Dawn Schiller is a survivor.
It’s so easy to just casually drop the line that Dawn was the product of a ‘broken home’ and ‘tough neighbourhood’, but what does that really mean? For Dawn, it meant living in fear with feelings of isolation and loneliness. It meant the loss of beloved family members and with that, the security and love they gave her. It meant being propelled into the unknown with no support and the realisation that she didn’t seem to matter to anyone. Living this way in an increasingly violent neighbourhood with a mother who struggled and became desperate and took her frustrations out on Dawn is what was primarily responsible for Dawn leaving Florida for LA. There, she met John Holmes, the legendary porn star who was as famous for his movies as he was being involved in the Wonderland killings, and later famous for dying of AIDS.
Dawn was just 15 years old when John took a shine to her and offered her all the things she was lacking in life – safety, security, affection and love. This book is a love story in the beginning. At the start, John was upbeat, fun, happy – all the things that had been lacking in dawn’s life. Further down the line however, drugs entered into the equation and he became something else entirely, dragging Dawn along with him. She endured physical and mental abuse so severe that it’s a marvel she made it out at all. But she did, and the result it this compelling, inspirational story.
I found this book impossible to put down. For a tale where one of the main characters is a porn star, there is a surprising lack of sex in these pages, which is a good thing as there is a darker tale to tell. At one point, Dawn is fleeing for her life as contract killers are out gunning for her – none of this is her doing and all to do with the dark path that John takes (drags??) her down.
She has to fight for her life again and again but she never did give up and is here today to tell her story.
With a foreword by Val Kilmer and Kate Bosworth (Johnny & Dawn in the move Wonderland), this book is written in a truly engaging way. Dawn is honest, open and owns up to her own flaws and weaknesses. She doesn’t place blame solely at John’s feet but instead owns up to where she went wrong. She wasn’t perfect but the fact of the matter is that Holmes took advantage of her and mad her feel she has no choice but to stay with him. The Wonderland killings changed everything. To this day, the extent of John’s involvement remains a mystery. Read the book and see what your take is on everything. Even though this book is uplifting towards the end, get your tissues at the ready.
Hard-hitting, disturbing, inspirational – this book is all of those things and more. I challenge you to read it and not be moved.