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The Celebrity Death Tour of Los Angeles

After Houdini’s death his widow, Bess, attempted to contact him through a séance.  The séance was held on the rooftop of the Knickerbocker Hotel in 1926.  Small world.

 

Not far away is Wonderland Drive.  We turn off Laurel, take a left onto Lookout Mountain and then a right onto Wonderland.  At 8763 Wonderland Drive we find a house that is rich with tragic history.  Four people were brutally beaten to death here in 1981, and another left with numerous permanent injuries.  This case was nationally significant because the infamous porn star, John C. Holmes was tried and acquitted of the murders.  Holmes was a freak of nature, a skinny, unattractive guy with frightening equipment of staggering length.  Holmes starred in thousands of porn magazines, films, and videos.  He was arguably the greatest male porn star ever.  In fact, the film Boogie Nights is more or less based on his life story.  Holmes’ career was in jeopardy due to his cocaine habit, which caused impotency, leaving him with no career or funds to buy more coke.  Holmes helped a gang of house robbers rob a drug dealer and former patron of his, Eddie Nash (real name, Adel Nasrallah, a Palestinian immigrant).  Nash not only dealt drugs, but owned restaurants and clubs, including strip joints and gay bars.  Holmes later claimed that the reason for the robbery was that the gang had hocked two expensive antique pistols they had stolen with Nash in exchange for coke.  They wanted the pistols back while Nash wanted his money first.  Holmes owed the leader of the gang, an ex-con name Ron Launius, because he had smoked up a shipment of coke instead of delivering it.  To make good on what he owed, Holmes agreed to set-up Nash.  He went to Nash’s house to hang out and left a sliding door unlocked so that the robbers could enter unseen later that morning         

 

The gang specialized in armed robbery of drug dealers, forcing them to turn over their money and their stash.  In this case, the robbery was somewhat botched, and Nash’s 300-lb bodyguard, Gregory Diles, was accidentally shot in the leg while Nash was forced to beg for his life.  The robbers scored about $10,000 in cash (others claim as much as $100k) plus pounds of drugs, jewelry and the antique pistols, but Nash was the wrong guy to mess with.

 

Once it was learned that Holmes was involved, Holmes was forced to reveal the names and whereabouts of Launius and the other robbers.  According to an interview with a writer from Hustler Magazine, Holmes claims to have been tortured for 14 hours while drug deals went on around him as if he wasn’t there.  Launius and the house robbers hung out at the house on Wonderland, where Holmes had also been crashing.  On July 1, 1981, four people were beaten to a pulp and the fifth was critically injured.  In an ironic bit of déjà vu, it is believed that Holmes role in the Wonderland murders is that he opened the door for Nash’s crew, much as he had left the door open at Nash’s for the original robbery.  Some of the victims had been hit so hard that pipe thread markings were clearly visible on their bashed skulls.  The police referred to the crime in private as the “four on the floor” murders.  Holmes’ bloody palm print was found on the scene, probably because Nash and his gang forced him to watch the beatings for educational purposes.  The palm print was above Ron Launius bed, however, so it is possible that Holmes participated in the killing of Launius, whom he feared and hated.  Only Susan Launius, wife of Ron, survived.

 

Unfortunately, two of the victims were innocent of any participation in the crime that precipitated their demise.  One of them was Joy Miller, a junkie who rented the house and a small-time drug dealer herself.  One of her clients, and best friends, was Chuck Negron.  You may not recognize the name, but when you hear the opening line from the song, Joy To The World; “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…” blasting from the oldies station on your car radio, that’s Negron.  Negron was one of the three lead singers of the band Three Dog Night, the most successful rock band of the seventies (measured by record sales).  Negron is a 6’ 4” former college basketball player with an angelic tenor and a twenty-year heroin habit that cost him his career, his mansion and all of his millions of dollars.  He had been shooting up at the house on Wonderland with Miller every night for some time, but on the night of the murders he had passed out from drug withdrawal before he could get there to score more skag.  His wife, also a junkie, stayed with him for a while, but eventually went to the house alone, and discovered the bodies.  Negron and his wife had been spared only because of the fluke of his passing out.  Even that didn’t faze Negron, who continued to shoot smack for several more years, winding up homeless and near death.  Today, he is clean and sober, pursuing a solo singing career and dedicated to helping other hard cases get off drugs.

 

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