John Holmes is the biggest male star to have ever worked in the adult industry, achieving household name status during the 1970s-80s. His filmography is comprised of as many as 2,500 hardcore movies and film loops over nearly 20 years, from 1969-1988. Holmes rose to stardom because of his legendary penis size, which was promoted as the largest in the business -- as big as 12.5 inches. He is said to have had sex with as many as 3,000 women during his career.
Holmes was born John Curtis Estes on August 8, 1944 in Ashville, Ohio. His father left when John was an infant. When John was two, his mother married Harold Holmes and changed her children's last names. It was a troubled marriage lasting only two years. John's mother married Harold Bowman when John was eight. At age 16, escaping a troubled home life, John joined the army and spent the next three years in Germany with the Signal Corps. After leaving the military he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as an ambulance driver and forklift operator. One day, in the bathroom of a club, a man talked him into doing nude pin-ups. In the late '60s John acted in his first 8mm hardcore film loops. Due to the porn laws of the time, none of these films were legally available. Only in the early '70s, when movies like DEVIL IN MISS JONES and DEEP THROAT drew lots of people into theaters, did porn become more acceptable and finally legalized. During that time John Holmes found his most popular role, that of smooth-talking private dick Johnny Wadd, which he played in several films. Although known for his work in straight porn, in 1983 Holmes starred in a gay porn flick titled THE PRIVATE PLEASURES OF JOHN HOLMES. His final film was THE DEVIL IN MR. HOLMES.
At the height of his career Holmes earned $3,000 a day as an adult film actor. Even in his private life, rich men and women paid huge amounts of money to party with him. He fell on hard times during the late '70s, partially as a result of cocaine use, and was at one point charged with four gang-related murders (later acquitted, after spending 110 days behind bars). In the '80s, his career was less prolific.
In 1986 Holmes tested HIV positive. He died of AIDS March 13th, 1988. Holmes has been called the Elvis of porn and he remains a fascinating legend today, inspiring two Hollywood films: Boogie Nights and Wonderland.