Last month, as legal problems mounted for Mr. John Holmes, the talented star of theatre pornographique, art lovers could be thankful for a journalistic coup scored back in the summer of 1977, when Holmes granted the Ann Arbor News of Ann Arbor, Mich., a rare interview. It could save his hide, and his hide is only the most celebrated of his many attributes. He also has a splendid intellect, and an enormously humane sensibility. In a word he is a progressive, deserving all the support the liberal intelligentsia can provide.

His need is considerable. At this hour he is under indictment in California for grand theft and receiving stolen goods. Worse still, Los Angeles authorities accuse him of having beaten to death two women and two men at a plush address on Wonderland Avenue, a mere four blocks from the residence of Gov. Edmund G. Brown. I confess the significance of this last geographic detail eludes me, but no news account passed it by, and far be it from me to break ranks. A third woman survived.

Surprisingly, the liberal intelligentsia has been slow to come to Holmes' support. These are the conservative 1980s, I know, but this interview that I have unearthed should remind them that in Los Angeles a fellow progressive deeply committed to new age values is in trouble. Once they have reflected on what he said in 1977, surely they will be on their feet, and forget not the advances in human justice that they have wrought. Remember the Hiss case. Recall how they sprang Jack Henry Abbott, the jailhouse author of "In the Belly of the Beast," who, unfortunately, is even now being tried for yet another murder.

In the cool figure of Holmes we have the makings of another good cause. To him, a role in an X-rated movie was more than a job. It was art. "If people are making love in a beautiful way," he tells the Ann Arbor News, "that's not porn, that's beauty." He opposes the commercial priority bestowed by so many actors on their work. Countless X-rated scripts have been turned down by him, especially those calling for "abuse" of other human beings.

True pornography offends Holmes, and he pins that opprobrious label not on bodies passionately rubbing together but on cursed violence. The real pornographers have been actors like "a John Wayne or Steve McQueen," he says, who made films with "blood and guts everywhere, with gallons of stage blood spewed all over. People send their kids to watch that stuff, it's disgusting."

It goes without saying that Holmes is duly exercised over child abuse and violence in the home. And he is a creative type, having written more than 17 television scripts and "at least" five "children's classics."

Holmes' role in X-rated movies transcends art, however, and reaches into the hushed realms of sexology. "I've straightened out a lot of people's lives," he declares. Overcoming the "hangups" induced by "15 years of Sunday school and a very religious upbringing" he made more than a dozen sexual masterpieces, and received "hundreds of letters from people saying I'd helped them, saved their marriage, and improved their sex lives." Alfred C. Kinsey is redeemed!

Alas, now Holmes languishes in the coils of California justice. He predicted it back in 1977, when he warned of performers and producers of sexually explicit films being victimized by public officials "trying to make political mileage" at the expense of these enlightened marriage counselors. Of all Holmes' replies to the Ann Arbor News interviewer, my favorite is his assertion of how he might handle vicious anti-porn protestors. In his words he would "shake their hands, buy them a Coke, and talk religion with them. After my up-bringing I probably know just as much of the Bible as they do... and I believe in God just as much as they do. But I just think they're confused. He [God] probably giggles a lot at all of our hangups." There is the sound of the 1970s for you, replete with unctuousness.