Biography: 1982/1988

John went on trial in Los Angeles, beginning May 20, 1982, for murdering the Wonderland gang. Because of his fear of Eddie Nash, John refused to testify. His lawyer claimed he was the "sixth victim" of the Wonderland murders, and that Eddie Nash was "evil incarnate." "Ladies and gentleman," said John's lawyer at the beginning of the trial, "unlike some mysteries, this is not going to be a question of 'Who done it?' This is going to be a question of 'Why aren't the perpetrators here?'" Holmes unique defense, that he was "the man in the middle," was later incorporated into law books. The prosecution said John had double-crossed his friends and then beaten at least Ron Laurnius to death. To keep his mind off his troubles, John worked on his autobiography while he living in jail. On June 26, 1982 the jury found him not guilty. Holmes was held in jail on an outstanding burglary charge. Facing a judicial order to tell what he knew about the Laurel Canyon murders, John refused to testify. He spent 111 days in Los Angeles County Jail, surviving a murder attempt that he believed was a contract hit. The Four-on-the-Floor murders eventually resulted in four trials over nine years, two mistrials and one retrial. In the Spring of 1982, police arrested Nash, his bodyguard Diles and others on charges of drug possession and drug selling. On November 22nd, 1982, Nash got the maximum sentence of eight years in jail. Diles received seven years for shooting at a policeman at the time of his arrest. Upon hearing the news of the sentences, John Holmes testified that same day before a Grand Jury (giving innocuous and useless information) and was released. John phoned Sharon who, during his incarceration, had divorced him. Sharon told him to "get the fuck out of my life." "The day he got out of jail he showed up at my house driving a VW van he'd borrowed from his attorney," Amerson told the 3-98 Playboy. Bill hadn't seen John since his arrest. "He moved in and started a gigolo thing with a 65-year old woman who gave him money and leased him a car. But he wasn't happy with it. He wanted to make movies, but nobody would hire him because he was so unreliable." John first performed in California Valley Girls, where he does one scene. He sits on a couch while six girls work on his penis. The movie was directed by Bill Margold, who introduced Laurie to John during the 12/82 making of the video Marathon in San Francisco. "I can't wait to get that man up my ass," said Laurie. She did off-camera before they even did a scene. "I was stuck in a hospital bed in the second half of the movie," remembers Margold. "Laurie and John have sex on top of me and Drea. "John had just gotten out of jail. He showed me his legs which were full of pencil marks. He said that he'd been stabbed a lot with pencils while in jail. "Laurie was part of the hole-in-the-wall gang which lived on the second floor of 6912 Hollywood Boulevard. Photographer Sam Menning, who moved in in 1973, ran the [porn] studio with a whole bunch of faceless nameless men and Laurie. "Ed Nash owned the building. On the first floor he operated the Polynesian style nightclub THE SEVEN SEAS. "They were known as the hole in the wall gang because they had taken one office on the second floor, then, as they expanded, they simply knocked down walls. They began by knocking holes in the walls, then kept going through. They kept all these animals. There was an earthquake. Place fell into a state of disrepair by 1985. "Laurie lived in one of the rooms around 1981. She was everybody's adopted sister." Laurie Rose was 19 years of age. An anal queen, she used the porn name Misty Dawn. She came from a small town outside Vegas. She looked like Dawn Schiller. Sporting a vivid Caesarian scar, Misty appeared in such flicks as Aerobisex Girls, Desire and Nasty Nurses. John and Laurie began dating - smoking freebase cocaine and having sex. They watched videos. They went to swap meets and yard sales on weekends. Holmes insisted Laurie quit porn. They worried about contracting AIDS. "If I'm going to take a chance," said John, "that's enough."

