn actress who went under the name of “Misty Dawn”. Although she didn’t start making films until she was in her late teens her movies like DREAMS OF MISTY 1982 portrayed her as a tempting Lolita.
LAURIE – I was the little girl of porn but John loved that. John loved that young little girl look and he was my daddy what can I say ….
MARGOLD – I myself never worked altogether with Laurie Holmes I do remember um I think getting blown by her perhaps, and I know I jacked off in her face um because that’s the money shot that’s the supreme form of er orgasm in the x rated industry so I did pop in her face …..
I believe that Laurie loved him, that Misty loved him I believe thater she also probably looked upon him as a legend and wanted to latch on to the legend I don’t think that Johnny lived in a perpetual state of fidelity because Johnny’s dick was for hire
Laurie now works at an HIV testing clinic for porn stars.
Working alongside her is one of the many women who have slept with her husband – Sharon Mitchell.
Sharon’s illustrious career in porn spans over 150 films and a lifetime achievement award. She met John in the early days.
SHARON MITCHELL: I mean it was like, you know it was the seventies, everybody was loaded you know, and um he opened up this briefcase and he said ‘alright doll I got this really big dick you know and er what do you want, I got everything’ and he had like all kinds of stuff you know and so I said ‘oh I’ll take some of that some of those, 2 of those’ and I was so intimidated at the size of his cock you know and I was thinking ‘oh my god, you know I’m gonna be impaled by this thing I’m gonna die I’ve gotta be really relaxed’ so I did I got all these uppers, downers a little bit of heroin you know so by the time we did this movie I look like a dead woman, my head is like laying on the side of the bead sort of flopping around, so all I kinda remember is this this this like feeling of a giant squishy sponge you know. Its very difficult when you’re called the king of pornography when when all of your fame is about your penis, its almost like being a girl because women in the porn business are very famous for their pussies and er I um I know that’s just really hard to live up to that kind of an image when people just look at you as one giant genital.
John may have been dead for 15 years but his films are still sold all over the world. A major outlet is VCX one of the largest distributors of porn films on the West Coast. Back in the day John and Laurie were close friends of VCX boss Bob Augustus. We met Augustus and Laurie in the VCX warehouse.
BOB AUGUSTUS: We have 400 pictures here of which 40 of them are Johns. 10% of what we sell here is John Holmes. He was the only male star we’ve ever had in this business. He meant something at the box office
LAURIE: He was the Elvis of Porn
AUGUSTUS: He really was
INTERVIEWER: What’s your greatest memory of him?
AUGUSTUS: The greatest? I saw him the weekend after him and he’d made, he was with Ginger Lynne (laughs)
AUGUSTUS: I think they fucked for a whole weekend (laughs)
LAURIE: Probably did
AUGUSTUS: (Still laughing) He was telling me she’s sensational
LAURIE: Like I said you know…
AUGUSTUS: I mean I was laughing….
LAURIE: Some of the sex….
AUGUSTUS: But there’s another story that I can’t tell you..
LAURIE: That’s okay
AUGUSTUS: There’s a greater story that I can’t tell you…
LAURIE: Some of the sex that happened while they were setting up camera was better than the sex they got on camera you know I mean (forces laughter)…I’m not an idiot
AUGUSTUS: He says… he was talking about there’s a scene in the movie where he was saying… he said ‘that was real man’ (still laughing)
HOLMES: If a woman respects what you do, what you represent, and how you speak, how you carry yourself, you don’t have to be really macho you don’t have to be over complimentary, gain her respect and that’s treating her as an equal, don’t bullshit her, treat her as a human being, treat her as you would treat yourself. As soon as you have that respect from her, she’ll treat you with the same respect that you show ……then you fuck the shit out of her
John’s career reached its absolute height in the late nineteen seventies. By far the biggest name in porn he was earning thousands of dollars per movie but most of it was going up his nose.
He was living the Boogie Nights life and hitching along for the ride was his then girlfriend Julia St Vincent.
