The Good Side of Evil
John Holmes helped planned a heist, then led his cohorts to their deaths.
"Inside each of us, there is the seed of both good and evil. It's a constant struggle as to which one will win. And one cannot exist without the other," Eric Burdon once said.
Never was this more evident than with John Holmes. A man who would gain notoriety as a porn star, but left a legacy of drugs, prostitution, and murder when he died.
That was just one side to him though. There was a loyalty, a code that he seemed to believe in. Until the drug addiction took over, and led him to make decisions that would alienate friends and loved ones alike. The addiction led to his decision to help a group of friends plan a heist of another acquaintance. And fear led him to allow that victim of that crime to commit one much more horrific.
Wonderland Heist Planned
During the late 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s, John Holmes was the most prolific male porn star around. During that time, he filmed nearly 2,300 scenes, and is said to have slept with more than 14,000 women. During his time as the porn king, he became hooked on drugs. An addiction that would color the rest of his life.
As his porn career wound down, Holmes began hanging out with various criminals and people of ill repute. Of those involved were members of the so-called Wonderland Gang. Joy Miller was the unofficial leader of the group, since she held the lease for the Laurel Canyon house where they lived. Billy DeVerell, Ronald Launius, and Tracy McCourt served as the muscle and drivers of the gang. All of them had addictions to drugs. They also all had criminal records longer than Holmes IMDB page.
One night in June of 1981, they sat at a kitchen table, and planned a heist. Holmes had ticked off the gang, and this was his way to make good with them. Every single member was jonesing for their drug of choice, and this was going to be a big score. They were planning on robbing notorious gangster and drug dealer, Eddie Nash.
Wonderland Heist In Action
Eddie Nash had a ton of drugs and expensive items in his house. And like the Wonderland Gang (as the heist planning team was known), he used the stuff he sold. Holmes owed Nash a ton of money, but was told it would be OK if the former porn star performed a few favors for him.
Presumably those favors would include selling his body for money. Holmes was no stranger to that. As his porn career dwindled, Holmes had turned to selling his sex to men and women. Nash reportedly had taken advantage of those services a few times before. Some believe that is what bonded Nash and Holmes together.
It was that bond that led to a guilty conscience for Holmes. The wheels of the heist were in motion, and he went to Nash's house to unlock the screen door for his cohorts. Nash and Holmes ended up enjoying some drugs together, and Holmes decided that it wasn't right to let his friends rob another friend.
Something happened, theories range from Nash cutting off his drug supply, to Nash wanting another bedroom romp. Whatever happened Holmes left in a mood, and signaled to the others that it was on. After tying up the bodyguard, they forced Nash at gunpoint to hand over the loot.
Eddie Nash vowed revenge on those who perpetrated this robbery against him.
When getting into bed with pigs, expect to get dirty. The other members of the Wonderland Gang decided to short Holmes on his take from the heist. Their reasoning was he owed them money, and had done a bunch of drugs with Nash, so why not. Something none of them took into consideration was that Holmes knew instinctively that something wasn't right.
When he said something about Nash having had more things around, everyone demurred. They had taken $100,000 in cash, and who knows how many valuables or drugs they hid.
Despite his feelings of being shorted, Holmes took off to Oregon to try and woo his mistress back. He was married, but his wife had essentially ended the relationship when he started doing porn, but they had stayed friends. His mistress had run away from him one night after a particularly bad beating fueled by the drugs. Somehow Holmes convinced her to rejoin him in Laurel Canyon, a decision she would later come to regret.
Nash's bodyguard, Gregory DeWitt Diles, found Holmes one night, and dragged him back to Nash's house. This is where Holmes would have to repent to his former friend for his crimes. But, as one would expect, an apology was not enough. Nash had the taste for vengeance, and Holmes was the only one who could help him satisfy that taste.
Wonderland Mass Murder
Eddie Nash knew only one way of life. The mafia way. His taste for blood, his need to avenge his robbery drove him for months. When he got Holmes in his custody, it was the last piece in his master plan. Under the threat of death, Holmes led Nash and his crew to the Wonderland hideout.
What happened next would haunt those who watched, heard, or learned about it. Every member of the Wonderland Gang, save for Holmes, was brutally murdered. Reporters at the time had a difficult time reporting the story, because of the savage way the four gang members were taken out.
Holmes was so traumatized by what he had witnessed, he went to his wife's house and took a bath. Slowly, he began recounting what had occurred. She was shocked by the story he told her. After being cleaned up, he went back to the hotel with his mistress.
His mistress would learn of the murders as she watched the evening news. Her first instinct was to tell the police, but Holmes resisted. His life was on the line.
Wonderland On The Run
Eventually, Holmes would agree to talk with the police. He tried to convince the police and other authorities to put him, his mistress, and his wife into the Witness Protection Program. The request was denied. Investigators have said the denial came because Holmes was not giving them useful information.
Since the police would not aid them, Holmes decided they would live underground. His wife demurred, and went about her life as if nothing had happened. His mistress went on the run with him, and they made the trek from California to Florida.
So much for living low. One day after a huge bender, Holmes beat his mistress in front of people. To the point where she was offered help to get away from them. It took her less than a second to accept the help. They got her away from him, but she wasn't free from him.
The police tracked her down, and warned her that she would end up in jail if she didn't help them find Holmes. She led them to his hotel room, where he waited for them.
He had a story to tell... only if they could keep him alive.
Wonderland In Jail
Holmes was petrified of Nash killing him the same way he had killed the Wonderland Gang. Prosecutors tried him for the murders. He mounted a defense that he was actually the sixth victim of Eddie Nash, and argued that his former friend was "evil incarnate."
He was acquitted on the murder charges, but held in jail on robbery charges. The hope was to get him to turn on Nash, and give up some key details that would link him to the murders. They were able to do this and stop him from pleading the fifth, because he had already been tried for the murders. Some speculate that the reason for them trying him was to force him to talk.
It took them a while, but Holmes did tell them what happened in the house that day. That would lead Nash to being tried and convicted for the Wonderland murders.
After being released from jail, Holmes was left with nothing but his name. Because of his association with the murders, John Holmes was a mainstream celebrity. As mainstream as a bisexual porn star turned hooker could be. Using his notoriety, Holmes made a few more porn flicks, but had a hard time standing at attention.
On one of the movies, Holmes met his last wife and lover. Laurie Rose was taken with the older man, and he fell in love with her. After doing drugs with him one time, Rose told him that she would not be participating again. Something in him snapped, and he agreed to give them up as well.
They would wile their days away watching movies, and going to antique stores. One day Holmes made an off color joke about having AIDS. He went in to get tested, and found out he was positive.
John Holmes, the man who had used his manly assets to try and be remembered, died on March 13, 1988. He is not remembered for the porn he made, rather the violent mess he helped create.