Return to Wonderland
(photo by waltarrrrr via Flickr)
With his old pal Eddie Nash to be arraigned Monday in a 19-year-old murder case, the restless ghost of legendary porn star John Holmes once again stalks L.A.
by Stephen Lemons
First published by Salon.com, June 9, 2000
Up in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon, in the hills above Sunset Boulevard, it's yuppie heaven. At least that's what they've tried to make it. The twisting, narrow streets are filled with freshly washed BMWs, Mercedes and SUVs. This is where second-string producers, PR hacks and other Hollywood cogs keep their chintzy bourgeois cocoons. Everyone seems smug, happy to be alive. Like their pets -- those ubiquitous golden retrievers with pelts so shiny, teeth so white that they hardly notice the collars around their necks.
The quaint little split-level home at 8763 Wonderland Ave. in Laurel Canyon seems perfect for the 40-something couple who inhabit it. They're pulling out of their carport in a black minivan when I approach them. They stop for a moment.
No, they don't want to discuss the murders, the man says. That was a long time ago, and it has nothing to do with them. Yes, they get approached about it all the time, but other than that, they have nothing to say. The window goes back up, and they begin their descent from Wonderland.
There's something Twin Peaks-creepy about Laurel Canyon in general, and this goes doubly for the little white house on Wonderland Avenue. The fresh paint and the remodeled ironwork on the balcony belie the fact that on July 1, 1981, this was the site of a quadruple homicide so bloody that it drew comparisons to the Manson Family killings, part of which occurred in nearby Benedict Canyon at the home of the late Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski.
Back in '81, the coroner had to scrape the bodies of Ronald Launius, William DeVerell, Barbara Richardson and Joy Audrey Miller off the floor, the walls, the furniture. Someone had bludgeoned each resident of this notorious drug den repeatedly with a steel pipe.
The authorities dubbed the case the "Four on the Floor Murders," but most folks just called it the "Wonderland Murders." The massacre took place just down the street from what was then the home of Jerry Brown, who was California's governor at the time. And 8763 Wonderland Ave. itself is said to have been inhabited at one time by Paul Revere and the Raiders.
To this day, the Wonderland case remains unresolved. It's better to say "unresolved" than "unsolved," because the cops and the press have a pretty good idea of who did it, and they're just as certain that the late porn star John Holmes was somehow involved.
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