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Mike Sager is to drugs, porn, and crimes of desperate delusion what Dominic Dunne is to the society murder. In addition to his long-classic Rolling Stone story "The Devil and John Holmes" (which helped inspire the upcoming Val Kilmer film, Wonderland) and his groundbreaking GQ piece about murdered Irish investigative reporter Veronica Guerin (also the subject of a major film starring Cate Blanchett), Scary Monsters and Super Freaks is a wonderful rogue's gallery of up-close pieces about the most public failures ...
Mike Sager is to drugs, porn, and crimes of desperate delusion what Dominic Dunne is to the society murder. In addition to his long-classic Rolling Stone story "The Devil and John Holmes" (which helped inspire the upcoming Val Kilmer film, Wonderland) and his groundbreaking GQ piece about murdered Irish investigative reporter Veronica Guerin (also the subject of a major film starring Cate Blanchett), Scary Monsters and Super Freaks is a wonderful rogue's gallery of up-close pieces about the most public failures of the American dream. From Rick James and his drug-fueled detour into white slavery to the life and suicide of porn starlet Savannah, from deep inside the beating of Rodney King and the Heaven's Gate cult suicides to Chuck Berry's sexual predilections, this book brings to high-profile true crime a highly identifiable voice and style. Currently Esquire's Writer-at-Large, Sager takes us along for the ride with a raft of other figures including the late NWA Rapper Easy E. Winner, the FBI agent who fell in love with his informant, and the highest ranking DEA agent to be busted for drug trafficking. This is a brilliant debut collection by one of America's most respected and stylish crime writers.
Deep in Laurel Canyon, the Wonderland Gang was planning its last
heist. It was Sunday evening and the drugs were gone, the money was gone,
the situation was desperate. They'd sold a pound of baking soda for a quarter
of a million dollars: There were contracts out on their lives. Now they had
another idea. They sat around a glass table in the breakfast nook. Before
them were two pairs of handcuffs, a stolen police badge, several automatic
pistols and a dogeared sheet of paper, a floor plan. They needed a score. This
There were seven of them meeting in the house on Wonderland Avenue,
a jaundiced stucco box on a steep, winding road in the hills above Hollywood.
Joy Audrey Miller, 46, held the lease. She was thin, blond, foulmouthed,
a heroin addict with seven arrests. She had two daughters, had
once been married to a Beverly Hills attorney. A year ago, she'd been busted
for dealingdrugs out of the Wonderland house. Six months ago she'd had a
double mastectomy. Her lover was Billy DeVerell. DeVerell, 42, was also a
heroin addict. He had a slight build, a pockmarked face, a record of thirteen
arrests. "He looked like a guy in a dive bar in El Paso" according to a
Sharing the house with Miller and DeVerell was Ronald Launius, 37.
Blond and bearded, Launius had served federal time for drug smuggling. A
California cop called him "one of the coldest people I ever met."
The house at 8763 Wonderland rented for $750 a month. There was a
garage on the first floor; the second and third floors had balconies facing the
street. A stairway, leading from the garage to the front door, was caged in
iron. There was a telephone at the entrance, an electronic deadbolt on the
gate, two pit bulls sleeping on the steps.
Though elaborately secure, the house was paint-cracked and rust-stained,
an eyesore in a trendy neighborhood. Laurel Canyon had long been a prestige
address, an earthy, woodsy setting just minutes from the glitter and rush
of Tinseltown. Tom Mix and Harry Houdini once lived there among the
quail and scrub pine and coyotes. Later, in the Sixties, the canyon attracted
writers and artists, rock stars and gurus. Number 8763 Wonderland Avenue
had some history of its own: Paul Revere and the Raiders once lived there.
By the Eighties, former California governor Jerry Brown was living on
Wonderland Avenue, and Steven Spielberg was building on a lot not far away.
The house at 8763 had passed from a raucous group of women-neighbors
recall naked women being tossed from the first-floor balcony-to the members
of the Wonderland Gang. Things at the house were always hopping,
someone was always showing up with a scam. Miller, DeVerell and Launius
needed drugs every day. They were always looking for an opportunity. Jewelry
stores, convenience stores, private homes-they would try anything, as
long as it meant money or drugs.