JULIA ST VINCENT: When I was in the business we were snorting lines that, we were hanging around with people that had nice executive homes, you know pool parties were happening, coke parties, getting all insane and we were at someone’s house with a pile of dope that was about that big (makes large gesture with hands) what quantity that is I have no idea, but it’s a lot (laughs)
I gotta stop cos my dentures falling out (still laughing)
Julia had her own teeth when she fell in love with John. She was 21. He was 34. And as their relationship progressed their drug binges together began to reveal a darker side to his character.
JULIA ST VINCENT: My girlfriend and I went out one time and were drinking and partying and we said you know lets do a little acid, so we did a little acid then we went home and we had bought haagen daas ice cream and then the next thing you know I was in the kitchen too and I was just stoned and I’m looking and I see this gleaming, something happening in the ice cream and all of a sudden it hits me that he’s put more dope in this ice cream and now we’re gonna feed it to my friend. I mean you know that isn’t really like nice behaviour to your friends.
In 1981, to cash in on his celebrity status, John agreed to be the subject of a film produced and directed by Julia – EXHAUSTED. For her it was more than a documentary it was an attempt to understand her relationship with the king of porn.
JULIA: What you see in the interviews are the real essence of him I mean you really do see that is how he was, he was so charming.
JULIA: How do you treat women in personal life as opposed to the women in the movies?
JOHN HOLMES: Um totally different, ones very professional with a personal touch, and the other is very personal with a professional touch (laughs)…look there’s very little difference I treat each woman like dirt (laughs) no I treat them with respect and er gentle kindness whips and chains, bondage domination and kisses …..sick isn’t it?
JULIA: You know I mean you’re paid to have sex with people in the movies
JULIA: Like these ladies, for instance okay, so er theoretically I mean you might not even know them or I mean do you know these women?
HOLMES: Ralph and Fred
HOLMES: I have a few steady relationships, ladies that I’ve seen over a number of years, but I do enjoy freelance sexuality
John Holmes took the definition of freelance sexuality to a whole new level. Unbeknown to Julia or to anyone else in the porn industry John had a hidden life. He had been secretly married throughout his entire career and also had another serious relationship with a 15 year old girl.
John Holmes was the undisputed king of the porn industry. He had power, stardom, sex, drugs, money, a wife, two girlfriends and a 14 inch penis. A lot of men would be happy with that but by nineteen eighty John wasn’t.
AMERSON: John wasn’t crazy about the business. He didn’t particularly like it. He did it as as a thing a number of us do we go to work get a job we’re not real crazy about, but we make good money at at it and it helps support us and our families and our friends. John, in the morning, when he would get ready to go to work went into a whole different persona, er its like he put on a costume it was like he was a clown at the circus. John enjoyed his work, he did not enjoy the sex part of it. He wanted to make movies without sex in them. On a set if he had two women to make love with he would do that and he had a propensity for picking up hookers after he got paid he would pay them to have sex with him. As a psychologist, which I am, um I would think that was his doing penance for doing what he felt was wrong in doing sex films he needed to give the money away to someone else.
IV: Does your brothers and sisters have things that are that big?
HOLMES: I don’t have any brother and sisters
IV: I thought you had some
HOLMES: Nope, no brothers, no sisters
IV: Are you lying:
John in fact had 3 brothers a sister and step brother Dave Bowman.
John’s family distanced themselves from him when he became a porn star. All except Dave. When Dave moved to L, John was there to look after him even paying for him to train as a locksmith.
BOWMAN: John took care of me. John was my hero when you get right down to it. When I was young John and I used to run up and down the creeks together and fish for blue gils and make make little dams in the creeks and such, you know it was it was just your basic your basic big brother little brother things
INTREVIEWER: Were you luck enough to kind of get a few extra inches as well
BOWMAN: That’s personal (laughs)
John Holmes left home at 16 to join the army. After serving three years in Germany he moved to Los Angeles in 1963. There he took a number of odd jobs before meeting and marrying Sharon – a nurse.
