He was the first male superstar of porn, and at first glance an unlikely one:
John C. Holmes was pale and scrawny, with a scraggly moustache and an unruly
shock of wiry hair. But none of that mattered, because Holmes also had a
13½-inch penis, and that was his ticket to stardom. Inspired by P.T.
Anderson's BOOGIE NIGHTS, which drew heavily on Holmes' story but
fictionalized many aspects of it, director Cass Paley decided to tease apart
the facts and the legend in a documentary. Having worked in the adult film
industry, Paley had the contacts; he'd even met Holmes briefly in the early
'70s (the title refers to Johnny Wadd, the oversexed private dick Holmes
played in a series of hardcore detective pictures). Paley's film opens with a
chorus of conflicting assessments of Holmes, and throughout he's alternately
describes as sweet (if none-too-bright) and as an amoral junkie who betrayed
anyone foolish enough to trust him. Holmes's cocaine addiction eventually made
him persona non grata in porn. He turned to crime and was implicated in a
brutal mass murder in 1981; he was brought to trial and acquitted, and died seven years later, aged 44, the adult film industry's first martyr to AIDS.
Paley interviews dozens of Holmes's associates and acquaintances. A deeply
paranoid man who never gave out his phone number, forcing everyone to contact
him through an answering service, Holmes didn't really have friends, and that
includes his first wife (of 19 years), his longtime girlfriend (only 15 when
they began dating in 1976), and his widow, fellow porn star Misty Dawn.
Holmes's story isn't pretty, but it's fascinating, in no small part because
the people Paley interviews offer a glimpse into a brief time when making porn
was an act of rebellion that attracted a diverse and eccentric group of
filmmakers and performers.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 2001
- Rating: NC-17
- Review: He was the first male superstar of porn, and at first glance an unlikely one: John C. Holmes was pale and scrawny, with a scraggly moustache and an unruly shock of wiry hair. But none of that mattered, because Holmes also had a 13½-inch penis,… (more)