Friday, August 22, 2008
Author Interview: Naked City
Audacia Ray at Naked City recently interviewed Jennifer Sugar about "Inches"!
For the last few years, writer Jennifer Sugar has been on a mission to bring porn legend John Holmes' life into print in a definitive biography. She added co-author Jill C. Nelson to the mix last year and the final product, John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches hits the stands today. The duo interviewed 35 people, reviewed 200of Holmes' films, and did a whole lot of leg work to produce this book.
Naked City editor Audacia Ray emailed with Jennifer and asked about the process of doing the research for the book and what they found out along the way.
[Also, trivia fact - August 8th would have been John Holmes' 64th birthday had he not died of AIDS]
Audacia Ray: What drew you to the life of John Holmes and made you decide to write a book about it?
Jennifer Sugar: I was 21 when I saw the film Wonderland and at that time, I didn't know who John Holmes was. In fact, I'd arrived at the theater at the wrong time to see a different movie, but Wonderland was playing next, so I decided to see it. The movie depicts about one week in John's 44 years - when he was in the depths of his addiction to freebase cocaine and was working as a drug mule between several people, including the so-called "Wonderland Gang" and Ed Nash, a notorious L.A. nightclub owner. As the movie shows, John orchestrated a robbery by the Wonderland people at the home of Ed Nash, which police believe precipitated the gruesome, unsolved multiple homicide at the Wonderland Avenue home less than 48 hours later. Holmes was implicated when his palm print was found on the bed rail above one of the victim's bashed-in heads. Although there wasn't evidence to prove that John had participated in murdering anyone (he was eventually acquitted of the related murder charges), Wonderland shows John taking part in swinging a pipe.
When I left the theater, I felt like I hated John Holmes and I remember saying that I would never see a John Holmes film. However, within a week, my curiosity had grown and I saw two of his films. I also wondered how a boy from Ohio could become the world's first and most famous porn star, before becoming addicted to drugs and being involved with the murders. I wanted to read a book about it, but found there wasn't one devoted solely to John's life, so I decided to write the definitive biography.
AR: How did you conduct your research about John Holmes?
JS: First, I watched all of the documentaries about John and read his autobiography, Porn King, plus all of the news and magazine articles that I could find. In August 2004, I went to Hollywood for the "Fit for a King" celebration, which recognized what would have been John's 60th birthday. There, I conducted my first interviews, and I met Bill Margold (a.k.a. Porn's Renaissance Man) and Cass Paley (who directed the best documentary about Holmes, WADD: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes). Bill and Cass were both very helpful in providing me with research material and contact information to do other interviews. I also began to watch and review Holmes' films. In 2007 I invited a Canadian, Jill Nelson, to co-author the book with me. Together, we completed 35 interviews with people who knew John Holmes, including Bob Chinn, Laurie Holmes, Detective Frank Tomlinson and Detective Tom Lange. Between the two of us, we watched and reviewed a total of 200 Holmes' films, including the entire nine-part Johnny Wadd series. The book includes all 200 reviews, a filmography that is not available online, and three photo sections (that include nude photos of John from the early days of his career), in addition to 14 chapters that chronicle all aspects of Holmes' life.
AR: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Holmes in the course of your research?
JS: Given my introduction to John Holmes with Wonderland, I was surprised to learn that John was a "normal guy," and he meant the world to some people. Although it's indisputable that John did some very bad things associated with his drug addiction, it was heartwarming to learn that he was a very devoted godfather to the children of his best friend and manager, Bill Amerson. Amerson's son summed this up best when he told Jill and I, "The John Holmes I knew was not the monster often summoned up in people's imaginations. He made sure I had new clothes, money for lunch. ...[He] always took a general interest in me and my life when no one else did."
With sentiments such as Sean Amerson's, Jill and I were able to present not only the most complete, but the most balanced look at John Holmes available to date. It truly is a fresh look at The King of Porn.
AR: Of the people you interviewed for the book, who was the toughest nut to crack?
JS: Everyone we interviewed was very kind and helpful in sharing their memories about John, but in answer to the question, John's widow, Laurie Holmes, was probably the toughest person with whom we secured an interview. After Jill called Laurie for the first time, Laurie checked in with Bill Margold to ask about us before she agreed to do the interview. She is very protective over John's estate and her memories of him. So, we were very happy to get a chance to interview her about her five year relationship with John and ask questions about John as a stepfather to her son. Laurie kindly granted us permission to use quotes from John's audiotapes and Porn King, which worked beautifully within our book. Readers of Inches will be pleasantly surprised that John - who was well known for his ability to spin a good yarn - was remarkably candid at times in many of these quotes that we chose. We couldn't be more pleased with the help from everyone who made John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches possible!