"There was a lot of traffic, all day, all night," says a neighbor.
"Everything from Volkswagens to a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. They threw brown
bags of dope off the balcony. There was shouting, laughing, rock & roll
twenty-four hours a day."
At the moment, on this evening of June 28th, 1981, Wonderland Avenue
was quiet. Five men and two women were meeting in the breakfast nook, sitting
in swivel chairs, leaning against walls. The floor plan before them showed
a three-bedroom, high-end tract house on a cul-de-sac in the San Fernando
Valley. It had a pool and a sunken living room, a white stone facade. Inside was
a painting by Rembrandt, a jade and ivory collection, sterling silver, jewelry
and, most appealing of all, large quantities of money and drugs.
The man who owned the house was named Adel Nasrallah. He was
known as Eddie Nash. A naturalized American, Nash came to California
from Palestine in the early Fifties. In 1960 he opened a hot-dog stand on
Hollywood Boulevard. By the mid-Seventies, Nash held thirty-six liquor
licenses, owned real estate and other assets worth over $30 million.
Nash had clubs of all kinds; he catered to all predilections. The Kit Kat
was a strip club. The Seven Seas was a bus-stop joint across Hollywood
Boulevard from Mann's Chinese Theaters. It had a tropical motif, a menu of
special drinks, a Polynesian revue, sometimes belly dancers. His gay clubs
were the first in L.A. to allow same-sex dancing. His black club was like a
Hollywood Harlem, jazz and pinkie rings and wide-brimmed straw hats.
The Starwood, on Santa Monica Boulevard, featured cutting-edge rock &
roll. In the late Seventies, Los Angeles police averaged twenty-five drug busts
a month at the Starwood. One search of the premises yielded a cardboard
box containing 4000 counterfeit Quaaludes. A sign on the box, written in
blue Magic Marker, said, FOR DISTRIBUTION AT BOX OFFICE.
Nash was a drug dealer and a heavy user. His drug of choice was freebase,
home-cooked crack cocaine, and he was smoking it at the rate of two to
three ounces a day. He always had large quantities of coke, heroin, Quaaludes
and other drugs at the house. His bodyguard, Gregory DeWitt Diles, was a
karate expert and convicted felon who weighed a blubbery 300 pounds.
According to one eyewitness, Diles once chased a man out of the Kit Kat
and emptied his .38 revolver into the man's car. The car was on the other side
of Santa Monica Boulevard, across six lanes of traffic. The time was 2:30 in
the afternoon. No one was injured.
Nash and Diles were well known on Sunset Strip. "Eddie Nash assumed
he deserved a certain amount of respect" says one denizen. "If somebody
fucked with him ..."
Now, in the breakfast nook, a tall, gaunt man with curly hair and a sparse
beard pointed to the floor plan he had sketched.
"Here, this back bedroom, that's Diles's room," he said. "He keeps a
sawed-off shotgun under the blanket.... Here, this is Nash's room. There's
a floor safe in the closet, right ... over ... here."
"You sure about this, donkey dick?" asked Tracy McCourt, the gang's
"Hey, it's cool," said John Holmes, 36, the man with the plan. "I know
Eddie. Nash loves me. He thinks I'm famous"
John Holmes was famous, at least in some circles. What he was famous for
was his penis.
In a career that would span twenty years, Holmes made 2274 hard-core
pornographic films, had sex with 14,000 women. At the height of his popularity,
he earned $3000 a day on films and almost as much turning tricks,
servicing wealthy men and women on both coasts and in Europe.
Since the late Sixties, Holmes had traded on his natural endowment.
His penis, when erect, according to legend, measured between eleven and
fifteen inches in length. Recently, however, Holmes's biggest commodity
had been trouble. He was freebasing one hit of coke every ten or fifteen
minutes, swallowing forty to fifty Valium a day to cut the edge. The drugs
affected his penis; he couldn't get it up, he couldn't work in porn. Now
he was a drug delivery boy for the Wonderland Gang. His mistress, Jeana,
who'd been with him since she was fifteen, was turning tricks to support
his habit. They were living out of the trunk of his estranged wife's Chevy
Malibu. Holmes was stealing luggage off conveyers at L.A. International,
buying appliances with his wife's credit cards, fencing them for cash.
