I met Steve Holmes on a shoot in the south of France in September 2000. We shared a room at a nearby bed and breakfast and were shuttled daily to the location house, where Roy Alexandre was shooting several movies at the same time for US and European distribution, using a polyglot collection of performers and techs from all over Europe. Holmes had lived in the US for several years and was one of the few people on set who spoke colloquial American English, cheerfully translating for me and helping me acclimate to the unfamiliar environment.
In this interview, Holmes reflects on his 20-year career in adult, his varied careers, and reveals his mainstream role model for his performing.
It was on November 22, 1996, in Dortmund, when I did my first scene. I had tried for a period of about nine months from the beginning of 1996 to get a gig. I sent real letters, on paper, like I would apply for a job in a regular company. I didn't know better. I had my data, and my curriculum vitae, pictures of course, some nude and some with a suit. I spent a lot of money because back then I paid for printing and postage. The reaction: Zero. Not even a response. Nothing.
I had a friend I've known for more than 20 years and he knew a porn producer. He gave my information to one of his sub-producers in Dortmund. He shot amateurs. He said, “We have a shoot November 22, you can come by, don't worry, it's an amateur shoot, if you can't do it it's not a problem.” I thought, "Why should I worry? It's just fucking." I couldn't imagine when they were talking about. The series was called "Have a wish" and people could write in and wish to fuck on an airplane or something. ... They asked me "What is your wish?" and I said, "Having sex with 10 girls." “No, it's too expensive, we can't do that. Something else." "A scene with oil?" "We've already done that." I told them "I like anal, but not many girls want to do anal with me because I'm kind of big." They said "Okay, that's do-able."
When I arrived at the studio, there were a lot of people there. I tried to be friendly to everybody but they all ignored me, which I also understand because there are so many new guys coming and you never see them again, so you wait a while before you get friendly with somebody. They hired a girl who was pro-am, not really professional but she had done a few movies before. When I arrived on set I realized I knew her, I had already fucked her at a swinger party. The scene starts, and I already knew what I wanted to do. I have said many times that my role model was Fred Astaire. I used to do ballroom dancing and the way he always presented the girls so perfectly, that was my ideal for porn. Show the girl. Put her in the light. Put her in the camera. That's what people want to see. So I did that, and we did some positions, and when we went to anal, she couldn't take it. So I whispered to her "Sit on my dick"—reverse cowgirl, I didn't know it was called reverse cowgirl at the time—the camera was in front of us, I pushed my dick with my thumb at her back. She was riding up and down, the camera didn't even realize I'm not in her ass. It looked like I was. So we faked it.
I knew there was a porn convention in Berlin in January. I introduced myself to everybody. A lot of people didn't take me seriously because I didn't look like a porn star. I looked like an accountant or a salesperson—which I was for many years, I told them, "Ask that producer" and he confirmed it to everybody. I got other bookings and from there it went very fast. At the beginning I worked very cheap, because I wanted to build my name. I didn't get anything for my first scene, my next scene I got €150—back then it was in marks—plus travel expenses. But you know how the business is, everybody knows everybody and the word spread very fast. "Hey, there's this new guy." I was never "the new young guy," I was always older than my colleagues, I was 35 when I started—“He can keep his dick hard, he can perform, he has a big dick, he knows how to position." People started calling me. Before I was trying to reach people, now I'm getting calls from people I never heard of. I started working a lot.
Gabriel Zero is the cousin of Rocco Siffredi and he was reporting for some Italian magazines. He asked me what my stage name was and I said I didn’t have one. "For what? I'm not an artist." He said he needed one because he wanted to write about me and "Nobody uses their real name." I said, "Choose whatever you want, I don't care." He suggested "Steve Holmes" because I was really skinny, and tall, with a big dick, and he said I reminded him of John Holmes. "You could be his young brother or cousin." For the longest time I never used that name, it was only on the box covers. It took me a while. I'm fine with both names now.
