John Holmes (pornographic actor): Wikis


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John C. Holmes
Birthdate: August 8, 1944(1944-08-08)
Birth location: Ashville, Ohio, U.S.
Birth name: John Curtis Estes
Date of death: March 13, 1988 (aged 43)
Measurements: 10-11in
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 165 lb (74.9 kg)
Eye color: blue
Hair color: blonde
Stage name(s): John Duval, John Estes, Big John Fallus, Big John Holmes, John C. Holmes, John Curtis Holmes, Johnny Holmes, Bigg John, Big John, John Rey, Johnny Wadd, John Sacre, Bernard Emil Weik II, Long John Wadd
John C. Holmes at IMDb
John C. Holmes at IAFD
John C. Holmes at AFDB

John Curtis Holmes (August 8, 1944 – March 13, 1988) better known as John C. Holmes or Johnny Wadd (after the lead character in a series of related films), was one of the most prolific male porn stars of all time, appearing in about 2,500 adult loops, stag films, and pornographic feature movies in the 1970s and 1980s. He was best known for his exceptionally large penis, which was heavily promoted as being the longest and thickest in the porn industry, although no definitive measurement of Holmes' actual penis length exists.[1] Near the end of his life, Holmes attracted notoriety for his involvement in the Wonderland murders in 1981, and eventually for his death from complications caused by AIDS.

Holmes was the subject of several books, a lengthy essay in Rolling Stone magazine, and at least two feature length documentaries, and was the inspiration for two Hollywood movies, Boogie Nights and Wonderland.


Early life

Holmes was born as John Curtis Estes in Ashville, Ohio, to Carl Estes and Mary Barton. He knew very little of his father, an alcoholic railroad worker who abandoned his family when John was an infant.[1][2] John's mother was a devout Southern Baptist, who regularly attended the Milport Chapel Church along with her children.

In 1946, John's mother married Harold Edward Holmes, and changed her children's surname to Holmes. His stepfather was an alcoholic, who would come home inebriated, stumble about the house, and even vomit on the children.[citation needed] Mary Holmes divorced her husband two years later, and moved with her children to Columbus, Ohio, where they lived on welfare for several years. When John was eight, his mother remarried to Harold Bowman. Shortly after, John and his family moved from Columbus and settled in Pataskala, Ohio. Holmes recalled that Bowman was a good father until his younger brother was born, at which point Bowman lost interest in his non-biological children and began neglecting them.[1][2]

By the time John reached teenagehood Bowman began beating him, but the teenaged Holmes, who was very large and strong for his age, fought back and knocked Bowman down a flight of stairs.[2] John ran away from home at age 16, and after several days of living on the streets, returned home and informed his mother that if he moved back in he would kill Bowman. With his mother's written permission, Holmes dropped out of his junior year of high school and enlisted in the Army. After advanced training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, he spent three years in West Germany in the Signal Corps.[2] Upon his honorable discharge, Holmes moved to Los Angeles, where he worked in a variety of jobs, including selling goods door-to-door and tending the vats at a Coffee-Nips factory. It was during his stint as an ambulance driver that he met a nurse named Sharon Gebenini in December 1964. They married in August 1965.[3]

For the next two years, Holmes and Sharon lived uneventful lives. Holmes found work as a forklift driver at a meat packing warehouse in Cudahy, California. However, repeated exposures to inhaling the sub-freezing air in the large walk-in freezer after being outside inhaling the desert-hot air caused severe health problems, leading to a pneumothorax (lung collapse) of his right lung on three separate occasions during the two years he worked there.[3]

Porn career

"John Holmes was to the adult film industry what Elvis was to rock 'n' roll. He simply was The King."
Cinematographer Bob Vosse in the documentary Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes.

While recovering from his illness, Holmes frequented a men's card-playing club in Gardena, California, where one evening a still photographer, standing next to him at a urinal, noticed his extraordinary penis size and encouraged him to do pornography. During the late 1960s, Holmes initially did magazine work and an occasional 8 mm loop, keeping his work in porn a secret from his wife.

Determining the number of films he made during the early part of his career is difficult because the ad copy rarely named him. Those that did usually used entirely inconsistent names. For example, one early "Swedish Erotica" brochure from 1973 has five loops featuring Holmes, each with a different name. In the early years of his porn career, Holmes was nicknamed "The Sultan of Smut," a pun on Babe Ruth's nickname, The Sultan of Swat.

With the success of Deep Throat (1972), The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), and Behind the Green Door (1972), porn became chic, although its legality was still hotly contested. Holmes was arrested during this time for pimping and pandering, but he avoided prison time by becoming an informant for the LAPD.[4] Using his status as an informer, Holmes systematically had his competition in the porn industry arrested, leaving him as one of the few free porn stars in Los Angeles.

In 1971, Holmes' career began to take off with a porn series built around a private investigator named Johnny Wadd most of which were written and directed by Bob Chinn. By 1978, Holmes was reputed to be earning as much as $3,000 a day as a porn actor.[1][4] He starred at a time when personality could compensate for a lack of other aesthetic characteristics, and a certain amount of acting ability was still demanded of porn stars.

While his voice was somewhat higher in pitch than one would expect for a "hard-boiled private dick," most film critics and fans agreed that Holmes did demonstrate enough acting ability to keep the character of "Johnny Wadd" from being merely a banal, one-dimensional parody of Raymond Chandler's creation, the tough and uncompromising private detective Philip Marlowe.

By the late 1970s, his use of cocaine was becoming a serious problem. Professionally, it affected his ability to maintain an erection, as is apparent from his performance in the 1980 film Insatiable. To support himself and his drug habit Holmes ventured into crime, selling drugs for gangs, prostituting himself to both men and women, and committing credit card fraud and petty theft. In 1976, he met a 16-year old girl, named Dawn Schiller, who became his girlfriend. After Holmes fell on hard times, he prostituted both her and himself, as well as beating her in public.[5][6][7]

Number of partners

In 1981, he began to claim that he had sex with 14,000 women.[4] The number had in fact been invented by Holmes to help salvage his waning image; initially, he had claimed 1,000 women, but quickly began inflating the number to compete with Wilt Chamberlain.[1] To substantiate this number, and assuming Holmes' first experience with a woman occurred at 16 as he claimed, then he would have had to have sex with 666 different women a year—1.8 women a day—for the next 21 years.[8] Pornography historian Luke Ford calculated the number of Holmes' sexual partners over the course of his lifetime to be roughly 3,000.[8]

His performances included at least one gay feature film, The Private Pleasures of John Holmes,[9] and a handful of gay loops.

Drugs and the Wonderland murders

Holmes developed a close friendship with drug dealer and nightclub owner Eddie Nash. At the same time, Holmes was closely associated with the Wonderland Gang, so called for the location of their hideout; a rowhouse located on Wonderland Avenue in the wooded Laurel Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles. Holmes worked for the gang, frequently selling drugs for them. After stealing money during a couple of drug runs, Holmes found himself in trouble with the gang. In June 1981, allegedly in exchange for his life, he told gang leaders about a very large stash of drugs, money and jewelry Nash had in his house. Holmes helped to set up a robbery that was committed on the morning of June 29, 1981.

Although Holmes did not participate in the robbery, Nash apparently suspected that Holmes had a part in it. After getting Holmes to confess to his participation, Nash exacted revenge against the Wonderland Gang. In the early hours of July 1, 1981, four of the gang's members were found murdered in their hideout. Holmes was allegedly present during the murders, but it is unclear if he participated in the killings.

Holmes was incarcerated in connection with the murders, but released due to lack of evidence. After spending six months on the run with Dawn Schiller, he was arrested in Florida and returned to Los Angeles. Holmes refused to co-operate with the investigation. He was eventually charged with committing all four murders, but was acquitted of all charges except contempt of court.[10]

Later years

When Holmes resumed work in porn in November 1982, the industry had already begun the transition from film to videotape. Work was still plentiful but less lucrative, and Holmes was no longer the premier male star. His drug use continued, as did the inconsistent performances on set. His inability to maintain an erection was a serious issue, and employers began opting for younger and more attractive talent.

In 1983, he met his future girlfriend and wife, Laurie Rose, a.k.a. Misty Dawn, on the set of the film Marathon. She had a reputation as the "queen" of anal intercourse scenes, and was fascinated by the concept of anal sex with Holmes. The two had sex off-set and became a couple.[1]

In February 1986, Holmes was diagnosed as HIV positive. According to Laurie Rose, Holmes claimed that he never used needles and was deeply afraid of them. Both his first wife, Sharon, as well as Bill Amerson, separately confirmed later that Holmes could not have contracted HIV from intravenous drug use because Holmes never used needles.[1] It has been suggested in recent years that Holmes may have contracted HIV from a gay sex scene he performed in the 1983 film The Private Pleasures of John C. Holmes with homosexual adult film actor Joey Yale, who himself died of AIDS in 1986.[citation needed]

During the summer of 1986, unable to find work in America, Holmes traveled to Italy where he filmed his last porno movies, including The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empress, which co-starred the later Italian Parliament member Ilona 'Cicciolina' Staller. His final film was The Devil In Mr. Holmes.[11] He continued to make public appearances at autograph signings as well as hosting video clips during 1986 and 1987, during which time the gaunt physical appearance resulting from his health problems became increasingly evident.

Not wanting to reveal the true nature of his failing health, Holmes claimed to the press that he was suffering from colon cancer. Holmes married Laurie Rose on January 23, 1987 in Las Vegas, confiding to her that he had AIDS.[12]

During the last four months of his life, he was essentially bed-ridden, constantly going to hospitals for treatment. John Holmes died from AIDS-related complications (according to his death certificate, cardiorespiratory arrest and encephalitis due to AIDS, associated with lymphadenopathy and esophageal candidiasis) on March 13, 1988 at the age of 43.[9] His body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at sea off the coast of Oxnard, California.[13]


Holmes' legacy is infamous. A documentary of his life, Wadd—The Life and Times of John C. Holmes, has achieved cult status among some independent film houses in college towns. Some elements of the film Boogie Nights were based on Holmes' life, and the Wonderland murders were the basis of the 2003 movie Wonderland, starring Val Kilmer as Holmes. Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Marika Tur wrote extensively on the Wonderland murder case and believed that Holmes led several 'hit men' to the 2 story residence where they murdered 4 people for the armed robbery of reputed drug dealer, Eddie Nash. The only survivor to the killings was Susan Launius, who sustained critical head injuries.

After his death, Holmes was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Adult film industry. It was accepted posthumously by his godson Sean Amerson, the son of Holmes' career-long manager Bill Amerson, who also delivered the eulogy at Holmes' funeral services.

Of the 2,500 porn film appearances John Holmes made in his lifetime, at least 60 to 70 percent of them are one-reel 8 mm loops or stag films. Since the majority of Holmes' loops and stag films have gone into public domain following the collapse of Caballero Control Corporation in 1990, there are efforts underway to locate all surviving 8 mm loops starring Holmes that he made during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s and convert them to DVD for posterity. However, since the life expectancy of most 8 mm films is very brief (due to the nature of the film stock used at that time), it is believed that the majority of Holmes' loops are forever lost.

Personal life

Holmes was close to perhaps four or five women in his private life. He was reputedly meticulous in keeping his professional and private lives separate.

  • In August 1965, he married a young nurse named Sharon Gebenini.[3] He remained married to her until their divorce was finalized on January 17, 1983.
  • In 1975 he met Julia St. Vincent on the set of his blockbuster film, Liquid Lips, which was being produced by her uncle, Armand Atamian. Holmes and St Vincent stayed close until 1981 and the Wonderland affair. St Vincent produced the ersatz biographical film of Holmes' life, Exhausted.[14]
  • In 1976 he met a 16-year-old girl named Dawn Schiller, who was his girlfriend from 1976 through the Wonderland incident in 1981. She left Holmes in December 1981, when she turned him in to the police in Florida.
  • In 1985 Holmes met his second wife, Laurie Rose. They married in January 1987.

The true number of women (and men) that Holmes escorted during his career will never be completely known; his wife Sharon came across a foot locker, which was plated in 24k gold leaf, which contained photographic references of his "private work." She burned all of it.[15]

Penis size

Holmes' main asset in the porn business was his exceptionally large penis. However, no definitive measurement, or documentation thereof, exists, leaving its exact length in dispute.

Veteran porn actress Dorothea "Seka" Patton has stated that Holmes' penis was the biggest in the industry.[16] Holmes' first wife recalled him claiming to be 10 inches (25.4 cm) when he first measured himself.[17] Holmes himself once claimed his penis to be fifteen inches (38.1 cm) long.[17] Holmes' longtime manager, Bill Amerson, said that "I saw John measure himself several times, it was 13 and a half inches" (34.3 cm).[1] A review of Holmes' films over the course of his career shows that most of his early co-stars tended to be short and slender, whereas women with whom he engaged in onscreen sex later in his career were much taller and had proportionately larger bodies; as a result, the size of Holmes' penis appears to fluctuate in his films, relative to the height and mass of his co-stars.[8]

Another longstanding controversy regards whether Holmes ever achieved a full erection. A popular joke in the 1970s porn industry held that Holmes was incapable of achieving a full erection because the blood flow from his head into his penis would cause him to pass out.[18] Holmes' co-stars have stated that his penis was never particularly hard during intercourse, likening it to "doing it with a big, soft kind of loofah."[18]

So celebrated was Holmes' reputed penis size that it was even used as a marketing tool for films in which he did not even appear. In the porn classic Anybody but My Husband, the promotional tag line read "Tony The Hook Perez has a dick so big that he gives even John Holmes a run for his money."

Even after his death, the length of Holmes' penis was used to market Holmes-related material. At the premier of the film Wonderland, patrons were given thirteen-and-a-half inch rulers as gag gifts.[19]

Business activities and endeavors

In 1979, Holmes with his younger half-brother, David Bowman, opened up a locksmith store in Los Angeles which both managed. But the business did not flourish, and because of Holmes' escalating drug addiction and of the lack of money to operate the store since Holmes was squandering all of his and other peoples money to buy cocaine and heroin for himself, the business failed by the end of that very year.[20]

Later, after his 1982 murder trial and acquittal, Holmes began a business partnership with his manager Bill Amerson, as they founded and operated a production company titled Penguin Productions, where Holmes could be a triple-threat: writing, directing, and performing.[20]

Despite the notoriety and infamy associated with Holmes, he also devoted much time to charities involving the environment. He was known to campaign and collect door-to-door for charities such as Save The Whales.[20]

Holmes mythology

Holmes' career was promoted with a series of outrageous claims that he made over the years (many made up on the spur of the moment by Holmes himself). The most dubious ones include:

  • Holmes lost his virginity at the age of 6 to his Swedish nursemaid, Freida.[20]
  • Holmes' penis was so big that he had to stop wearing underwear because "I was getting erections and snapping the elastic waist band 4 or 5 times a month."[21]
  • Holmes had degrees in physical therapy, medicine, and political science from UCLA.[22] Holmes was in fact a high-school dropout who never returned to college; according to Bill Amerson, "the closest John ever got to UCLA was breaking into cars in the school's parking lot."[1]
  • A teenage Holmes played the role of Eddie Haskell in the TV series Leave it to Beaver. (The character was portrayed by actor Ken Osmond, who bore a resemblance to Holmes).[23]

