Wadd: The Life And Times Of John C. Holmes

  • 2001
  • Movie
  • NC-17
  • Documentary

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...read more

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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.

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  • 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)
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