John was married to Sharon when he entered the world of porn but he kept their relationship completely secret from his new colleagues.
Sharon never accepted Johns career choice. She ended sexual relations between them for ever but continued living with him.
When John moved Dawn – his teenage mistress – into their marital home in 1979 Sharon still stayed and the three lived together.
Dave Bowman witnessed the whole strange relationship.
BOWMAN – I really don’t know why Sharon put with it (laughs) don’t you wish Sharon was your wife ? Yeah John did love Sharon, John loved Sharon immensely. He had a dedication to his wife but it was his own kind of dedication because John made his own rules.
Living by John’s rules meant that Julia, the third girlfriend was kept in the dark for years
JULIA ST VINCENT: I just didn’t realise, like why would you lie to me why didn’t you just tell me I’m married, I have a girlfriend and now you’re my third girlfriend (laughs)
INTERVIEWER: How big a liar was John Holmes?
AMERSON: How big was his dick ? It’s enormous isn’t it? There’s your answer. John would lie when the truth would sound better.
BOWMAN: Johns ego trip was ‘yeah, my name’s John Holmes I’m a prince from Luxemburg’ yeah so much for John’s story. He wasn’t gonna tell anybody that he was John Holmes a guy that used to be an ambulance driver from Glendale, California
AMERSON: John was never an ambulance driver John wasn’t all the things that he er says that he was.
HOLMES: I was going to architectural college and er….
IV: architectural college?
HOLMES: ….studying structures and such and starving to death…..I was going to UCLA and er starving to death
IV: What were you taking?
HOLMES: Graduate physical therapist and pediactrics is what I wanted to be..er …..
IV: Do you have a degree then?
HOLMES: oh yeah, I graduated
– Excerpt from EXHAUSTED documentary
AMERSON: He doesn’t have a degree, he just barely finished high school, he wasn’t a green beret he was in an artillery unit in the army, he went in a private and he got out a private.
BOWMAN: John flat enjoyed lying, it was a matter of being able to be whoever he wanted to be whenever he wanted to be it
HOLMES: Bob will put the final touches on on what the camera needs for editing what the er final say so in the scene is. He allows me to block my own sex scenes though, so that’s er……. It’s a good rapport
IV: Do most people do that?
HOLMES: er no I think there’s only 2 or 3 directors that I can do that with
IV: So why do you do that Bob?
CHINN: Allow him to block his own sex scenes? Well…(To John) I don’t allow you to block your own sex scenes (laughs)
HOLMES: See I don’t tell him how to edit, and he doesn’t tell me how to fuck..
– Excerpt from EXHAUSTED documentary
BOWMAN: There aren’t enough studid people in the world for everybody to have believed John. You know he lied to everybody, if he was sitting here he’d be lying to you.
John had few real friends but one genuine relationship was with Joel Sussman. Joel was a Vietnam Vet who met John when he joined the make love not war brigade and became a pornographic photographer.
JOEL SUSSMAN: He had a whole bunch of different lives and I just led one of them but he had many many lives that I didn’t, was not a part of. I was part of the good John, not the bad John. There was definitely more than one John.
I was the one who was kinda like real kind of stable, which is kinda rather ridiculous, but I guess I kinda am stable at this point. Er I obviously had a family and I wasn’t like crazy and I didn’t do nutty things so he’d come to round me and he was really mellow and we had a mellow time
Professionally Joel viewed John as an art subject. Personally he saw a very troubled young man.
SUSSMAN: I think if your life is based on the size of your penis you’re really in big trouble. I mean if that’s like.. oh my god… no matter who you are no matter, if you have some deformity or somethings fabulous and you use it make money great – the horse faced lady went to a carnival made a lot of money, you know – it’s a job it’s a really difficult job I mean think about trying to have sex with 25 people watching you
There is a rumour that the king of porn had actually been an informant betraying his colleagues to the Los Angeles police departments.
