Born in Pickaway County, Ohio, John never knew his father, a railroad worker named Carl Estes. John's mother, a devout Southern Baptist married Edward Holmes a few years later, and changed John's birthname from Estes to Holmes. John Holmes was the youngest of five children.
At 16, with the permission of his mother, Holmes enlisted in the United States Army and spent three years in Germany in the Signal Corps[?]. Upon his discharge, Holmes moved to Los Angeles where he worked a variety of jobs. It was during his stint as an ambulance driver that he met a nurse named Sharon Gebenini. They married in 1965.
For the next two years, Holmes and his wife lived quiet, uneventful lives. Holmes found work as a forklift driver at a warehouse, but the rigors of driving in and out of a frozen warehouse created severe health problems, causing Holmes' lung to collapse on three separate occasions. While recovering from the collapsed lung, Holmes frequented a club in Gardena, where he met a man in the bathroom who encouraged him to do pornography.
Initially, he did magazine work and the occasional 8mm loop, keeping his work in porn secret from his wife.
With the success of 1972's Deep Throat, The Devil In Miss Jones[?] and Behind the Green Door[?], porn had become chic although it was still illegal. Holmes was arrested during this time for pimping and pandering, but avoided prison time by becoming an informant for the LAPD.
In 1973, Holmes' career began to take off with a porn series built around a private eye named Johnny Wadd[?]. By 1978 Holmes was reputed to have earned as much as $3000.00 a day as a porn actor. He starred at a time when an attractive personality and a certain amount of acting ability were demanded of porn stars.
The money Holmes was earning at the time wasn't enough to support his drug addiction, and he began a career in crime, running drugs for gangs, prostituting himself to both men and women, committing credit card fraud and petty theft. In 1981, he was arrested for stealing a computer from a car.
Holmes had developed a close friendship with drug dealer and nightclub owner Eddie Nash, who supplied Holmes with cocaine, heroin and any other drug he desired. At the same time, Holmes was closely associated with the Wonderland Gang, frequently running drugs for them. Holmes found himself in a bad position with the Wonderland Gang, after stealing from a couple of drug runs. In exchange for his life, he told gang leaders about Eddie Nash and a very large stash of drugs, money and jewelry, and helped set up a robbery. The robbery itself went terribly awry resulting in the deaths of four members of the gang in what is now known as the Wonderland Murders[?] or the Laurel Canyon Murders[?]. Holmes was incarcerated in connection with the murders, but later acquitted. His wife divorced him while he was in jail in 1982.
As Holmes' career continued to decline, he began making homosexual porn and continued to prostitute himself and his underage girlfriend. In 1986 Holmes contracted AIDS, but continued to have unprotected sex and work in the adult film industry until the disease emaciated him.
Holmes died in 1988 of complications related to AIDS.