"Bigger than a payphone, smaller than a Cadillac": porn stardom in 'Exhausted: John C Holmes The Real Story'

Jackson, Neil (2016) "Bigger than a payphone, smaller than a Cadillac": porn stardom in 'Exhausted: John C Holmes The Real Story'. In: Grindhouse: Cultural Exchange on 42nd Street and Beyond. Global Exploitation Cinemas . Bloomsbury, New York, pp. 145-162. ISBN 162892747X, 9781628927474

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Item Type:Book Section
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

'Exhausted: John C Holmes The Real Story' (1981) is a quasi-documentary account of its eponymous figure’s life in the so-called golden age of the US adult film industry. Through textual analysis and references to theories of film stardom, I examine the film’s attempt to manufacture a star identity through his involvement in a culturally disreputable form – the pornographic feature film.
The term ‘porn star’ is a frequently deployed oxymoron, marrying a despised, marginalised and (at least in the 1970s) criminalised industry with the notion of the idolised, idealised and beautified performer. In 'Exhausted', there emerges a pronounced disjuncture between the star persona that the film wishes to construct, and that which the film’s subject is willing (and able) to project. Consequently, the film is a naive attempt to present an image of Holmes for popular consumption. However, through behind-the-scenes vignettes, film clips and interviews, it is also an insight into the complex relationship between a novice female director, an undisciplined, wayward and uncontrollable masculine presence, and an audience still in the early stages of understanding the form, function and language of the adult film.
The film emerged at a transitional point both for the adult film industry and Holmes himself – the gradual decline of theatrically released adult films in the 1980s mirrored his descent into drug addiction, a multiple-murder charge and eventual death from AIDS in 1988. Looking at the film today allows us a valuable insight into Holmes’ historical and cultural function within the ghetto of the American adult film industry.

Keywords:Pornography, John Holmes, 1970s, Film Stardom
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
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ID Code:24107
Deposited On:16 Sep 2016 09:38

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