I've shot in 21 different countries, on five continents. I don't know how many scenes but it's more then 2,500. I started working in France, in Italy, in Belgium, but I always knew a lot of porn was shot in Hungary and Czech Republic. The first time I shot in Hungary was for German companies, but I tried to make local connections because people from everywhere come to shoot there. That's when I met people who shoot for American productions: Rocco Siffredi, Christoph Clark. John Stagliano knew me from the Rocco movies and some things I did for Jean-Yves Le Castel, who was shooing for Anabolic. My first shoot in America was in 1999 for a German company, in Los Angeles, In German, for a German movie. German script, German director, German crew. Some local gaffers and PAs. I already knew people in the U.S. but only people who came to Europe like John Stagliano and people who shoot for American companies in Europe like Rocco, Christoph Clark, David Perry.
In 2002 I came to L.A., stayed a few days, shot a scene, went to Jim South and left a bunch of business cards there. Then I flew back home. I got an email from Jerome Tanner, who said he wanted to book me for a production in February. I wrote back, "Thank you very much, I appreciate it, but I'm back in Europe on an Italian production. I'll be back in March." He then booked me for his March production. He always planned out his productions over the whole year. He found my business card at World Modeling. Tanner told me, "Let me know when you're here. I shoot three days every month. Every time you're here, you're booked." We are still friends.
I spent some time in Budapest and Prague in 2002 with Manuel Ferrara. We hit it off even though we couldn't talk. He didn't speak a word of English. I speak a few words of French, he speaks a few words of German. We worked well together. Once we did 40 scenes in two weeks. Every day three scenes: one d.p. with him and me, then he did a scene with a girl and so did I. We were used to working in Europe with eight-hour scenes. This was gonzo. You go there, 45 minutes, you're done. Three scenes is nothing. Some mornings I would be sleeping when the girl arrived. We shoot in the same apartment. They start the pretty-girls, I took a shower, I come back in a towel, I didn't even get dressed, it was gonzo, you’re walking naked, boom. It was super easy.
I never started porn wanting to be an actor but I have some acting talent. I don't want to compare myself with big actors but compared to porn standards I'm okay. … I played Frank N. Furter in a Private production of Rocky Horror—got an AVN nomination for that—and we shot a porn version of Gladiator, which was also a huge production. These big movies are not fun; they're a lot of hard work. I remember my toughest scene was eight hours naked in a refrigerator. It was for Private and it was shot in a slaughterhouse, a huge refrigerator with hundreds of pigs hanging there. The scene starts with Franco Roccaforte and me coming in with half a dead pig on our shoulder, which is cold and greasy and heavy, and then you see a naked girl hanging upside-down. It was Michelle Wild. We face-fucked her, that's how the scene started, but to shoot it the way Private used to shoot took about eight hours. Eight hours naked in a refrigerator. That's not fun. It's a beautiful movie. Chris Streams told me it's his all-time favorite porn scene ever. I said, "Yeah, but it was a pain in the ass to do it."
Another big turn for me was in 2007. In November, always in November. I got a phone call from a company I had never heard of in San Francisco. Kink.com. They booked me for a scene for their series Sex & Submission. When they booked me, they told me, "What we shoot is different, so we'll send you a link and a username and password so you can check it out. Tell us if you want to do it." I watched the scene, it was beautifully shot, all dark and mysterious. When they called I said, "I'm sorry, but I don't know how to do that with ropes and stuff." They said, "Don't worry about it, we have people for that. You just need to fuck."
I said, "Okay, I can do that."
I flew over to San Francisco, I did the scene, I hit it off very well with the crew, we had a good time. The scene came out and I was curious about the reaction because they have a feedback section. It was a disaster. People hated it, they were threatening to cancel their subscription, "Don't ever hire this guy again, he's terrible, he's too brutal, he's too rough." A few days later I get a call, they want to book me for more scenes. I said, "Are you sure? Your audience hates me." The booking department said they just do the administration. I booked the dates. I get back there; I talk to Marty, who was running the site: "Are you really sure you want me on your set? Your audience hates me." They said, "Don't worry. It's the same people complaining. We see the numbers. It's all good." I did some more scenes, went home for Christmas and New Year, came back for Expo. They said, "Let's book you for some more dates." I said, "Sorry, I'll be home." They said, "What do you mean, home?" I told them I live in Europe and I said as a joke—I didn't mean it—I said, "If you want me to shoot more scenes you have to come to Europe."
