Dawn & Sharon Talk About John Holmes’ Abuse
In the second part of this NY Times article from right before the film release in 2003, we see Dawn and Sharon talking about John’s abuse, more than anything. There are lots of good quotes that I had not read in the past. For instance, when Dawn returned from overseas in 1988 and wanted to visit a sick John in the hospital with AIDS… Sharon told her, “He’s not worth it”. Karma’s a bitch, because if I remember correctly, he said the people at Wonderland deserved it, and that “they were dirt”.
I gotta love a movie that opens on my birthday!
I believe Sharon when she says that she warned John (for hitting her): “You have to go to sleep sometime, I’ll get you then”. Excellent! Case closed.
“John Holmes’ Boogie Life”
September 7, 2003 | Dana Kennedy | NY Times
IN the summer of 1981, in one of the bloodier and more notorious murders in the annals of Los Angeles, four people connected to the legendary pornography star John C. Holmes were bludgeoned to death at 8763 Wonderland Avenue. The killings, which provided some of the inspiration for Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 film ”Boogie Nights,” are the focus of a new movie. ”Wonderland,” which opens on Oct. 3, is a fact-based film, almost documentary in style, that explores the twisted world of Holmes and the convoluted relationships that ultimately led the police to charge him, a nightclub owner named Eddie Nash and Mr. Nash’s bodyguard with the murders.
Val Kilmer stars as Holmes, whose generous physical endowment had made him the most successful porn actor of his day. The best known of his more than 2,000 films are those in which he played a private detective named Johnny Wadd. But by the time of the murders, his career had been pretty much ended by a serious cocaine habit. And to complicate matters, he was at the center of a love triangle involving his wife and his teenage girlfriend.
In the movie, Kate Bosworth plays the girlfriend, Dawn Schiller, and Lisa Kudrow the wife, Sharon Holmes. Their intertwined histories come to life in ”Rashomon”-style flashbacks that depict Holmes’s increasingly desperate involvement with a group of violent drug dealers. It’s after they rob Nash, who was also one of Holmes’s drug suppliers, that they end up dead in their drug den on Wonderland Avenue.
To tell this seamy tale as accurately as possible, the movie’s director, James Cox, and one of its producers, Holly Wiersma, tracked down Sharon Holmes, now 60, and Dawn Schiller, now 42, and enlisted them as consultants. Holmes was not available to help — he died in 1988 of AIDS.
Unbeknownst to the filmmakers, Ms. Holmes and Ms. Schiller had become close friends after Holmes’s death. Ms. Holmes says that she considers the younger woman a daughter and urged her to complete her high school education. ”I was a mentor to her when she was younger,” Ms. Holmes says. ”Nobody told her she had a brain until me. We talk on the phone at least once or twice a week.”
Working on the movie, the two women spent time with Mr. Kilmer, Ms. Bosworth and Ms. Kudrow. They say Mr. Kilmer absorbed everything they told him and turned in what Ms. Holmes calls ”this incredibly eerie performance.”
”Val had all John’s mannerisms down,” she says. ”He was just like a sponge.”
Ms. Schiller adds, ”I was on the set a lot, and it just creeped me out.”
John Holmes was an ambulance driver when Sharon Gebenini, a nurse, married him in 1965. ”I was very much in love with him,” Ms. Holmes recalls by telephone. ”He was loving and overprotective.” Ms. Holmes says she stopped ”being intimate” with him when he began working in pornography and using drugs. But she continued to live with him and maintains that she was unaware that he had begun an affair with Ms. Schiller, who was just 15 at the time.
Ms. Schiller now lives in Oregon with her husband and young daughter. She is finishing a book about her experience with Holmes that she has titled ”The Road Through Wonderland.” She says her relationship with John Holmes was an ”open secret” that his wife must have been aware of on some level.
One thing the women agree on, however, is that Holmes was a different man before he got into pornography and drugs. ”He was beautiful, sweet, caring,” Ms. Schiller says. ”He did volunteer work for Greenpeace and he was really artistic. He did a lot of great sculptures in clay. He adored me.”
But as he sank further into personal and financial ruin, Ms. Schiller says, he began beating her severely. At one point, she says, he kicked her in the ribs, breaking several. Ms. Holmes says she has no trouble believing that Ms. Schiller was beaten.
Ms. Holmes recently underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer. But, she says, ”this is child’s play compared to what I went through with John.”
Still, for all the chaos and trauma that Holmes brought into her life, Ms. Holmes says he never beat her: ”One time he raised a hand, and I said, ‘Don’t ever.’ I’m Italian. I told him he’d have to go to sleep sometime, and I’d get him. But Dawn wasn’t like me. She was much more innocent.”
Nonetheless, it was Ms. Schiller who eventually turned him in to the police. ”It was the first time I said no to him,” she recalls.
John Holmes was arrested for the Wonderland murders. Later, Mr. Nash and his bodyguard, Gregory Diles, who died in 1995, were also charged. Prosecutors said that Mr. Nash had discovered that Holmes was part of the plot to steal Mr. Nash’s property, and that Mr. Nash had forced Holmes to help Diles murder the culprits. But Holmes was acquitted in 1982; Diles and Mr. Nash, whose real name is Adel Nasrallah, were acquitted in 1991 after a mistrial in 1990. In 2001, as part of a plea bargain on racketeering charges, Mr. Nash conceded that he had given an underling instructions to go to 8763 Wonderland and do whatever was necessary to recover the $1 million in cash, drugs and jewelry that had been stolen from his house two days before. Mr. Nash, whose younger self is played in the film by Eric Bogosian, also admitted that he had given a juror at his 1990 murder trial, which ended in a hung jury, $50,000 to hold out. Mr. Nash was sentenced in 2001 to 37 months in jail.
After the murders, Ms. Schiller went to live with her father in Thailand, where he owned a hotel. She came back in 1988, hoping to see Mr. Holmes, who was by then married to the porn star Misty Dawn. ”I wanted him to see how well I was doing,” she says. ”I wanted to show him how good he’d had it and that he was the one who blew it.”
But before she could visit Mr. Holmes, who was dying, she reconnected with his first wife, who advised her not to see him, saying, ”He’s not worth it.”
”I felt a little cheated,” says Ms. Schiller. ”But I can still remember the love, and I honor that.”