Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Book review by Willow

"Hands" by Kenji
As we roll toward the 6th anniversary of the release of "John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches" in August, we are happy to share a new book review by a fellow reader and writer, Willow. Willow recently reviewed the biography after it was offered to her in exchange for a fair and honest look at the book. As a blogger residing in Oregon, with a wry sense of humour and a unique take on many facets of life, Willow's blog is an interesting place to stop a while and peruse; it is diverse, entertaining, and contains a variety of topics -- from reviews on books and movies, to sharing recipes, to discussing thoughts on spiritual and metaphysical matters, to ideas about parenting. Willow manages to effectively enlighten and offer her opinion without taking herself too seriously.

I'd like to thank Willow once again for taking the time to pen the following analysis of "John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches."

Please enjoy Willow's blog and her review of our book:

John Holmes; A Life Measured in Inches (2008) by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson is a compilation of quotes on various topics about the life and times of famed porn actor John C. Holmes. The quotes are from people who knew him and/or worked with him in the industry. This book was offered to me by author Jill C. Nelson after reading my review of Road Through Wonderland on my blog.

In contrast to Porn King and Road Through Wonderland, this book (nearly 600 pages in length), is a more comprehensive glimpse into the person, life and times of
John Holmes. Rather than being the result of one person's view, it is a collection of stories and quotes from upwards of 46 people who reflect on this fringe icon.

As I've stated before in similar reviews, I will attempt to give this review without making judgement on the man or the industry. He had friends and family who loved him, and was a multifaceted human. He was nearly entirely different to those who experienced him during his extreme bout with addiction vs the periods of time when he was clean and sober. I would say that in reading this book, it was pretty easy to come up with a composite of who he was. Much of who he was, as experienced by those who knew and worked with him, has common threads. So it is fairly simple to come away with an overall picture.

John Holmes was a star in pornography. Due not only to his documented phallic size and sexual control but for his prolific collection of works. He is said to have starred in over 2250 films and loops during the 1970's and 1980's. He was implicated in the famed 1981
Wonderland Murders, and later died of AIDS. All of this is outlined in the book.

Originally, I read Road Through Wonderland due to the local connection of Dawn Schiller and Sharon Holmes living in our town. After reviewing that book, I was approached by Laurie Holmes to read and review Porn King and by Jill C. Nelson to read and review "...Inches", and
Golden Goddesses: 25 Legendary Women of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968-1985 (which I will review at a later date...perhaps a much later date...it is nearly 1,000 pages in length).

It's not so much that I'm a student of the early porn industry and it's stars so much as the opportunity presented itself, and I apparently have enough curiosity to have agreed to read and review these works. The only book of those mentioned that I personally purchased was Road Through... The others were provided to me free of charge to review (with the understanding that I would give an honest review). I have mixed feelings about pornography, and I have to admit that I got a little tired of the book after a while. I also have to say that it is comprehensive and thorough. If you have an interest in the early porn industry or of some of the people who blazed the trails, then this is a good book for that purpose. Keep in mind this is a book that does not read like a novel. It is literally a series of quotes organized by topic.


My first impressions of the book (besides...OMG it's so long!...which is ironically, a quote you will find throughout the book...SNORK!), was that it must have been a darn lot of work to compile and organize all those quotes into topics. It is a well-documented, nearly scholarly work. I found myself thinking that all of these books would make for good text books in some sort of sociological course on pornography. To me, it gives a much more well-rounded picture of John Holmes (and the industry) because a person is so much more than their own view, or the view of one or two people who adore them or hate them. There are impressive research efforts on display and Sugar and Nelson are to be commended for it.


Of notable interest to me was the progression of the industry and how "new and recent" it really is. When these stars first began to film, they were regularly raided and arrested for indecency. Porn was illegal to make, sell, view and possess. It's one of those things that in my lifetime, has always been available (made much more widely available by the world wide web).


I was also rather struck by how relatively "new and recent" AIDS is. There was so little known about it when Holmes was in his "prime" that it boggles the mind. The risks that those in the industry have taken and continue to take is staggering. That Holmes continued to work a bit longer after testing positive, knowing he was ill will test one's compassion. But, as stated by co-worker and friend "...his rational thinking had been compromised by years of drug abuse...drug addiction is a serious problem that can involve a good, decent person in activities in which he or she would not normally participate." (p. 379) At that time, it was being called "Gay Cancer" and was not considered something that could be transmitted to females.


When I first began reading this book, I asked co-author Jill C. Nelson:


"Why should we care, and why is John Holmes worthy of the books written about him? What makes him noteworthy (besides penis size)?"

