Last night at the Aero I caught my second viewing of Matt Tyrnauer‘s Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Greenwich, 7.27). Tyrnauer and the film’s subject, the legendary Scotty Bowers, sat for a post-screening q & a with Deadline‘s Pete Hammond. Like the film, the discussion delivered charm, candor and much laughter.
I noted a few days ago that this 98-minute doc is an honest, believable portrait of the life (present and past) of a 90something guy who was a sexual go-between for gay or bisexual Hollywood stars in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. The film is partly based upon Bowers’ six-year-old memoir, “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars.” Tyrnauer’s film is well-assembled, well-narrated, intimate and often touching.
There’s one aspect of the doc that the politically correct brigade won’t like, and that’s Scotty’s declaration that he was happily and homosexually active when he was 11 or 12. And with several priests even! He wasn’t coerced or manipulated or taken advantage of, he says — he knew exactly what he was doing and was entirely the captain of his own ship.
A certain marquee-brand director told me the same thing back in the mid ’90s, that he was having sex with older guys when he was roughly the same age. I related because I was leafing through nudie mags when I was eight or nine. I wasn’t sexually active until my late teens, but if a pretty older woman had invited me indoors when I was 12 or 13 or 14, I would have been delighted.
Responsible adults don’t like to hear this stuff, and as a rule I realize that sexual activity at a tender age can be highly traumatic for many if not most. But certain people start earlier than others.
For the third time: “Most of Tyrnauer’s low-key, non-gossipy film is about old Scotty — a 90something, white-haired pack rat who owns two or three homes in the Hollywood hills and lives with a good-natured, seen-and-heard-it-all wife who loves him — and only intermittently about the mostly gay and bi movie stars and celebrities (Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Walter Pidgeon, Vivien Leigh, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, Katharine Hepburn, Noël Coward, James Dean) who regarded Scotty as a trusted pimp and pleasure-giver who could and did set them up with same-sex lovers.
“After studying Bowers for 98 minutes and listening to him talk about how terrifying things were for gay and bi actors in the intensely homophobic big-studio era, and considering the affection he has for his old gay friends and the strong feelings and immense respect they have for him…after the film is over you’ll probably be convinced, as I was, that Scotty is no bullshitter.
“It follows that a high percentage of his recollections about the private sexual lives of movie stars are most likely true. I found this an inescapable conclusion. Just as your gut tells you that Donald Trump is one of the worst bullshitters in the history of western civilization, you can just sense that old Scotty is a straight-shooter. Okay, maybe he’s hazy on a few historical details but the man is 94, for God’s sake. Cut him a little slack. He’s a man of apparent honor. I don’t think I’m wrong about this. I really don’t.”