Holmes was into Nash for a small fortune. Now Holmes owed the Wonderland
Gang, too. He'd messed up a delivery, had a big argument with
DeVerell and Launius. They took back his key to Wonderland, and Launius
punched him out, then hit Holmes with his own blackthorn walking stick.
They told him to make good. He tried to think. Addled synapses played him
a picture: Eddie Nash.
"So you go in," Launius was saying to Holmes, reviewing the plan. "You
talk to Nash, whatever, you tell him you got to take a piss. Then what?"
"I leave the sliding door unlocked-this one" said Holmes, pointing to
the floor plan, "here, in the back. The guest bedroom. Then I leave. I come
back to Wonderland. Tell you it's all clear. Then you guys take him down."
And so the plan was fixed. At midnight, the Wonderland people scraped
together $400, and Holmes, whose pretense for entrance would be buying
drugs, drove off to Nash's house.
It was 1.6 miles from Wonderland Avenue to Dona Lola Place, which was
fortuitous, because the stolen Ford Granada driven by the Wonderland Gang
was running on empty. In the car were DeVerell, Launius, McCourt and a
man named David Lind, a friend of Launius's. Lind and his girlfriend had
come down three weeks earlier from Sacramento to stay at Wonderland. An
ex-convict who'd served time for burglary, forgery and assault to commit
rape, Lind had been invited to town, he would later tell a court, to practice
his "profession" committing crimes.
McCourt drove up the hill on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, across Mulholland
Drive, over the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, down into the
Valley. The sun was warm and diffuse. Sprinklers were ticking water across
lawns. Rush hour was on. It was 8:30 Monday morning.
Though Holmes had left Wonderland at midnight, he had stayed at Eddie
Nash's for six hours, smoking up the $400 he'd taken to spend, helping himself
to a little more of Nash's largess. Nash was extremely hospitable. He
always called Holmes "my brother." They'd known each other for three years.
As night stretched into morning, Holmes had an attack of conscience, a
glimmer of an understanding that knocking over Eddie Nash might lead to
a lot of trouble. Nash knew the Wonderland people. He'd never met them,
but he had, through Holmes, given them a $1000 loan. Holmes muttered
something to Nash about the gang. He wasn't specific, but it really didn't
matter anyway. Nash hadn't slept in ten days. He hardly knew what Holmes
was saying. And, as Holmes's supply of coke dwindled, his conscience was
overruled by his jones. He excused himself, left the room and unlocked the
Arriving back at Wonderland just after dawn, Holmes announced the
coast was clear. The time was right, he told Lind.
There was one hitch. DeVerell, Launius and McCourt, all heroin addicts,
were out cold.
Three hours later, everyone was finally awake. Holmes drove to Nash's
again to make sure the sliding door was still open. This time, the gang
decided not to wait for his return.
Now, as McCourt turned right, off Laurel Canyon Boulevard onto Dona
Pegita, he saw Holmes driving back toward them. Both cars slowed, pulled
even in the middle of the street. Holmes rolled down his window, McCourt
rolled down his.
"It's time" Holmes said, and then he smiled and raised his fist "Get
John Curtis Holmes had the longest, most prolific career in the history of
pornography. He had sex onscreen with two generations of leading ladies,
from Seka and Marilyn Chambers to Traci Lords, Ginger Lynn and Italian
member of Parliament Ciccolina. The first man to win the X Rated Critics
Organization Best Actor Award, Holmes was an idol and an icon, the most
visible male porn star of his time.
Holmes started in the business around 1968, a time when porn was just
beginning to surface from the underground of peep shows and frat houses
into mainstream acceptance. The Sixties, the pill, "free love" communes, wife
swapping, the perverse creativity of mixed-media artists who were pushing the
limit, trying to shock-all of these things created an atmosphere in which
porn could blossom. The pivotal event in porn history was the release of
Deep Throat, starring Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems, in 1972. Though
the movie, when it began to appear at theaters around the country, was branded
as obscene and closed down almost everywhere it played, its producers contested
the charges in the courts and eventually won. In the end, Deep Throat
was massively consumed by an enthusiastic public. With the release the same
year of The Devil in Miss Jones and Behind the Green Door, porn became part of popular
culture. Suddenly, Johnny Carson was telling Deep Throat
jokes on The Tonight Show.