At the January 1983 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Al Goldstein ran into John signing autographs for Reuben Sturman's Caballero. "You're gaining weight, Goldstein," said Holmes. "You should be on the same diet I'm on, the cocaine diet." Al stared at the emaciated porn star, remembering Gloria Leonard's remark that he seemed "all cock." He asked John where was the signature diamond ring he wore in most of his films. "Gone," said John, "with the rest of it. Up my nose in a couple of toots." "So this whole thing was coke, John?" Holmes looked away hurt as Goldstein remembered a quote from Bruce Jay Friedman, "Don't let that little frankfurter run your life." By March of 1983, Laurie had moved in with John at Amerson's house. Now a counselor to drug addicts who include prominent porn queens, Bill still wears a diamond ring on his pinkie finger. Later in 1983, John made a homosexual porno, The Private Pleasures of John C. Holmes, where he performed anal sex on gay star Joey Yale, who died soon afterwards of AIDS. After serving a couple of years in jail, crime kingpin Eddie Nash was released early for good behavior. John worried but Eddie did nothing to him. His fortune destroyed by drugs and legal expenses, Nash started anew. At night, he took business classes at a local college.

In 1985, Amerson left VCX to start his own porn production company, Penguin Productions. He gave John a junior partnership in the company. Penguin made 15 videos in six months, most starring John. In 1985, Laurie, John, Bill Amerson and his wife tested HIV negative. "Bill and I tried to organize an AIDS testing program within the business," writes John in his autobiography. "Our goal was to form an organization that would require current AIDS test results on every actor, male or female, we hired for a film. ÉWhen the time came to take action, the other performers surprisingly refused. No, they said to testing, believing that to make it mandatory was in violation of their civil rights." John and Bill tested again in 1986. "The doctor told us he had good news and bad news," says Amerson. "Then he looked at me and said, 'You're all right.' John turned white. The doctor told him that just because he was HIV-positive didn't mean he would get AIDS, and that if he'd stop smoking and drinking and drugging up, he could live another 20 years. "John had a death wish. He went up to six packs of cigarettes a day and two quarts of scotch instead of one, and began using more drugs than ever." Laurie Rose suspects that the US government gave John AIDS. "John and Bill went to Washington DC right around the time John would have contracted AIDS," she writes in Porn King. "It was also during the time that Edward Meese and his "Meese Commission" were on a crusade to shut down the porn industry. I remember hearing that Meese showed President Reagan some porn movies at the White House, one of which I was in. Then along came John and Bill and a few others to fightÉ John even met one of Reagen's Secret Service men. Could it be that John Holmes was injected or somehow given a strain of the AIDS virus? Maybe it was the United States Government, not God, making an example of John to underscore the "horror" of pornography." Though HIV positive, Holmes kept doing porn, including The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empress starring Ilona "Ciccolina" Staller, a future member of the Italian parliament. "He just figured that if they don't get it from me, or if they don't already have it, they're going to end up with it anyway," says Laurie. "He just figured that everybody in the business was going to die of AIDS anyway." (WADD) Amerson later accused John of stealing $200,000. John lost his health insurance. Pain dominated John's last two years. Bill Amerson and Laurie set up the John Holmes Relief Fund. Donors included Gloria Leonard, Annie Sprinkle, Suze Randall, Ron Vogel and Caballero Productions.

John married Laurie Rose at the Little Chapel of the Flower in Las Vegas in 1987. He called Bill. "I think I'm married. I'm all fucked up. I'm not sure, but I've got a ring, Laurie's with me and I think we're married." John beat Laurie regularly. As his health declined, he checked into the VA hospital. Lange visited him for the last time. Laurie was in the room. "It was one of the greatest performances of his life," she says. "John would lean over slowly to stub out his cigarette, then start to answer the question, then become incoherent. He didn't tell them anything." (Playboy 3/98) "It was a performance for sure," said Lange, "as if the cameras were rolling. It was typical John, full of shit." (Ibid) Sean Amerson says that Laurie prevented any of the Amersons from visiting John in the hospital.

