John Wayne Bobbitt became famous for an incident that occurred on June 23, 1993, in Manassas, Virginia. After drinking late into the night with a friend, the 26-year-old woke to a tugging sensation. He’d soon discover that his wife, 24-year-old Lorena Bobbitt, had cut off his penis with a 7-inch kitchen knife. Why she did it would become a matter of debate that led to a nationwide battle of the sexes. The societal context of that and the details of the case are explored in the excellent 4-part documentary series Lorena. But what happened to John Wayne Bobbitt after that nightmarish night?
Before his wife went to trial for malicious wounding, John would go to trial on charges of marital rape. He’d be acquitted, but this would not be his last brush with the law. However, as Lorena’s trial heated up, John became a tabloid star, appearing on talk shows and becoming a recurring guest on Howard Stern. Stern used his show as a national platform to defend John, saying, “I don’t even buy that he was raping her. She’s not that great looking.” In 1994, Stern made a John Wayne Bobbitt fundraiser part of the spectacle of his New Year’s Eve special. A giant, veiny plastic penis was stroked by a topless female model to chart the funds raised, which the Washington Post reports came to $260,000. Despite this, Bobbitt would never pay his bill for the surgery that re-attached his penis.
John enjoyed the spotlight, no matter how seedy. He formed a rock band, which he named Severed Parts, and signed t-shirts that showed a caricature of Lorena holding a knife. The band never took off. But John was never much for holding down a job. He lost them reliably enough that Lorena had been forced to shoulder their financial responsibilities on a manicurist’s salary. When being a rock star didn’t work out, John turned to porn. He told Vanity Fair, “A porno seemed like the best way to show my penis worked.”
In 1994, the pornographic autobiography John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut, became a smash success in the era of VHS smut. It’s said to be one of the
grossest highest grossing adult movies of all time. But his most notorious movie was in the follow-up Frankenpenis. The title came from porn legend Ron Jeremy’s nickname for John’s infamous member. For the shoot, John underwent penis enlargement surgery. The operation was recorded, and footage of it was actually included in Frankenpenis. But the result was a botch job that one sex worker said, “looked like a dented Red Bull can.” In a TV interview, John lamented, “I thought it’d be like a perfect penis…now it’s a pathetic penis.”
Though both videos were successes financially, John had trusted the wrong manager with his money and wound up filing for bankruptcy. As John’s porn career fell flaccid, he sought new opportunities to expand on his fifteen minutes of fame and landed at a brothel in Nevada. Moonlite Bunny Ranch would go on to become the subject of the HBO reality series Cathouse. Before this, it grabbed attention by hiring John as its “celebrity greeter.” But things went poorly. The sex workers complained that John would get too chatty with customers, essentially blocking them from clients. They tried to make John a celebrity bartender, but he couldn’t handle it. Even limo driver proved too demanding. He got drunk and belligerent on the job. He was fired repeatedly, then rehired because his notoriety was good for business. But John ran out of second chances with the Bunny Ranch when he ran off with their “merchandise,” meaning a 19-year-old sex worker John took on the lam after jumping bail.
In the fall of 1994, Lorena had been out of jail for six months, and John was readying for his porn debut. But he almost missed its world premiere because he’d been serving time for battering his former fiancée, Kristina Elliott The Associated Press reported this was the second domestic battery charge John had been convicted of that year. Both were against Elliott. Municipal Judge Ron D. Parraguirre declared, “One thing is apparent and that is that you are a bully. I don’t know how we’re going to get this across to you that this is unacceptable behavior.”
In 1995, Lorena and John divorced.
In 1998, John ran from the Bunny Ranch because of a felony charge of attempted grand larceny. According to Lorena, John had been rolling into high-end clothing stores and demanding free stuff because he was famous. He then took these items to other branches for a cash refund, totaling $140,000. Dennis Hof had paid John’s bail to get him back to work at the Bunny Ranch, and the crew there even planned a big celebration for John’s 32nd birthday. But John didn’t show. He had fled the state and taken Desiree A. Luz with him. That burned his bridge with the Bunny Ranch, but things would be worse for Desiree. She alleges that John manipulated her out of her money, battered and raped her to the point she feared he’d kill her. “He told me I was his Lorena now,” she says in the doc-series, “And neither she or I…would ever escape him.” In 1999, she ran from him. John would be convicted for harassment.
John had other attempts at fame, including an appearance on WWE Monday Night Raw and a stint at Jim Rose Circus as a sideshow blockhead, a position that Huffpo says “involves hammering nails and other objects up his nose.” In 2002, he was set to appear on Celebrity Boxing 2, fighting convicted statutory rapist Joey Buttafuoco. But John became unavailable when he was arrested on the charge of battering his third wife. He’d be acquitted, yet would become the subject of a tell-all by his second wife, Dottie Brewer. The pair had only been married 13 days before their union was annulled. But that was enough time to research This Week I Married John Wayne Bobbitt. Ferrell would also divorce him.
Despite charges, convictions, witness testimony and photographic evidence, John has always insisted he is innocent of the assault charges against him. “I never used violence against another person, pretty much ever,” John declares in Lorena. “There are probably a lot of women who are legitimately victimized by men, alcoholics, abusive guys. But there’s women who are opportunists, gold diggers who use you as a stepping stone to advance their career. Just like the immigrant who marries a guy [for a green card (a claim he’s made against Lorena)], they can do the same.”
John would go on to make the occasional paid appearance. But he largely fell off the radar. Nowadays, he resides in Las Vegas, living off a disability settlement received for a 2014 car crash, in which he was seriously injured. His dreams nowadays involve discovering the lost treasure of Forrest Fenn and meeting President Donald Trump, of whom he is such a fan that his vanity plate reads DJTRUMP.
John also pines for a reunion with Lorena.
In 2018, he told Vanity Fair, “If instead of cutting off my penis that night, she’d just waited until I woke up and talked to me, we’d probably still be married with a family.” He told the magazine that he tried to friend her on Facebook, but she declined. In Lorena, she shows some of his messages, not only from Facebook, but letters and greeting cards sent over the decades since that violent night. In some, he insists he still loves her. In others, he tells her to imagine the money and exposure they could get from the media by getting back together. This exasperates Lorena. “It’s like, I cut his penis off!” she says in the doc, “I mean, just leave me alone.”
For John, Lorena is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it’s another shot at the spotlight. On the other, he doesn’t like how the doc makes him look. John told Fox News, “[The filmmakers] came from LA, they didn’t tell me what it was for and that it was a non-titled documentary. They didn’t want… to tell me that it’s for Lorena. … They’re trying to paint this picture of a bad boy, you know? This violent mean guy. They brought me out up to the shooting range, shooting with all these different types of weapons and riding in my Harley, wearing a skull mask and all that. They want to get this video, obviously this visual of this bad guy, you know? … I have never talked to [executive producer] Jordan Peele, and Jordan Peele has never seen my transcripts [from my trial].”
Reached for comment, Peele offered Fox this statement:
“When we hear the name ‘Bobbitt,’ we think of one of the most sensational incidents to ever be catapulted into a full-blown media spectacle. With this project, Lorena has a platform to tell her truth as well as engage in a critical conversation about gender dynamics, abuse, and her demand for justice. This is Lorena’s story and we’re honored to help her tell it.”
Header Image Source: Amazon Prime Video