It’s Freaky Friday again. Let’s get down to business.
Those five words cast a magic spell on my muse. Once they flash across the screen, I need to know what the actors’ real-life counterparts looked like, and how things turned out for them. Nerd Girl (me) makes notes while I watch the movie. When it’s over, Nerd Girl goes online and researches.
Today, we’re going all the way to California to visit the wilds of Laurel Canyon. Next stop, Wonderland.
Wonderland is my favorite of the Based on a True story genre. The music is fantastic. The cast was all star. The murder was sensational.
Click here to watch the movie trailer. (It opens in IMDB, and I couldn’t figure out how to embed it.)
The movie is based on the Four on the Floor murders, which occurred July 1, 1981 at 8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles. As the story goes, the Four on the Floor murders were retribution for a robbery the Wonderland Gang committed at the home of Eddie Nash.
The murders were, shocking. Brutal. The members of the Wonderland Gang present at 8763 Wonderland on the early morning hours of July 1, 1981 were bludgeoned to death by striated steel pipes.
If you’re brave, how about a video of the crime scene? This video is historically interesting because it was the one of the first videos used in a US murder trial.
WARNING: This is GRUESOME.
Part One: click here
Part Two: click here
Part Three: click here
Part Four: click here
FYI on the videos: they are listed on You Tube as over 18 only. You will be asked to login to a google account or your You Tube account in order to watch them.
The dead included Joy Audrey Gold Miller, William R. DeVerell, Ron Launius, and Barabara Richardson. Susan Launius, Ron’s wife, survived but lost a finger. She had brain damage. David Clay Lind survived by being absent, but his girlfriend, Barbara Richardson, was among the dead.
What made this crime sensational, other than its sheer gruesomeness, was the involvement of one washed out, drug addicted porn star named John Holmes.
John Holmes, if you believe the right people, set up both the robbery and the murder. He was in debt with the Wonderland Gang over some cocaine and stolen guns.
To pay them back, he left a door to Nash’s home unlocked so the Wonderland Gang could rob the joint. He got in even deeper trouble with Eddie Nash when Nash found out he set up the robbery.
Holmes helped the murderers get buzzed into the house because of his acquaintance with the Wonderland Gang. He either helped in the commission of the murders or stayed to watch. Some sources say his bloody handprint was found on a wall over the bed of Ron Launius, one of the victims.
Holmes was charged in 1982 of committing all four murders. He was acquitted. In 1990, Eddie Nash was charged in planning the murders. The trial ended with a hung jury. In 2000, Nash was faced charges under the RICO Act, conspiring to commit the Wonderland Murders and bribing the juror who caused the hung jury in his 1990 trial. He ended up serving four-and-a-half years.
This is stuff you can find anywhere, so I’m going to keep it brief. I want us to get to the good stuff.
If you want to learn more about the crime:
Mike Sager wrote a good article about it. (No pictures here.)
John Gilmore has an even better account, complete with gruesome pictures.
TruTV.Com has the most extensive account of the crime I’ve ever seen online. (No gross pictures here. Plenty of biographical information on John Holmes.)
Find a Death gets an honorable mention for biographical information on John Holmes and the Four on the Floor Murders. Scott Michaels has a fantastic website and is a truly interesting guy. (Gross pictures, vulgar language, and gruesome video.)
If you’re interested in seeing pictures of the real folks involved in the Four on the Floor murders, click here.
If you want to read books about John Holmes, I know of three. I recommend them all. They each bring new dimension to he story.
Porn King by John C. Holmes. Sometimes you can get a copy autographed by John’s widow, Laurie Holmes, who was also a porn star.
The Road Through Wonderland by Dawn Schiller. Dawn was fifteen when she started dating John Holmes, who was, at the time, in his thirties. She remembers sitting in front of the Wonderland house while John was inside doing drugs with the Wonderland Gang. Her book is a compelling, harrowing read. If you want to visit her on the web, here’s her blog.
Wadd - Documentary on Holmes’s life and career. Centers more on Holmes than on his involvement in the Four on the Floor Murders. Wadd used to come with the DVD of Wonderland. I can’t guarantee it still does, but it’s worth a watch if you can find it.
Boogie Nights — This is not a documentary about John Holmes. It is work of fiction loosely based on his life, though. If you have watched Wadd, you can pick out episodes that that are taken almost verbatim from Wadd.
Some of John Holmes’s pornography is still available. You’re on your own finding it, though. Wink, wink.
We’re at the best part of our journey–the mysteries and the hard-to-verify stories.
Susan Launius — She survived that night. At the trial, she testified she only saw shadows. Was she afraid or had her memory been obliterated by the near death beating? Both are equally horrifying. She restarted her life and is lost to the world wide web. Good for her.
David Clay Lind — Lind was out of town the night of the murders. Had he been in the house, he would have surely died with the rest of the Wonderland Gang. Lind supposedly died of a heroin overdose in 1997, but some accounts claim he actually disappeared into the witness protection program. If you get interested in researching Wonderland and come across the moniker Killer Karl, it might interest you to know Killer Karl is believed to be an alias of David Lind.
I saved the best for last:
Ron Launius — Mr. Launius’s corpse can be seen in the opening credits of Wonderland, if you look closely. Josh Lucas plays Ron Launius in the movie. Let’s talk about the real Ron Launius, though. This dude was interesting.
I own a book called Long Time Money and Lots of Cocaine by Rodger Jacobs. In this book is an anecdote about Ron Launius that is pure gold to the writer in me.
According to Jacobs, the character Ray Hicks* in the film Who’ll Stop the Rain (and the Robert Stone novel, Dog Soldiers, which inspired the film) was based on Ron Launius. Watch the preview on You Tube.
[*Note: The character Ray Hicks is also said to be based on Neal Cassady, a beat generation figure.]
Ron Launius, who served in the Army during Vietnam, was convicted of smuggling heroin back to the U.S. in the corpses of fallen soldiers. After his release, Launius got involved with bikers in Northern California.
These bikers gave Launius a large sum of money to travel to Mexico to procure heroin. Launius took his wife, Susan—the only survivor of the murder, remember—with him. The drug deal, which had been set up by Launius’s biker friends, went sour. Susan was kidnapped by the drug dealers, who demanded ransom.
Launius went back to California. To get the ransom money, he robbed two banks and an armored car. He then paid the ransom and got his wife back. Once he had her safely sequestered in a motel room, he went on a killing rampage that ended with both the drug dealers and the former biker acquaintances dead.
I’ve found some sources on message boards online saying this whole story is BS. That might be, but the writer in me loves this story with a purple passion.