This book is PACKED with info on John Holmes, from his child hood until his death, it also gives details on what was happening all around him in the adult industry throughout his life. Thorough is not a strong enough word. We also have reviews of many of John’s movies and a bunch of pictures of him throughout his life. Excellent tome. I did an interview with the two writers who made this happen, Jill Nelson & Jennifer Sugar. Here is what they had to say-
Without having any prior interest or knowledge of the adult film industry, what was your inspiration for writing a book about John Holmes?
Jennifer: I had heard on the radio, “Our sets are longer than John Holmes,” and I was disappointed after I saw Wonderland because I wanted to really be able to see what that meant. I had never seen one of his movies until about four years ago. It was ironic because after I saw Wonderland when I was 21, I thought, “I’ll never watch a John Holmes movie!” and now, four years later, I’ve co-authored the only comprehensive biography of John Holmes, which includes 200 film reviews. I don’t think there’s much left for me to see that would shock me!
Jill: I had heard of John Holmes back in the 70’s when I was still a teenager and I knew him by his reputation. That is, I was aware of the fact that he was extremely well endowed, but I’d never watched any of his movies. In some ways, it was liberating to be presented with a legitimate opportunity, not only to explore an erotic film star’s life, but also to vicariously explore the taboo world of sexuality, beyond the realm of what is acceptable by today’s society. Not many men are built like John was, so there was definitely a curiosity factor for me. I soon discovered that John’s genitals don’t resemble your typical turkey neck and giblets, like many males’ tend to do, so I guess you could say that John’s famous member provided inspiration for the bio – on some levels.
2) How did people react upon learning of your project?
Jennifer: People were positive. My dad said, “I better not see you in any movies,” my mom said, “Maybe you can recommend some movies,” and my sister said, “How can I get in a movie?”
Jill: My husband has been supportive, but, at first, my teenaged daughter who was 17 at the time was a little uncomfortable with the idea of the book. On the other hand, my son (who is now 24) begged me to let him add Ron Jeremy’s cell phone number to his speed dial, just to impress his buddies! In my circle, people have been polarized, but I’ve reminded a few that ”A Life Measured in Inches” is a serious and comprehensive biography about an erotic film legend – Jennifer and I are not porn stars. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But, there is a definite difference.
3) As first time authors venturing into unchartered waters, did you ever feel that undertaking a biography about John Holmes was overwhelming?
Jennifer: At times, I felt overwhelmed because there was so much to do – we had lists of phone numbers and e-mails, interviews to transcribe, movies to watch and review — and that was really just the beginning. I’d write a list of the next five things to do on an XL condom and pop it with a big pin when they were done. Many condoms were popped during the making of this book.
Jill: It is interesting, because our book was written electronically, by e-mailing our interview transcriptions, individual chapters and film reviews back and forth. We actually met in person for the first time in July of 2007, when we travelled to L.A. to do a round of interviews together. In April of this year, Jennifer (who resides in Michigan) stayed at my house in Ontario, Canada, for few days so we that could write captions for the 3 photos sections we had selected. Some of the pictures are rare nudes that really showcase John’s “inches”. It would get late and we’d be bleary-eyed sitting on my livingroom couch, fixated on John’s humungous pretzel and on impulse, we’d toss off all sorts of hilarious captions. The next day we’d generally tone it down a notch, but it was pretty funny.
4) Were you porn fans ahead of time? How were you accepted by the adult community?
Jennifer: Prior to reviewing John’s films and other Golden Age classics, I’d only seen a couple or porn movies and wasn’t a fan, but I was curious…
I would say that I was accepted warmly, but professionally by the adult community. People always ask if anyone ever asked me to be in a movie. No one ever did, although Cass Paley recently told me that the reason why he and Roy Karch approached me at “Fit for a King” — which recognized what would have been John’s 60th birthday — was because Roy was going to ask me to be in an adult movie. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a responsible, adult who decides to work in adult movies, but it’s not for me and I don’t do anything that would suggest otherwise.
In interviews with people who had worked within the adult community, I found that they were open after we earned their trust and shared our vision for how Inches would portray John Holmes.
Jill: I can honestly tell you that at age 50, no one offered me a part in a movie, not even as a MILF! We found that because we were both virgins, so to speak, it eventually worked to our benefit in gaining the trust of the adult community, because it was refreshing. Jennifer is a pretty and intelligent young woman, so people naturally gravitated toward her and they were very intrigued when she’d originated this project 4 years ago. I didn’t come on board until almost two years ago. As co-authors, we make an unique partnership because we are a generation apart; I’m a mother and I have been married for 30 years. Jennifer is a newlywed and a recent university graduate, so we are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Because of the nature of the book, we have talked about many things that I would never discuss with my own daughter because I’d be too embarrassed!
5) You both watched and reviewed over 200 Holmes’ films and loops for this project. What was your reaction when you saw John’s legendary penis for the first time?
Jennifer: I’ve seen it so many times now, I honestly can’t remember what I thought when I first saw it. But I will say this — there was a short-term effect to watching so many John Holmes films in such a short period of time; a regular-sized penis looked half as big as it should!
Jill: The first time I saw John’s penis was in a scene from The Jade Pussycat, where Johnny Wadd is “auditioning” a new secretary played by Christian Sarver. I distinctly remember exclaiming out loud, “HOLY SHIT!”. It almost rendered me speechless, which is very rare for me! The very first Johnny Wadd film adeptly demonstrates just how intimidating John’s size could be. At 25 years old, he was, as they say, young and hung, as the camera highlights his erect penis, swinging partway down toward his knee. It is thick and curved, almost like a boomerang. John had long skinny legs, so it is really quite incredible and impressive. The brunette actress who was working with John in that scene, Andie Bellamy, seemed to think so, too, judging by her vocal expressions and body language.
6) What are some of your favourite memories while writing the biography?
Jennifer: I interviewed Paul Thomas on the set of an adult video he was directing. After P.T. and his staff agreed on “Tits” for the location of the impending cum shot, he excused himself from our interview and joined the crew, who had snapped to attention to film the climax. When the cameras were turned off, the actress (who had done a convincing job during the scene), held her hands away from her body with her fingers pointed down. And in a statement that I think many women can empthasize with, she said, “I need a paper towel.”
Jill: Many stories shared with us throughout our interviews are memorable. Marilyn Chambers said when she’d first met John, he told her he had owned a sheep farm. I knew through Jennifer that Rhonda Jo Petty had said John told her he and his (first) wife Sharon had owned a goat farm. I laughed because it just struck me as the type of tale that John might have thought was funny. There are some stories that didn’t make it into the book, either because we were close to our deadline with our publisher, or we couldn’t verify them at all. Someone told me a story about a business card that John used to hand out in the 80s that read: “Romantic Problems? Call John Holmes” and it listed the telephone number of his answering service on Santa Monica Blvd.
The experience of co-writing this book has definitely been a lot of hard and meticulous work, but it has also been enlightening and fun.