On March 13, 1988, John Holmes died in peace with Laurie beside him. "His eyes were open," says Laurie, "and it looked like he had looked up to Death and said, 'Here I am.' It was the most peaceful look I ever saw in my life. I tried to shut his eyes like in the movies, but they wouldn't stay shut. "He wanted me to view his body and make sure that the parts were there. He didn't want his dick to end up in a jar. I viewed his body naked, and then I watched them put the lid on the box and put it in the oven. We scattered his ashes over the ocean." (RS) "In the morning [after John's death] there was a phone call on my machine from Laurie," says Denise Amerson, Bill's daughter. 'Your godfather died last night and you did not even care enough to go see him.' Then she hung up. That's how I found out that he died. "John had wanted to be buried and he wasn't. He was cremated. I guess she [Laurie] took it upon herself to make that choice. And that's what she did, before we had a chance to say goodbye to him." (WADD) A week later Amerson paid for a memorial service at Forest Lawn Cemetary in Los Angeles. Out of the 52 friends invited (Laurie not among them), 50 showed. John had become increasingly reclusive through the 1980s. "It doesn't pay to have friends," he'd say. "Friends will get you killed." (Playboy 3/98) Six months later, on September 8, 1988, Diles and Nash were charged with the murders on Wonderland Avenue but acquitted. "No one dies of AIDS per se," notes Pat Riley on RAME. "AIDS is not a disease, it's a syndrome: Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Officially a person is classified as having AIDS when they meet certain criteria established by the Center for Disease Control. "Even though the actual cause of death may be cancer, the death certificate will state (nowadays, reporting was lax in the early stages to spare the family) that the person died of ......(insert name of specific disease) while suffering from...AIDS. From a non-medical viewpoint it's correct to say "Holmes died of AIDS". "Before his death, Holmes complicated matters by saying he suffered from intestinal cancer presumably to be able to work and in particular to do the Italian movies with Cicciolina. "Where Holmes picked up HIV is subject to conjecture. It's unlikiely he got it on the set of a heterosexual movie because (1) transmission from female to male is very unlikely and (2) none of the females he screwed have died or are reportedly ill. His last wife, Misty Dawn, is alive despite having had anal sex with him on film. His homosexual appearances on video have always had him as the top so these are also unlikely however they do indicate a frame of mind where in his private life he may have bottomed. Drug use is a likely factor too." How did John catch HIV? "I had a feeling that he was probably shooting [up]," says Kitten Natividad. Mark Wahlberg aka Marky Mark plays Holmes in Boogie Nights - a movie loosely based on John's life. "He starts out as a young, gullible guy," says Mark about his character, "a wonderful person. He has this gigantic penis and everyone just wants to use him. He becomes a porn star and begins to believe the bullshit which everyone is feeding him. He gets strung out drugs and burns out. Looking back, he realizes that his porn success was the one good thing he had in his life." John Holmes serves as the inspiration for Mark's character, but the story is not meant to be taken as a literal account of his life. "It's based on a lot of stuff that John did, but it's not supposed to be John Holmes. The characters talk about John degrading women, beating up women, like it's not cool...and then we turn round and do the same thing." M.K. Hutcheon writes that "two props are pivotal to Mark's character. The hair extensions are a pain to deal with, the prosthetic penis is surprisingly easy." Boogie Nights depicts the porn film industry in the 1970s and follows Mark's character's descent into excess and ruin. Porn veterans agree that Paul Thomas Anderson's 1997 film Boogie Nights presents an unfairly negative view of the industry. Paul's movie compresses about 15 years of change into seven and concentrates on many of porn's worst parts: exploitation of children, widespread use of drugs, Mafia influence, the low intelligence and sloppy moral character of many of its participants, and its occasional falls into violence. While most everything shown in Boogie Nights occurred frequently in porn in the '70s and '80s, the movie focuses on the negative. Boogie Nights sloppily recreates the '70s, showing, for instance, widespread use of platform shows when they had been out of fashion for years. Eight track stereo and the Shaft look in mens wear were similarly out of date. "From the very first shot this crappy movie