John Holmes was born John Estes on August 8, 1944 in Ashville, Ohio. His father was a railroad worker, but left before he was born. His mother married a man named Ed Holmes and changed their last name to Holmes.
His stepfather was quite abusive and an alcoholic. John endured frequent beatings at his hands for even minor things. His four older siblings were also subjected to the same abuse.
When John turned 16, he joined the United States Army and was sent to Germany to work in the Signal Corps. He was discharged in 1963 and moved to Los Angeles, California. He worked an odd assortment of jobs and married a nurse named Sharon Gebenini in 1965.
After working as an ambulance driver for some time, John quit his job and found a new one working as a forklift operator. Unfortunately, the frigid conditions of the warehouse took a nasty toll and John's lung collapsed several times as a result. He decided it was time for a new career and found his direction while hanging out at a night club. In the bathroom, a man noticed his massive penis and told him that he should get into the porn business.
John initially started with magazine appearances, but soon found himself starring in full length porn movies. He worked under assumed names and did not reveal his new line of work to his wife. In 1972, he was arrested for pimping, but charges were dropped when he agreed to work as an informant for the LAPD.
In 1973, he started playing in a series of porn films where he played a private investigator named "Johnny Wadd". The series was a huge success and it was reported that he was making over $3,000 per day in 1978. However, his personal life was starting to degrade since he had become addicted to cocaine.
Producers began to resist hiring John because his drug problem made it hard for him to get it up and maintain an erection. As a result, he began to turn to crime by selling drugs and engaging in prostitution. In 1976, he began pimping a 16-year-old girl named Dawn and in 1981 he was arrested for stealing a computer from someone's car.
Holmes also became involved with a group of criminals called the "Wonderland Gang". He managed to get on their bad side by stealing money while doing drug deals and was forced to compensate. He told them about his wealthy friend, Eddie Nash, who was a drug dealer and had a lot of cash, then set up a time for them to rob him.
On June 29, 1981, the gang broke into Nash's house and stole an unspecified amount of money. Nash took revenge on July 1, 1981 by gunning down four of the gang members in their hideout. Holmes fled to Florida with his girlfriend Dawn, but was arrested in June 1982 and tried for the four murders.
Luckily, he was acquitted of the charges, but when he refused to tell authorities what he knew about the murders he was charged with contempt and jailed. While he was in jail, his wife divorced him and he found that his position in the porn industry had deteriorated to the point where nobody wanted to hire him.
Out of desperation, he starred in a homosexual porn movie in 1983. In 1986, he was diagnosed as HIV positive, possibly due to his bisexuality or drug problem. In spite of his diagnosis, he continued to have unprotected sex until he was no longer able to work due to the disease and retired in 1987. That same year, he married a woman named Laurie Rose. He died on March 13, 1988.