He thought about it for a moment and said, "Okay." So they came to Europe to shoot more scenes for Sex & Submission with me. They asked me to produce it—book hotel and locations—I said sure. I've never done it for other people, but I shoot my own productions. No problem. That worked very well, and Peter Acworth told me about a new site they were planning with Princess Donna that they wound up calling "Public Disgrace."
I told him, "If you shoot in public in America they'll arrest your crew. Why don't you shoot it here? Send your people here and we can really shoot it in public on the streets." He got all excited. We shot the first Public Disgrace in Budapest. I was the producer, Donna was the director. She came back every year. I was always producing. I became their European producer for various sites. Gay, femdom, transsexual, whatever. I stayed behind the camera, but every time they shot Public Disgrace or Sex & Submission I was organizing and talent. We got too much attention in Budapest, we were all over the news. I said if you split it up, shoot some scenes here, and some, say, in Germany and in Spain ... They got all excited and with my history of shooting in so many places I knew many people so we started shooting in Barcelona, in Berlin, later in Madrid. When Donna left the company in 2014 they asked me to continue the site. ...
In our industry it's so hard to do something different. Everybody does more or less the same thing. With Public Disgrace I have one niche where I'm totally exclusive. Nobody does what I'm doing. This is a scene we shot in Madrid, between a construction site and a taxi stand. The girl has a pig-tail butt plug, her pants around her knees, and a jacket wrapped around her arms. This is a little teaser scene. The band playing there live, they saw me whipping the girl on the street and the singer asked, "What are you doing? That looks interesting." I told her it was performance art, and if she wanted to she could be part of it. She could make music for us. And there she is. I just met her an hour before.
The fascinating thing for me about Public Disgrace is so many young girls want to do it. They're willing to fly to Europe at their own expense to do it. A few times, people who watch it, who've never done porn, want to do it. I've shot four girls the last two years who never did porn before and as far as I know never did porn again. They did Public Disgrace because it’s a fantasy for so many girls. I split it up into what I call Controlled and Uncontrolled environments. Uncontrolled can be any street, any square, where we have to limit the nudity and light BDSM. When the situation is Controlled, like at that university where I had lookouts everywhere, or a bar or a restaurant, we can go a little further. The really exciting part is when we get arrested sometimes in Uncontrolled public. I have no competition. Nobody else in the world is doing this. That girl came with her mother. She wanted her mother to see her doing this. The mother loved it. I know many people who are not typical porn consumers—my lawyer, my banker—and they are especially not BDSM people. I show them this—"This is how I make my money"—and they find it interesting. This spring I bought new 4K cameras and we shoot with external sound. The quality is much better, especially outdoors. We have lavalier microphones, we have perfect sound. I shot one scene with a drone.
I just hope it [the porn career] continues as long as possible and I enjoy it so much more than at the beginning. I loved it from the first moment, but right now there's a new breed of female talent coming who grew up with porn on the Internet. They know what they're doing, they want to do it, and a lot of them grew up with my stuff. I just worked with Holly Hendrix, and some other girls who weren't even born when I did my first scene. When they started watching porn, they saw my stuff. A lot of them say, "I'm a big fan of yours." For them it's a dream come true to work with me. It's very flattering and I like it a lot. I'm happy with what I'm doing. I have my productions with Kink, which is a great company to work with, I perform for almost anybody, I have a work visa and can work in the U.S. I don't ever want to retire. I'm grateful to AVN for the Awards, I really appreciate the recognition. Male Foreign Performer of the Year twice, 2005 and 2006, and I was nominated for six awards this year. …
People ask me, "Where do see yourself five years from now?" I never did that, in my whole life. When I started working in porn I never thought I'd be doing it 20 years later. I thought maybe until I'm 38 or 40. Now I'm 55. Married 26 years, we've been together 28 years. When I started out to do porn, I talked to my wife about it before. I never would have done it without her permission. I never would have risked our relationship. Years later, she told me, "You know, when I said 'Okay, go for it'—I never thought you were going to do it for so long."
This article originally ran in the May 2017 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition.