Biography: 1944/1972

Born John Curtis Estes on August 8, 1944, in Pickaway County, Ohio, John never knew his father Carl Estes, a railroad laborer. A few years later, his mother Mary changed his last name to that of her husband, the alcoholic Edward Holmes, a carpenter. John was the youngest of three boys and a girl. The future stud remembers his dad puking over the kids. Mary was a Bible-thumping Baptist always yelling at her husband. John's mom married Harold when he was eight, and they moved to a small house in Pataskala, Ohio. A shy boy, John had a perfect attendance record at Baptist Bible classes and a tense relationship with his manic-depressive stepfather who occasionally became violent. John got his mother's permission to join the army at age 16 and spent three years in Germany with the Signal Corps. After leaving the service, he hitchhiked to Los Angeles where he worked odd jobs. While driving an ambulance, John met a nurse, Sharon Gebenini, who worked at USC County General on a team pioneering open-heart surgery.

In August 1965, he married Sharon, still a virgin, at Fort Ord, California. While driving a forklift truck in and out of a freezer, John suffered (three times over nine months) a collapsed lung. While recovering, he hung out at a poker club in Gardena. One day in the bathroom he met a man who talked him into doing porno. John began hanging out at Crossroads of the World, a Hollywood landmark on Sunset Blvd. Miniature sound stages frequently used for pornography lay behind the storefront facades. Most of John's early assignments were for magazine works, according to Porn King. "I even had to keep my underwear on since showing a man's ass was illegalÉ Then they began to get really chancy and off came the underwear. For a series of shots, I had to dry hump a girl model. Everything was simulatedÉ" As American became increasingly permissive during the 1960s, John specialized in 8mm loops of hardcore sex.

One afternoon in 1968, according to the 6/15/89 Rolling Stone article, Sharon came home early from work and found John measuring his penis. She went into her bedroom and laid down. Twenty minutes later John appeared. He had a full erection. "It's incredible," said John. "What?" "It goes from five inches all the way to ten. Ten inches long! Four inches around!" "That's great," said Sharon, turning a page of her magazine. "You want me to call the press?" John stared at her for a long time before he spoke. "I've got to tell you that I've been doing something else, and I think I want to make it my life's work." "I was appalled," remembers Sharon, who's never seen a porno film. That encounter in the bathroom marked the beginning of the end of their relationship, though it stumbled on for twelve more years. Sharon bought the food and provided for John, while he spent his porn earnings on himself. They slept in the same bed for the next decade but soon quit having sex. "I loved the schmuck," said Sharon. "I just didn't like what he was doing." (RS)

In 1969, John answered an ad for porn performers placed by William Amerson who'd just entered porn. "My wife at the time - I've had a few - knew a couple of girls in the nudie business. They were making movies - all simulated stuff - and I went to work for them to learn how to do it. Back then you could shoot an X-rated movie for $4000 and make $60,000." (Playboy 3/98) Amerson first met John in 1969 while casting for magazine work at The Crossroads of the World on Sunset Blvd. Holmes was skinny with an afro haircut, unimpressive. But when he dropped his clothes for a Polaroid, Amerson knew he had a star.

"In 1971 some friends and I decided to start showing actual penetration. We took $14,000 and a handful of bennies, and in one weekend, we made five films. We sold them in New York and Chicago, made back our investment in a week and went on to make a lot of money off those movies." (Playboy 3-98) The profits attracted the attention of several New York organized crime families. One family (Colombo?) sent an underboss (Joseph Torchio?) to get some of the money. "I told him I didn't want any partners," Amerson told Playboy. "Said I'd teach him the business but that I liked to work alone. He basically told me, 'If you don't work with us, you don't work.' I wanted to work." .

With the success of 1972's Deep Throat, The Devil In Miss Jones and Behind the Green Door, porn was chic but still illegal. "There was a tremendously tyrannical power that came down on the performers," Bill Margold told the 3-98 Playboy. "Everything we did back then was illegal. I was in 300 movies - 500 sex scenes - wondering through much of it if I was going to be arrested. And I was, many times."