SUSSMAN: I’ve heard so many stories about John, it also becomes a question about what is, where the truth starts and where it ends. It seems to me, how could you be such a big star for so many years and be informing on everybody? I mean… its doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense – why would you inform on people who are feeding you? It doesn’t seem to er.. yeah if you’re an undercover cop yeah, but he was never an undercover cop.
Tom Blake is a retired LAPD Vice Squad officer. He once busted John on a porn set.
TOM BLAKE: We ended up arresting him, we ended up booking him and I ended up going to court in Ventura. He had a choice and got convicted up there, he had a choice of going to prison for 3 years or probation for 3 years and work with me as an informant. So John took the best, he said ‘I’ll work with Tom I don’t wanna go to prison cos bad things happen to people like myself’. So he became an informant, and he worked for me for probably about 3 to 4 years. He gave me about 30 to 50 porno shoots, people involved in the porno industry, he gave us addresses, phone numbers and locations of where the shoots were being done, and we made many many arrests from this. If he wasn’t a star or a porno he’d probably be a police officer – he loved being a cop. John would actually act like a detective. When he worked for me he was honest, you could trust him, what he said was gospel. He would go out and he would snoop and poop for us ahead of us going out to a location, he’d already have the location scouted out, and tell us how many bedrooms in the house, how many exits out of the house, was there an alley in the back yard, why all this good stuff. So he played the role of the police officer when he worked with us
By 1979 John Holmes had yet another life – that of a drug addict. His love of freebase coke, or crack as it later became known had got the better of him. Despite having earnt thousands of dollars per movie he was skint. And to feed his habit he took to cruising the streets of LA – pimping himself out to men and women.
AMERSON: He was stealing he was fencing he was doing a lot of things to support his habit, he just went off the deep end. It got to where no one would use him
IV: Do you take drugs?
HOLMES: They take me. No I don’t take drugs, I don’t even like asprins
– Excerpt from EXHAUSTED documentary
AMERSON: We’d get on the set and he’d go and hide in the closet and smoke crack
IV: Why do you stay in bathroom for5 hours at a time on sets?
HOLMES: I don’t know, it’s a shitty habit (laughs) I don’t have a habit of doing that, sometimes I hide in other places so that they can’t find me.
– Excerpt from EXHAUSTED documentary
AMERSON: He could no longer get an erection, he couldn’t work in the business anymore. Cocaine had really really taken over his life
JULIA ST VINCENT: Then the next thing I knew things were missing, and important things like a $20 gold piece that was my uncle’s that he had given me, was missing and John said it was the guy that lived next door that did it. And you know I was thinking ‘that guy would break in’ and I had my lock, well I think actually I had had my locks changed and his brother did it (laughs), but then like a week later, he’d – I’d come home and there’d be like at the doorstep furniture and all kinds of things and so I’d call him and say ‘what is this?’ ‘oh these are new things for you’ so it was kinda hard to comprehend that one day you’re getting ripped off and next you’re getting gifts.
I did as much dope with other people as I did with John, but the difference was that they also didn’t have sort of this quirky psychopathic thing going on in their heads – he didn’t just deal with reality – go to the shrink, you know dump of a couple of your extra lives that you don’t need
One of the lives perhaps he should have dumped was the one that involved the LA underworld of violent drug dealers.
John’s addiction had led him to make friends with Eddie Nash.
Nash was a notorious Hollywood gangster and nightclub owner with a frightening reputation in the cocaine trade.
Nash liked to hold parties where he could show off his new porn star friend John Holmes.
In return Holmes was given coke.
When he wasn’t performing party tricks for Nash, Holmes was earning his coke by running errands for a bunch of drug dealers known as the Wonderland Gang.
In the spring of 1981 the Wonderland Gang gave John a large parcel of cocaine to deliver across town. John decided to smoke it all rather than deliver it and then tried to lie his way out of the predicament.
His lies had always been tolerated by his friends and lovers but he was now in a different league.