demonstrated how lazy the filmmaker was going to be when it came to veracity." (R. Geoff Baker) "I didn't care enough about the characters to find it heartbreaking," writes Larry Rosenhein on the internet newsgroup rec.arts.movies.current-films. "But I do find it depressing to spend so much time with such dim peopleÉ. It's commonplace to make films about dim or dysfunctional people, about hoodlums and avaricious white collar goons. It's the equivalent of "good copy"É What I'd like to see are some films about smart, well-intentioned people who have conflicting interestsÉ" Among the porn veterans appearing in Boogie were Nina Hartley, Veronica Hart, Tony Tedeschi, Summer Cummings, Skye Blue, and Little Cinderella. Porn veteran and pro-porn idealogue Juliet Anderson says, "It's one of the most awful movies I've ever seen in my life. I feel like I've been assaulted." "There were a lot of people doing drugs," Wesley Emerson told the San Francisco Chronicle, "but it had nothing to do with the porn industry -- it had to do with the world at large. I'm not defending it, but drugs were rampant." Juliet hated the movie's depiction of pornographers as "losers and weirdos who couldn't make it any other way -- which is totally untrue. The vast majority of people I knew behind and in front of the camera had regular lives. "They have the man who shoots his wife, the pedophile, the token black guy, the underage guy, the drugs, the violence. Every cliche. I'm surprised they didn't bring in bestiality." Emerson: "It's about America. Pornography just happened to be the vehicle in which it's carried; it's a secondary factor. That's the whole trick." (San Francisco Chronicle, 10-23-97) "Neither "The People vs. Larry Flynt" nor Boogie Nights honestly deals with the real-life porn industry," writes Camille Paglia, "which they condescendingly show as overrun by dimwitted buffoons. Neither movie comes close to capturing the sizzle of outlaw sexuality... "Far from pornography becoming mainstream, popular culture is showing less and less ability to create and sustain an erotic chargeÉ "The best pornography depends on a strict sense of social limits and norms, which the picture or story violatesÉ"(Salon magazine) Sources say that Laurie Holmes, John's widow, remains addicted to drugs and abusive men. She works as a stripper. Journalist Hart Williams worked in the porn industry from 1978-88. He hated Boogie Nights and Craig Vetter's 3-98 article in Playboy. Vetter supposedly earned $5K for 5K words. Hart writes on RAME: One of the first things I learned in Hollywood pornoland was that PLAYBOY had a dark and sleazy side that was only exacerbated by their snobbery vis a vis porn. Porn is an onion, and the deeper you peel away the layers, the more is revealed. Vetter barely scraped the skin, and seems to feel he got the "inside dope." Who did Vetter think he was, venturing into a secretive and arcane world and thinking that a couple of phone calls would clear things up? And people wonder that "the media" gets so much fouled up! Dollar to a donut that the LAPD moonlighters' book is excerpted as PLAYBOY's "Real Crime" feature within the next few months. [Vetter wrote in his first sentence that John Holmes "wasn't too bright."] When I was selling scripts in the heady days of the mid-80s, I remember selling John a script called "Lust In America" (still available at Excalibur). John said to me (as he filled out his American Express application) "Wait a minute. This is Clair Booth Luce's 'The Women.'" Now, at that subliterate time, I think I might have counted the number of people in Hollywood, per se, who'd have picked up on that (masked as it was) on the fingers of one hand and had plenty left. His conversation, as we digressed into the play, was sparkling, and, yes, brilliant. He might have made a cracker-jack drama critic. Holmes was well-read, charming and evidently smart enough (by Vetter's own words) to outwit two of LAPD's finest on his death bed. Amerson's truthfulness in this matter [John's supposed theft of $200K] has been a subject of some speculation in many industry circles for a long time. My sources have alleged that Mr. Amerson's charge of embezzlement against the Holmes' may be self-serving -- if, as some suggest, the money was NOT entirely Mr. Amerson's, but was borrowed from other sources -- and point to the extreme poverty of John and his wife in Holmes' last days. It seems to me that for $190K, it is odd that Holmes was forced to rely on the free services of the VA Hospital for medical treatment. ÉBad math. Poor research. Pedestrian writing. Unsubstantiated stereotypes. Unreliable witnesses. Focus on one event in a man's life to the exclusion of most of the rest of it (except that which conveniently backs up one's thesis).