March 21, 2004 06:02am
Source: William Margold
by: William Margold
The two detectives brazenly entered my office, and without even giving me a chance to welcome them (which I wouldn't have) sat down in front of my cluttered desk. "So what do you know about what happened up in the Hills?" one of them snapped, his query bristling with haughty condescension. And the other one, with equal disdain for me, and my surroundings, virtually parroted his partner with "yeah, what do you know?"
If you can't wait, you can go all the way to the end of this column, which has been motivated by Wonderland (Lions Gate Films), and see what my response was...but you'd be wiser to simply read along for awhile.
It was the summer of 1981. I was managing Reb's Sunset International located at 6912 Hollywood Blvd. (on the 3rd floor)---the biggest nude theatrical modeling agency in the world---and we handled most of the major adult entertainment/hardcore/tripleXXX industry talent of that era, including a legendary fellow named John C. Holmes. And we were breaking assorted laws (albeit highly specious ones involving pandering and prostitution) every day of the year.
My office (which incorporated six rooms including a photo studio) was in the dimly lit, somewhat film noirish Cinemart Building, which was perched above the Seven Seas nightclub. Both were owned by a man named Eddie Nash. A few years earlier, Nash had made me the manager of the Cinemart in exchange for free rent, so every month I dutifully collected the rents, and then wended my way to the back of the perpetually stale-smelling Seven Seas to Nash's cubbyhole of an office, wherein I would give him the money, and he would smile, and tell me that I was an "honest man."
Holmes, whom I had dubbed "The King" upon meeting him in 1973, and Nash, got linked-up through the rampant drug culture of the late 70's, and were apparently up to their ruptured sinuses in quick highs and fast falls. I have always loathed drugs, and in fact, when first offered "Coke"...I politely responded, "Thank you, but I don't drink carbonated beverages." Holmes, and eventually Nash, became involved with a pack of drug-dealing weasels who lived. And lusted, in a house on Wonderland Avenue off of Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills.
And by the summer of 1981, fate caught up with almost all of them. And that's where director James Cox, and his band of writers including Captain Mauzner, Todd Samovitz and D. Loriston Scott, come in. Feeling that what happened on Wonderland in the early hours of July 1, 1981, deserved unearthing, the filmmakers have presented the most disturbing motion picture I've ever endured. By the time that it was over, my gut was wrenched, my nerve-endings felt like they had been sandpapered, and my eyes were filled with tears. I called Mr. Cox and thanked him. Thanked him, not so much for making the most painfully powerful anti-drug statement film since "The Man with the Golden Arm"---but more importantly for very wisely not making a film about the Adult Entertainment Industry's involvement (because there really wasn't any) in what happened on Wonderland Avenue. And finally I thanked him for showing how drugs destroyed the life of an overage juvenile delinquent who indelibly proved that all men are not created equal.
Val Kilmer does his best to portray John C. Holmes, but Val is simply too damn healthy looking to make it work. However, for a couple of seconds in a bathtub, and just as he starts telling his version of what happened on Wonderland, damn if I didn't see "The King" come alive. And for those chilling moments of making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in petrified horror, Kilmer and Cox are to be applauded.
On the other hand, Eric Bogosian is eerily right on as Eddie Nash. Lisa Kudrow, as Sharon Holmes, the wife of John, a character who came to light only after the events on Wonderland went down, brings a snide, somewhat smug sense of superiority to her performance of a woman who is in over her head, but nevertheless seemingly sort of likes the sense of danger....and perverse celebrity of being associated with a perverse celebrity known as "The King." Sometimes love can be measured in inches.
The Wonderlanders---Dylan McDermott, Josh Lucas, Tim Blake Nelson, etc.---are appropriately shallow and essentially soulless examples of drug-dealing, double-crossing weasels (the only animal besides man who kills just for the sake of killing), most of whom were viciously bludgeoned to death, and dispatched to Hell in the early morning hours of July 1,1981, by a group of revenge seekers purportedly sent by Nash, and led by Holmes. Which brings us back to how I responded to the detectives the morning after the Wonderland Massacre.
"Were those the people who died, drug dealers?" feigning ignorance in my reply. "Yeah, of course they were, you know that" the detectives chimed in duty-bound unison.
"Good," I hissed back, "then they deserve to be dead." the detectives looked at me as if my words had ignited all the right fuses in their tiny brains, and then sardonic grins started to crease their round faces. They both nodded and left immediately.
It's taken 22 years for a filmmaker named James Cox to searingly validate my sentiments. And I think that the spirit of John C. Holmes (dead since 1988), would agree as well.