This is Jill's response to me:

"The John Holmes story is important for several reasons: John is the first male superstar of adult films. He is still considered the "largest" male of his generation. What separated John from few other men with his size is that his penis functioned. John could cum on cue and was known for his tender lovemaking style which is co-stars appreciated. His worst films outsold the best selling films of his female contemporary stars. He was and will always be the "King." This might not be relevant to the rest of the world, but to the era of the golden age, this stuff is primary.

More importantly however, through the years, John Holmes has morphed into a pop culture figure. A large part of his notoriety and infamy has been solidified not only because of his legacy in the adult film world, but because of his involvement in the Wonderland murders. His murder trial was the first trial in U.S. history in which video tape evidence was used in court. John served the longest period in jail in California history for contempt. He is also the first iconic adult performer to have died of AIDS.

John's story is the epitome of drugs, sex, rock and roll, and HIV -- excess. His is also a story of a gentle young man from rural Ohio who got caught up in the sexual revolution that exceeded far beyond his wildest dreams. Toward the end of the first first wave of his success, he became like a rat trapped on a treadmill with no clue how to get off. In a strange and maybe twisted way, John lived and eventually died a martyr for the industry that he helped to build. His story is a cautionary tale, not only about the ravages of drug addiction, but addiction to everything else in between --including sex.

It's also a unique story of redemption, and how he was able to rebuild his life and career after his acquittal for four counts of first degree murder. John Holmes wore many hats aside from his public and porn personas. He was a son, a brother, a husband twice, a friend, a boyfriend, a beloved step-father and a godfather to three children.

In addition to those points, two feature mainstream films have been inspired by his life story, Boogie Nights and Wonderland. Several documentaries and articles have been produced and written about Holmes through the years starting in 1981 with Exhausted. There is no other porn star living or dead in the history of the business who has generated or spawned this kind of legacy."

 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review of The Saga of Johnny Wadd in Film, Print and Popular Culture - by Jeremy Richey

 
In the latest (March 2014) issue of Weng's Chop, exceptional writer Jeremy Richey has contibuted a wonderful, detailed, in depth tribute to the nine-part Johnny Wadd adult film series, directed by Bob Chinn and starring John Holmes. The continuing Johnny Wadd saga, with releases between the years 1970 and 1978, marks the very first erotic adult production -- not only to feature a strong, recurring title character (private detective Johnny Wadd), but the films were shot on location in San Francisco, Hawaii, and Mexico. As Richey mentioned, the series didn't actually take hold until Chinn, in a groundbreaking manuever, had already completed the first four films independently. Starting in 1970 and shot on shoe string budgets containing very little production value, each picture inevitably took on a life of its own, despite glaring deficiencies, with audiences demanding more and more Johnny Wadd movies. Holmes' ever growing popularity, along with his embodiment and the evolution of the charismatic, dirty private dick, eventually sparked the interest of one of the largest and most dominant adult companies located in Los Angeles. Freeway Films, owned and commandeered by Armand Atamian, brought financial stability and the capacity for larger production budgets, resulting in the best five and most memorable Johnny Wadd releases in the series. Releases that have progressed into perpetuity.
     Richey is the very first writer to compose an essay reflecting on the entire Johnny Wadd collection (including three bonus Johnny Wadd films that were not directed by Chinn, or a part of the original series), establishing that Richey wholly recognizes and reveres Chinn's tenure as a director, the signifance of the films, and Freeway's major role in their longevity -- culminating in much more than a footnote in cinematic history. Richey credits Chinn and Freeway for their ingenuity, and expertly draws comparisons between the productions and the Hollywood counterparts that had influence over their inception, while insightfully itemizing the nuances of the plots and characertizations. It is apparent that Richey examined each of the releases intently, combining first hand knowledge with other sources to effectively and selectively expand upon some of the preexisting information about the films. Writing with authority, Richey underscores the strengths and weaknesses of the individual pictures, and makes suggestions as to how they could have been improved. Richey explains how Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here (1976) and China Cat (1978) inspired one of the most respected directors in mainline Hollywood, Paul Thomas Anderson, who handpicked and duplicated scenes from the two pictures to perfection in his highly acclaimed film adaptation of the 1970s porn climate, Boogie Nights. This was the first time that a credible Hollywood director willingly stepped over the invisible boundary to the other side to draw from the deep well of inspiration. 
     In addition to citing information from John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, and Legs McNeil's The Other Hollywood, Richey also makes a point of resourcing and highlighting the brilliant 1981 film Exhausted, John C. Holmes: The Real Story, directed by Atamian's niece, Julia St. Vincent. As the very first documentary to center on an iconic porn star, "Exhausted" helped Richey to flesh out his own impressions of Holmes and to gain a greater understanding of the duplicities and complexies that comprised the man synonymous with Johnny Wadd. Richey refers to the real John Holmes as an amalgamation of himself and the Johnny Wadd character, both hero and villain, and discusses how, for better and for worse, the two personas eventually became unified and indistinguishable after a time. Richey's statement mirrors a similar comment made about Holmes by one of Holmes's closest friends, Joel Sussman, who intimated that an individual can only change into a Superman costume so many times before he eventually believes himself to be Superman. 
John C. Holmes in China Cat
Richey closes his article by smartly lamenting that, with the exception of the very first film in the Johnny Wadd series simply titled Johnny Wadd (1971, re-released by VCX in 2008, with the inclusion of a director's commentary), none of the successive films have been made available in remastered or Blu-ray formats which truly is a shame. Hopefully those with a vision and expertise will become enthused and motivated to make this happen one day.
     I'd like to thank Jeremy Richey once again for using our book as a resource, and for sending me two copies of this magnificent publication containing his exceptional piece. I'd also like t conclude by excerpting a portion of a thought provoking quote by Richey from the article:
     "Perhaps the outskirts are where figures such as Chinn [and Kane] really belong. After all, how many great artists have been destroyed by the main thing they originally strive for... acceptance. Either way, film history books will remain frustratingly incomplete as long as they continue to ignore an entire genre simply because of sex." -- Jeremy Richey, The Saga of Johnn Wadd in Film, Print and Popular Culture --Weng's Chop, Volume 2 Issue 1 Number 5  March 2014.
 