Selected adult feature films

  • Sex and the Single Vampire (1970)
  • Johnny Wadd (1971)
  • Flesh of the Lotus (1971)
  • Blonde in Black Lace (1972)
  • Tropic of Passion (1973)
  • The Danish Connection (1974)
  • Oriental Sex Kitten (1975)
  • Tell Them Johnny Wadd Is Here (1976)
  • Liquid Lips (1976)
  • Fantasm ('Fruit Salad' segment) (1976)
  • The Autobiography of a Flea (1976)
  • Hard Soap, Hard Soap (1977)
  • Eruption (1977)
  • The Jade Pussycat (1977)
  • Pizza Girls (1978)
  • The China Cat (1978)
  • Blonde Fire (1978)
  • The Erotic Adventures of Candy (1978)
  • The Senator's Daughter (1979)
  • Taxi Girls (1979)
  • California Gigolo (1979)
  • Sweet Captive (1979)
  • Insatiable (1980)
  • Prisoner of Paradise (1980)
  • Aunt Peg (1980)
  • Up 'n Coming (1983)
  • Nasty Nurses (1983)
  • The Private Pleasures of John C. Holmes (1983)
  • Girls on Fire (1984)
  • Looking for Mr. Goodsex (1985)
  • The Grafenberg Spot (1985)
  • Rockey X (1986)
  • The Return of Johnny Wadd (1986)
  • Saturday Night Beaver (1986)
  • The Rise of the Roman Empress (1986)
  • The Devil in Mr. Holmes (1986)


  • John Holmes, A Life Measured in Inches, by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson. 2008, BearManor Media. ISBN 1593933029.
  • Exhausted: John C. Holmes, the Real Story (1981 documentary)
  • Wadd - The Life and Times of John C. Holmes (1998 documentary)
  • The Devil and John Holmes by Mike Sager, Rolling Stone. June 15, 1989; reprinted in "Scary Monsters and Super Freaks" (2004).
  • Porn King: Autobiography of John C. Holmes (1998).
  • XXXL: The John Holmes Story (2000 documentary)[24]
  • John Holmes: The Man, the Myth, the Legend (2004 documentary)[25]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bill Amerson interview in the documentary Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes
  2. ^ a b c d Source: Sharon Holmes interview in the documentary Wadd: The life and Times of John C. Holmes
  3. ^ a b c Sager, Mike (2003). Scary Monsters and Super Freaks: Stories of Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll and Murder. Da Capo Press. pp. 10. ISBN 1560255633. 
  4. ^ a b c "John Holmes and the Wonderland Murders: Wadd the Informer". Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  5. ^ "Holmes' Confession in Bathtub: Told Wife of Role in 4 Murders." April 14, 1988 Rolling Stone.
  6. ^ "The Devil in John Holmes." Los Angeles Times. May 15, 1989.
  7. ^ MacDonell, Allen. "In Too Deep." Los Angeles Weekly.
  8. ^ a b c Spiritus Temporis: John Holmes (actor) - Penis Length
  9. ^ a b "John Holmes and the Wonderland Murders: AIDS and Misty Dawn". Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Steve Javors (21 November 2007). "Paradise Visuals Inks Distribution Deal With Anabolic". XBIZ. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 
  12. ^ Basten, Fred; Laurie Holmes and John C. Holmes (1998). Porn King: The John Holmes Story. John Holmes Inc.. ISBN 1880047691. 
  13. ^ McNeil, Legs; Jennifer Osbourne and Peter Pavia (2005). The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film. HarperCollins. pp. 451. ISBN 0060096594. 
  14. ^ Citation: "Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes"
  15. ^ Citation: "Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes, Director's Cut"
  16. ^ "Seka Interview". 
  17. ^ a b History's Most Astounding Sexual Resumes
  18. ^ a b Source: Annette Haven interview in the documentary Wadd: The life and Times of John C. Holmes
  19. ^ John Holmes and the Wonderland Murders
  20. ^ a b c d "The Devil in John Holmes." Rolling Stone. May 1989.
  21. ^ John Holmes interview in the biographical documentary Exhausted
  22. ^ "John Holmes and the Wonderland Murders: 12.5 Inches". Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  23. ^ Stengel, Richard (9 August 1982). "When Eden Was in Suburbia". Time.,9171,925676-2,00.html. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  24. ^ XXXL: The John Holmes Story
  25. ^ John Holmes: The Man, the Myth, the Legend (2004)

External links

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