One day in 1970, Holmes met Hawaiian producer Bob Chinn. Up to this
time, Holmes had been doing mostly photo layouts, stag films and 8-mm
bookstore loops. He showed Chinn his portfolio of stills, then stripped.
That evening, Chinn wrote a three-page screenplay; a partnership was born.
This would lead, in the mid-Seventies, to Holmes's most successful role, as
Johnny Wadd, the hard-boiled detective, porn's parody of Sam Spade.
Holmes's character, said Al Goldstein in Screw magazine, was "a
thin, bony, trench-coated shamus, outrageously horny, bedding down with client
and quarry alike" In Goldstein's opinion, "it was a goofy, crudely made series"
but it was wildly successful. In a way, Holmes was everyman's gigolo, a
polyester smoothy with a sparse mustache, a flying collar and lots of buttons
undone. He wasn't threatening. He chewed gum and overacted. He took a
lounge singer's approach to sex, deliberately gentle, ostentatiously artful, a
homely guy with a pinkie ring and a big dick who was convinced he was every
Holmes went on to make more than 2000 movies. Teenage Cowgirls, Liquid
Lips, China Cat and Tapestry of Passion. Eruption, a porn remake of
Double Indemnity. Dickman and Throbbin, a lampoon of Batman and Robin.
Hard Candy, a 3-D thriller. A porn "documentary" of his life, made in
1981, was called Exhausted.
In time, Holmes became known as the Errol Flynn of porn. And like the
leading men of yesteryear, what was known of him was mostly myth.
According to legend-largely of his own making-Holmes was born in
New York and lived with a rich aunt who'd been married fifteen times. The
aunt sent him to fencing school, dancing school, a school of etiquette. They
lived in London, Paris, Michigan, Florida. He lost his virginity at the Florida
house, when he was six, to his Swiss nursemaid, Frieda.
In high school, Holmes said, he slept with all but three girls in his class.
He graduated from UCLA with majors, variously, in physical therapy, pediatric
physical therapy, medicine and political sciences. His first porn film was
made while he was working his way through college. A girl from the dorm
recommended him. Also while in college, he said, he danced "nude modern
jazz ballet" and drove an ambulance.
When he became established as a porn star, Holmes said, he had a half
dozen agents pulling in work for him. He made films nonstop, and he took
eighty to ninety telephone calls a day. He had twenty-seven fan clubs; people
wrote for locks of his pubic hair. Men asked him to autograph their wives'
breasts. Women asked him to deflower their daughters.
Excerpted from SCARY MONSTER and SUPER FREAKS
by MIKE SAGER
Copyright © 2003 by Mike Sager.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|The Devil and John Holmes||1|
|Little Girl Lost||33|
|The Final Days of Gary Condit||57|
|The Martyrdom of Veronica Guerin||79|
|Requiem for a Gangsta||125|
|"Damn! They Gonna Lynch Us!"||141|
|The Rise and Fall of a Super Freak||163|
|Rob Lowe's Girl Trouble||185|
|Murder, My Sweet||207|
|The High Life and Strange Times of the Pope of Pot||225|
|The Corruption of Ed O'Brien||243|
|The Death of a High School Narc||263|
|The Temple of Doom||291|
|Raised in Captivity||343|
|An Imperfect Weekend||365|
|Stairway to Heaven||385|
|The Teachings of Don Carlos||409|
|About the Author||462|
I must admit that this book held my attention. I lived this life for many years, I'm thankful I was able to live through it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 3, 2005
This book rocks. Never have I read a book with so many stories in it that were all good. I gave this book to everyone this year for Xmas and birthdays. This writer also writes great stories for Esquire magazine. He hangs out with animal freaks and talks about sex, drugs, and rocknroll like the reader is standing there stoned out of their minds.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.