Because for all his faults he was a sensualist, it is fitting that the biography “John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches” is an oral one. The tome has been reissued with an extra 25 rare photographs of one of the defining icons of the porn business, and it is as exhaustive a history as Holmes was an exhausting character.
I recently watched Julia St. Vincent’s Holmes documentary “Exhausted” and was reminded what a spell Holmes cast over his contemporaries. From a 2011 vantage point, however, Holmes just seemed like a tool. Consider this quote:
“The tree of life represents the roots of man. The branches are the different directions a man can take, live or exist. When you’re dead, those that you leave behind will put you in a part of that tree. It represents what was, what is and what will be. It’s eternal.”
I can imagine him saying that, 30, 40 times a day during his heaviest coke years. For every feathered-headed Susan Anspach lookalike fluttering around Hollywood and Western in Holmes’s heyday who’d fall for that baloney and say “Yes, Yes,” there must have been 10 more who had heard it a thousand times saying “Would you just shut the fuck UP.”
But those were very different times, with different expectations. Everyone who knew Holmes personally (including the clothed Georgina Spelvin and the non-clothed Rhonda Jo Petty in these photographs) said he was charming and eager to please.
“John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches” (edited and compiled by Jill Nelson and Jennifer Sugar from hundreds of original and previously-published interviews) is a fascinating read because we get a history not unfamiliar to many of today’s pornographers, as filled with ego dysmorphia 30 years ago as they are today. We also watch the industry evolve from loops and live shows and solidify into something we recognize.
I recently re-read “Inches” in the wake of seeing “Exhausted” and reading Dawn Schiller’s book and was again impressed by its comprehensiveness. It’s definitely worth owning.
Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Book launch and documentary prove John Holmes still isn’t “Exhausted”; John Holmes & the Wonderland Murders: 30 years ago today; John Holmes book also measured in “Inches”
See also: Buy the revised “John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches” here