The Wonderland Gang were not amused. They wanted their money. And unable to work Holmes had absolutely no way of paying them.
High on drugs, and his life under threat he struck upon a plan.
It was a plan that was to go horribly wrong.
On July 1st 1981 police were called to 8763 Wonderland Drive (the home of the Wonderland Gang.) For the first time officers of the LAPD recorded a crime scene on videotape. What they discovered was one of the most horrific murders in Hollywood history.
4 members of the Wonderland Gang had been repeatedly bludgeoned, to death.
So vicious was the attack that the coroner had to scrape the bodies off the floor, the wall and the furniture. It was a massacre.
BILL AMERSON: The morning of the murders it was about 6 o’clock in the morning, John came in and he woke me up and he was full of blood, and he told me that there was blood everywhere and he had to get away, and I asked him what happened and he said um, and he told me bits you know of Laneus (name sp?) and of the other people being dead he was kind of incoherent
A couple of days later on July 10th John Holmes was arrested in connection with the murders.
According to information received by the police. 3 days prior to the murders Holmes had come up with his plan to repay his debt to the Wonderland Gang – he would help organise a robbery of Eddie Nash.
On June 29th 1981 Holmes visited Nash, freebased some coke with him and then left leaving a security door open.
Later that night the Wonderland Gang entered through the same door, assaulted Nash and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in drugs and cash.
Holmes debts were wiped clean. But it didn’t take long for Nash to work out that he must have been involved.
Within hours the Wonderland Gang were dead.
At the scene of the crime the only hard evidence were the bloody fingerprints of John Holmes.
Had Holmes been a willing participant or just an observer ?
AMERSON: Do I think John was capable of murder? Absolutely not
INTERVIEWER: Did you think your brother was capable of murder?
BOWMAN: I had never know him to be capable of that sort of thing
TOM BLAKE: He said he did not kill him, and I believe he did not kill him
JULIA ST VINCENT People say well he didn’t do it or whatever but you know I kinda questioned it.
Holmes was arrested and charged with murder. But the police offered him immunity from prosecution if he informed on Nash.
Out on bail and forced with the option of double crossing Nash for a second time or facing a murder rap, Holmes fled Los Angeles and holed up in Florida.
For 6 months he evaded the efforts of the police to track him down.
AMERSON: When he got caught it was really comical. You know how he got caught? John went to Florida and was working as a handyman in this house, and er the woman there had visions of seducing her handyman, so she called him in the house, gave him a couple of glasses of wine, and had him take his clothes off. He took his clothes off and she looked at him and screamed ‘you’re John Holmes’ and she called the police that’s how he got caught. The size of his dick got him caught. (laughs)
It’s a nice story but unfortunately its not true. According to the police John Holmes was arrested in Florida after he beat up a girl he was trying to pimp out for money and her neighbours called the cops.
Back in LA John Holmes was finally charged with murder.
He pleaded not guilty.
Ron Coen was the state prosecutor on the case – now he is a California district judge.
RON COEN: These 4 murders were some of the most gruesome I’ve ever seen. I argued that Holmes was one of the actual killers of at least one of the victims. John Holmes’ left palm print was on the frame, palm down, fingers out, to use as leverage while he beat the victim.
Holmes remained silent throughout his trial under orders from his lawyers who felt his compulsive lying would destroy their case. In court Eddie Nash was painted as an evil Svengali figure while John was an innocent pawn.
RON COEN: The verdict came back not guilty, much to my surprise. I knew that he was guilty. The er evidence was er circumstantial but strong.
Despite being found not guilty, Holme’s who had always protested his innocence, was jailed for 3 months on a technicality for refusing to provide information about the case. Holmes did not take this piece of news very well.
RON COEN: He went on a hunger strike in jail that he publicised. He’s the only person I know that went on a hunger strike and gained weight. I er think I was quoted as saying that ‘he fasted between meals’
No one else has ever been found guilty of the Wonderland murders. What really happened on that night will probably never be known. Whether John was involved in the actual killings depends on who you choose to believe.
