By Melanie Cummings, Special To Burlington Post
Arts & Entertainment
Jill Nelson, 51, is an unlikely porn star biographer. Yet she is. Her partner in penning this 584-page story is also an unlikely match. At 26, Jennifer Sugar is a generation younger than Nelson and lives a country away, in Michigan.
The pair did have a seemingly unquenchable curiosity about Holmes after watching the movie Wonderland. Intrigued by the main character, the women met while chatting on an Internet website about the porn star, who was addicted to drugs and implicated in 1981 drug-related murders of four people in Los Angeles. “I’ve always been drawn to people on the fringe and their stories,” said Nelson. “(Holmes) wasn’t polished or well educated but he was charismatic.”
It took Nelson and Sugar four years to write Holmes’s biography and, after finding an agent, the book was appropriately launched on what would have been his 64th birthday, last Aug. 8. “A lot of things fell into place with this project,” said Nelson from her home in Aldershot.
She and Sugar made contact in the adult film world that led to the bevy of interviews with key people in his life such as Holmes’s widow, a long-time girlfriend (who hadn’t gone on record before), adult film directors he worked with in the industry’s golden age, two police officers who arrested him in Los Angeles (one was Tom Lange, made famous through the investigation into O. J. Simpson’s murder charge), friends, co-stars and co-workers.
“People entrusted us because we weren’t jaded media nor were we immersed in the porn world,” said Nelson. “It was a life-changing experience.”
The biography is told in a first person story-telling format with some narrative written by Nelson and Sugar, as well as the comprehensive filmography synopses. The pair watched about 114 full-length movies and another 86 loops (silent shorts that are light on plot and long on hard-core action) to put together the film review section.
Holmes’s life story seems to be one filled with contradiction, Nelson discovered.
While porn films in his time were illegal to make, watching such films weren’t. Therefore, Holmes’s entire career in the 1970s and ’80s was against the law. Ironically, porn films were legalized in 1988, the year he died of AIDS at age 44.
He was also a man who wrote beautiful poems about love, yet had unprotected intercourse even though he knew he was HIV positive. “There’s no question he did despicable things,” said Nelson.
While he gained fame for his lengthy appendage (the book boldly includes a full frontal nudity photo of Holmes in all of his glory) his short life had good, bad and ugly in it too, added Nelson.
Before writing the book, Nelson would have deemed pornography immoral. But in the context of the time, the men and women in this industry were also part of the sexual revolution era of the 1960s.
“They were educated people who wanted to buck the system and while I wouldn’t want my kids to be porn actors, or me, I don’t pass judgment on them,” said Nelson.
Online sales through amazon.com , chapters.com or johnholmesinches.com — currently the only way to buy John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches — have been steady to date.
The biography will also be sold locally on Saturday, April 18 at Chapters on Fairview Street from noon-2 p. m. Nelson and possibly Sugar will be on hand for book signings.
“It’ll be interesting to see who shows up,” said Nelson.
Mar 27, 2009