Porn Valley Two-Headed Donkey Tour: The Wonderland Murders

As you know, I own a two-headed donkey that I got as a gift for my Bar Mitzvah. The donkey performs menial tasks and, around Christmas, takes part in manger scenes with two-headed Jesus and Doubly-Virgin Mary. After visiting the leper colony on Molokai I realized that donkey-back tours were the only way to travel to hard-to-reach places.

I recently read an excellent oral history of the life of John Holmes called John Holmes, a Life Measured in Inches by Jill Nelson and Jennifer Sugar (read my review and interview with the authors) and decided to take a group of tourists through Laurel Canyon to visit locations significant to 1981’s Wonderland Murders, an event as significant to the story of John Holmes as his massive penis and his death from AIDS in 1988.

Stop 1: Wonderland Avenue. The actual address is easy enough to find, but I’m not going to print it. Suffice to say that John Holmes pilgrims might bump into Paul Revere And the Raiders fans while searching for the house, as the “Louie, Louie” song stylists also stayed at that address decades earlier.

By 1981, Holmes’ drug use and porn-set pilfering (he used to rifle through performers’ handbags for drug money) had resulted in his being deemed persona non grata on many porn sets, despite the fact that his involvement in a movie could significantly boost its sales. He began hanging around with a group of thugs who lived in a three-story home on the twisty mountainside Wonderland Avenue. Holmes became their mule and errand boy in exchange for drugs.

He had been porn’s most famous male performer for more than 15 years at this point, in a time when individual movies earned significantly more money than they do now.

The Wonderland Gang was not averse to putting the beat-down on its victims, robbing them for drug money, and they were also not honest thieves. According to the book, there were several contracts out on the gang for shortchanging other shady characters.

The Two-Headed Donkey says: “Parking on Wonderland is a bitch. Take a two-headed donkey!”

Stop 2: Eddie Nash’s place. One of the Gang’s targets was Eddie Nash, a nightclub owner and drug dealer who had supplied the Gang, through Holmes, with drugs in exchange for stolen items like antique firearms. Nash lived off Dona Lola Drive on the Porn Valley side of Laurel Canyon.

The two-headed donkey and I toured a home for sale in the area and took this picture of Nash’s former home from the balcony. The donkey kept hitting its heads on the cheap ceiling lamps and scuffing its hooves on the cheap Berber carpet. Only $1.4 million!

When the Wonderland Gang wanted the guns back but were not prepared to pay Nash’s pawn price, Holmes orchestrated the robbery of Nash’s home on June 29, 1981.

According to sources, Holmes had visited Nash, left a rear bedroom door unlocked for the Gang, and, while heading back to Wonderland Avenue via Dona Pergita Drive, passed the Gang coming the other way. “Go get ’em, boys,” Holmes was alleged to have said.

While everyone agrees that Holmes double-crossed Nash, accounts vary about what happened next.

During the robbery, Holmes said that Nash was “humiliated” by the Gang, who not only took upwards of $100k in cash, drugs, and the recovered guns, but also injured one of Nash’s bodyguards, Greg Diles. The prevailing opinion is that it was on Nash’s orders and using Nash’s men, including Diles, that the retaliatory Wonderland Murders took place two mornings later, on July 1, 1981.

Furthermore it was Holmes, according to several accounts, who let Nash’s henchmen into the Wonderland home, where five people – members of the Gang and their girlfriends, were caught unawares and brutally bludgeoned to death.

Holmes was arrested but would not testify against Nash – whom he feared – and was eventually released from the Men’s Wing of Los Angeles County Jail (which now houses Brian Surewood). He cooperated – to a point – with the police, but went on the lam for fear of Nash. He was apprehended by the L.A.P.D. in Florida and brought back to Los Angeles, where he was charged with murder and held in contempt for more than 100 days for refusing to name names on the stand.

He was cleared of involvement in the murders and returned to his porn career, by most accounts grateful for his freedom and a better, more considerate worker because of it. This was the part of John Holmes, a Life Measured in Inches that came as the biggest surprise to me; the space of a few years before his infection and death where things were coming together for him.

The Two-Headed Donkey says: “Imagine how much cocaine you could buy for $1.4 million.”

Stop 3: The Laurel Canyon Country Store. In the song “Love Street,” former Wonderland Avenue resident Jim Morrison called this cramped variety store/deli “the place where the creatures meet.” Indeed, when the Wonderland Gang grew wary of the heat (irate neighbors said that sometimes the Gang would toss bags of heroin off the balcony to buyers in Rolls Royces), they would do their deals in front of or in the store, at the corner of Laurel Canyon Blvd. and Lookout Mountain, down the street from Harry Houdini’s house.

The Two-Headed Donkey says: “Just to be polite, I bought a bottle of plum wine and some potato salad. The woman who scooped the potato salad was rude.”

Previously on Porn Valley Observed: Holmes shot Wadd on a Sunday

8 thoughts on “Porn Valley Two-Headed Donkey Tour: The Wonderland Murders

  1. Thanks for the quick history lesson. As always, your wonderfully written posts stand out like the one real teenager in a room full of 30 year-olds in pigtails and plaid skirts.

  2. I went to Wonderland Ave. Elementary School from second to sixth grade. Oddly, neither John Holmes or the Wonderland Murders were mentioned in the curriculum. I can only assume that such important local history was taught in first grade.

  3. Hoo Ha – “Wonderland”, indeed. Again, your penchent for adroit, phraseal (?) written observations is truly a joy to read and savor!

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