Holmes was released from prison in 1982. He was straight back on the drugs and straight back in front of the camera.
John was lucky to be out of jail. But his past was about to finally catch up with him.
Having narrowly escaped prison for murder adult entertainment’s biggest icon John Holmes was back in front of the camera.
Except now the cameras were camcorders.
It was the 80 s and home video had revolutionised the porn industry.
Now legal it was bigger and more successful than ever.
At 38 Holmes was pushing it as a porn star but his criminal notoriety meant there was plenty of work – though the porn superhero was slipping into self parody.
HOLMES (AS DICKMAN): gobbledygook….
THROBIN: Holy bin wah balls Dickman, what does that mean?
HOLMES: I’m not certain Throbin its something I read on the back of a gin-seng box
THROBIN: Hah so
– DICKMAN & THROBBIN excerpt
The VHS boom meant John was making plenty of money but there was a gap in his life.
Long suffering first wife Sharon had dumped him during his murder trial.
For the first time there was no one to keep house for him. There was a vacancy and Laurie the teenage porn star was about to fill it.
LAURIE: John was very charismatic, very hypnotising very er, there was just something about him. When people would see us together he would tell people ‘oh that’s my maid um that’s my secretary’ he would never ever say that you know oh that’s my girlfriend, that’s my fiancé, that’s my wife, never, you know it was almost like he tried to deny me, but you know it was for own protection
John was continuing his cycle of multiple lies and lives. But for a while he did seem to find some kind of stability and happiness with Laurie.
MARGOLD: I thought that was very interesting that he sort of escaped back into normalcy with Misty or Laurie ? for a while I think he had a tranquillity in his life and I thought that was very nice that the king had found somebody er to be his friend and to be his lover and to be his soulmate.
But everything was about to change. In 1986 the carefree good time days of porn were over. The spectre of AIDS was stalking the industry. John and his manager halted production and were among the first to be tested.
AMERSON: The doctor called and said you have to come in, and he said ‘John, you have been exposed to the HIV virus, you do not have AIDS, you’ve have been exposed to the virus’ John immediately knew that he was gonna die, he immediately knew that – he got up and he walked around the desk and all around the room and he just kept saying ‘I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die’ and doctor Richmond said ‘John you can live another 20 years if you stop smoking, you stop drinking and you stop doing drugs and you get the right diet and exercise’. John listened to none of that, he heard none of that, because he immediately went and he started drinking 2 quarters of scotch a day, he went up to 5 or 6 packs of cigarettes a day, and he increased his er his cocaine use because he knew he was gonna die and he was gonna go out the way he wanted to.
In January 1987 with his health rapidly deteriorating John and Laurie decided to get married. Within 14 months John was dead. He was 43.
LAURIE: He didn’t want any of him er floating in a jar years later so he wanted me to view his body naked um before they cremated him of which I did and I watched them put him in the over, and I stood there um while he baked and that was really hard. A few days later when we got the ashes back his mother, his brother, and myself um took a boat out from Oxnard, and er when we got on the other side of Catalina island somewhere, we went out to the back of the boat and nobody said anthing, but that’s was what John wanted – he didn’t want a funeral he didn’t you know – he just wanted to go back to the earth, go back to the sea and he did, and there’s no part of him floating in a jar
SUSSMAN: I think he was a kid from a small town that never grew up, never figured it out. He came to Hollywood and became a slut.
LAURIE: If John was the ultimate whore, he was a very good whore, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Well, he did have a product let’s face it.
JULIA ST VINCENT: There is no moral to the story and besides er this isn’t a very moral industry (laughs)
TOM BLAKE: Yeah there’s a moral, don’t use drugs
BOWMAN: When you get right down to it, my brother wasn’t anything but a drug addict with a big dick.
Source: Article based on the transcript of the 2004 documentary The Real Dirk Diggler which the author produced.