JOHN HOLMES: A LIFE MEASURED IN INCHES by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson

This biography was written by Jennifer Sugar and Jill C. Nelson and was published by BearManor Media in August 2008. You can read the synopsis here and at Amazon. It’s a large, heavy paperback that is almost 600 pages long and weighs about 1 1/2 pounds. It contains many black and white photographs of John and his co-workers along with a lot of photos that were taken from his adult films. There are a couple nudes of just John by himself with his ‘member’ on full display. I give this 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. It’s a definite keeper for me. 
I really enjoyed this book and thought it was well put together. I didn’t know much of him before reading this, except that he was a porn star, famous because of the size of his penis (there are more than a few photos of it in this book), and that he’d died from an AIDS related illness. The highlight of the book was hearing from his ex-wife, Sharon. I’d been curious about her since hearing of her in another book and was more than delighted that this book included many, many excerpts that she’d given to others in the past. My second favorite part was reading all the interviews from people who knew him, including other porn actors, some of which I’ve seen in action before or had heard of.

This was really just a sad story of a sex addicted man (a real whoremonger) who later became addicted to drugs. What some think may have caused him to get HIV is having sex with a male porn actor who died from AIDS three years later, which was the same year, 1986, that John was diagnosed with HIV. Personally, I think that if John had sex with a gay man on-screen, for pay, what in the world makes people think he wasn’t doing it in private off-screen? I feel he was bi-sexual and wasn’t comfortable with it, at least with people knowing about it, so he didn’t let anyone know, including the people he was close to. So really, if indeed he did have sex with other gay men, he could have contracted HIV from any one of them. 

My two complaints about this book is that I’d like to have heard from his mother and siblings about what they thought of him becoming an adult actor and I wanted to hear more about his abusive childhood. It was only mentioned that he had an abusive step-father. But most off all, I really wanted/want to know more about something that a man named Mike Sager said. He wrote an article about John in Rolling Stone magazine in 1988 though he’d never met John. Here’s the quote from Mike that is in the book, “The main explanation was- he wasn’t gay, but he did at a time, make money for sex- there were wealthy men that would pay to be with him.” I want to know more about that. Who are these men and who knew about them? Have any of them ever been interviewed anywhere?

At the front of the book is a list of some of the people who were interviewed for the book or had been interviewed about John for other films and book publications. That is very handy. I have that section marked with a tab so I can filp to it faster when I need to. Pages 437-581 is a detailed filmography of John’s adult films and there are some photos, some with nudity, throughout that section. I really like that the authors thought to add a filmography. It was a nice, helpful touch that I appreciate.

To read more, please visit the authors website. There you’ll find photos, some of which weren’t in the book and can only be found online.

* This book was sent to me from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.




  1. November 11, 2010 at 1:50 AM

    Thanks for your interesting comments and observations. It’s always great to read feedback about the bio. We had asked several people about John’s perceived “bisexuality” when researching the book and the consensus seemed to be that John was bisexual in that he was a prostitute in the purest sense of the word. He would perform sexual favours in exchange for money with women and men. We were never able to confirm Mike Sager’s statement about John servicing “wealthy” men but it is true that John wouldn’t have had an aversion to engaging in sex with men in his private life, particularly if they paid well. John was a first class hustler through and through, and learned his “trade” while in Germany in the Signal Corps. Having said that, he did love women (that was evident in all of the conversations we had with people who had known him well) so it would be accurate to say that John was gay for pay. We included an astute insight from a friend and co-worker, Buck Adams, who told us that John said to him on different occasions: “Yeah, I’m bisexual. You buy me, I’m sexual”. That pretty well sums it up.

    On another note, Jennifer and I initially had ongoing communication with John’s brother, David, and also with one of his nieces. In the end, we mutually agreed that we would not use anything they might have contributed to the book. David is fine with John’s legacy, but certain members of his family are not and they have consistently declined interview opportunties over the years. It is unfortunate in a way, but in another way I can also understand how they might feel. Laurie Holmes had conveyed to us at different points that John’s family were good people but they are also quite religious and not necessarily approving of the path he chose. As you know, John and his mother were close at the time of his death, but Mary Bowman has never spoken publicly about him. I believe she passed away last year at age 90.

    John actually had two step-fathers and both were abusive toward him and to his siblings – mostly to him. Mary divorced her first husband, Edward Holmes, before John was five and she married Harold Bowman before he was ten. John did share painful memories about his step-fathers with both of his wives and also with others that he was close to, but he did not like to talk about it. (Sharon was not aware that Edward Holmes was not John’s biological father because he didn’t find that out until 1986 and they hadn’t spoken in a few years.) Julia St. Vincent also told us he had shared some stories with her on occasion, and his friend and business partner, Bill Amerson, told us that John danced to get out of the pain of his childhood. It is also believed to be one of the reasons he had liked to fabricate stories – to escape. On the other hand, John also had some happy memories of his youth, and did not blame his mother for her poor choice(s) in men. He believed that she did the best she could given the circumstances.

    • BRN said,

      November 11, 2010 at 5:49 AM

      Hello Jill!

      Thanks for your comments. I really did enjoy the book and I’m so glad I read it. I reviewed it here too, as well as at a few other places. I visited your site earlier and was so happy to finally have seen a photo of Sharon. She’ll forever remain a mystery to me as far as why she stayed married to him as long as she did. I want to explore your site more when I have more time.

      I’m curious as to why you three agreed to not use any of the stuff you talked about with David. I got the feeling in Dawn’s book that he didn’t really ‘know’ John that well.

      Thanks again!

  2. November 11, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    Hi Terri,

    Sharon is definitely somewhat of an enigma, but I do believe that she stayed with John for as long as she did because there was a part of her that still loved him, in spite of everything. I think John loved her too, even though the nature of their relationship had changed dramatically over the years.

    I can’t really get into too many specifics about why it was decided that David and John’s niece’s input not be included, except to say that long term implications from the Wonderland events were involved in the decision making process. David has visited our website since the book was published and appreciates the candid shots of his brother that are there.

    David and John were “on again off again” in terms of their relationship but they had been close at different points. According to Laurie, their mother had encouraged them to make ammends before John passed away. David did visit John at the hospital – he was one of the few people who was permitted to visit John.

    Amusingly, we learned from Bob Chinn after the book was published that David actually had a minor role in Panama Red, a non-sex film spoof of Up in Smoke that Chinn had directed in 1973 – released in 1976. David is very young as it was filmed during his first trip to California when he had lived with John and Sharon. John plays a drug dealer, Bobo, who is arrested and “booked” by David, who plays a police officer. It’s a wild and wacky film!

    Thanks again for your insightful review(s) of the book; it’s great that you enjoyed it. We appreciate your comments.


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