Al Goldstein (publisher of Screw magazine): John Holmes was the biggest cock in the business. And I was always fascinated with him because he had everything I didn't have. He was hung like a horse; I'm hung like a squirrel. He had what all guys dream about. We're all size queens. We want to have that big cock.

I'm not gay, but I thought one day I'd love to suck that cock. Feel that power. Transcend my limit in size and swallow his virility in the same way some African tribes cannibalize their enemy. I could see blowing him and swallowing his sperm -- and being better for it.

He was that important to me, because he walked among us with that massive tool banging on the floor. He was like some huge dinosaur, "Thump, thump, thump!" And it wasn't his tail hitting the ground.

So when I met him, I figured I'd meet a guy who had paradise regained, who had everything. Instead I met a sociopath and a liar. In effect, every manifestation of this man's life was a lie, a distortion, a duplicity, a quagmire of deceit.

The one truth was, he had a big dick.

Sharon Holmes (first wife): I first met John Holmes in 1964, when he was involved with Vera, a fellow nursing-student friend of mine, and they came over to have dinner. When he broke up with Vera about two months later, John started coming to the door, bringing me flowers and asking me to go out with him. So one thing led to another, and he had no place to live, so he moved into my apartment.

He was very young, very immature at that time, but very, very sweet. Always had an arm around me, always holding hands, you know, that type of thing. So things just gradually evolved into a real tight relationship. And we were married five months later.

Bill Amerson (former manager): I first met John in 1969 while casting for some still-photo porn-magazine stuff at the Crossroads of the World on Sunset Boulevard. We had an open casting call. It was toward the end of the day, and in walked this really skinny kid with an Afro haircut. And he didn't look like the type we could use.

My partner said, "Go ahead and take a Polaroid of him anyway. Have him go in the back room and take off his clothes and take a picture, say, 'Thank you very much,' and that's the end of that." So we went into the back room.

John undressed. He turned around. I looked at it and said, "You're going to be a star!"

Sharon Holmes: I came home from work one evening and found John measuring himself in the bathroom. I thought this was a little strange, but okay. So I'd started dinner, and John came in and said, "I think I've found what I want to do."

That's when he said, "I want to do porno."

I said, "Movies?"

He said, "Wherever it will take me."

I was appalled. I'm sorry, I was appalled. It didn't sound like something that one would want to make one's life work, but what do you say?

Bob Chin (early porn director): I'd just come out of U.C.L.A. film school and started making porn films on a budget of about $750. One day this scruffy, bushy-haired guy came up to the office, looking for a job as a grip or a gaffer. I told him, "We have our crew. We don't have any openings for grips or gaffers."

Then he said, "Well, I'm really an actor. My name is John Holmes."

And that sort of rang a bell, because one of the actresses I knew had mentioned this guy, told me about his attributes. So I said, "So you're John Holmes. I've heard about you. Show me your credentials."

And then he showed me his credentials.

Bill Amerson: It was 13 and a half inches long. I know, because John measured it many times for many people who didn't believe him. And they'd ask him how thick it was, and he'd say, "Grab my wrists."

But I thought that he really wouldn't stay in the porn business very long. He was very nervous. He was like a fish out of water. He just didn't know what to do.

Sharon Holmes: John out and out told me, "This is probably my only shot at being famous for something. I want to do this. I really want to do this."

And I was speechless.