*Please also check out Jeremy Richey's new website for his own quarterly publication here: Art Decades. The first issue is due out in November of this year -- and it's going to be great. :)
    
    
      

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, Hardcover Editon - Now available at Amazon

John Holmes Hardcover
It's been in the works for quite some time, but today, we are very proud and pleased to share the news that the hardcover edition of John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches is now available at Amazon.com and all major online book retailers. The book retails at $38.66, and it is the second, updated version of the biography, which also includes a brand new introduction titled Conception by Jennifer Sugar and a postscript by Jill C. Nelson. See: A Life Measured in Inches Hard Cover
     This year will mark the twenty-sixth anniversary of John Holmes' death, and this August will be the sixth anniversary of the book's release. Readers, fans, and the curious continue to be fascinated by Holmes' wild, intriguing, and ultimately, tragic life and career.
      For those who are interested in the book's contents, interviewees, and would like to read sample passages, the following excerpts are from Chapter 5: Shooting Star. It features Serena, an adult film star and friend of Holmes, and Holmes himself. Serena's quote reveals John's playful side, while Holmes comments about the subject of marriage. At the time John made these statements, he was married to his first wife Sharon.

Serena: 'Every time I would see John, everytime we had a scene together, he would always ask me to marry him. It always blew my mind. I was married at the time to my childhood sweetheart, but we only got married because of a film that we did with Bill Margold. We got busted and I got married to this guy so that we wouldn't have to testify against each other. We were married, but John would always ask me to marry him. I had no idea if he was serious or not, but he would ask me in a very serious way. I would always laugh it off, saying, "Oh no, I'm already married!
     I remember this one time, on a movie that was a really big production, [John] knew the photographer. Most movies didn't even have a still photographer, but this guy was a still photographer who was covering the whole thing. The photographer's name was Joel Sussman. I was staying with Joel because my husband and I weren't getting along. I was taking a shower and I had cold cream all over my face. My hair was up in a towel and I came out into the living room. I was sobbing about how my husband and I didn't get along, and I was really upset.
     John came over to visit Joel and we all sat down at a card table. I was playing Led Zeppelin, which was my favorite band at the time. It was this song that made me sadder and sadder. I was just getting blue. Then John started telling me the words of the song, but putting a different slant on it, as if he was saying it and it was a happy song.
     He said, "Oh yeah, there's a girl with a towel on her head, and she's really, really sad," and I didn't even pick up on what he was saying at first, because I was listening to the song. He was going, "She's got all this cream all over her face, but I love her anyway," and he kept going on and on.
     I realized what he was saying when he got on his knees. I went, "Oh, my God! What is he doing?!" I said, "John, you idiot, I'm crying over my husband!"
     I thought that was a very sweet thing that he did.'

John Holmes: 'Marriage is antiquated. It's old fashioned. Eight out of ten marriages end up in divorce. Now, that's astounding. By 1980, eight and three-quarters of marriages will end up in divorce.
     I think what it basically comes down to, is we're in a Barbie Doll syndrome. From the time a little girl is born, all she has on her mind is wedding dresses, dollies and babies and, "Let's get married. Mommy and Daddy are married." It's a constant strife on their minds. I mean, their parents had sex before they were married and they only got married because Mommy got pregnant. They thought, "Let's be socially acceptable," -- and because they'd get a break on taxes. There are many reasons to get married, but if you love somebody -- if you're really hung up on them -- then live with them.'