I’ve been waiting to see Matt Tyrnauer‘s Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, a doc based on Scotty Bowers and Lionel Friedberg‘s “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,” for a long time. I first heard about Tyrnauer trying to pull it together…what, back in ’13 or ’14? It’s taken forever, but now, finally, a special pre-Toronto Film Festival screening is happening later this week.
“Reliable Source,” posted on 6.18.16: “Last night I ran into Scotty Bowers, the 92 year-old co-author of “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,” which popped in early 2012. (Here’s my review.) It happened at a nearby Whole Foods (Fairfax & Santa Monica Blvd.), and for a guy who will turn 93 in less than two weeks he’s very charming, alert and well-spoken.
“The only other over-90 fellow I’ve spoken to who has the same classy manner and mental acuity is Norman Lloyd, whom I first interviewed in ’05 and who’s now 101.
Scotty said the book has sold quite well. He mentioned $400K, but with the clatter of the market and having only just met the guy I didn’t press him on whether that was his cut or if worldwide book sales have grossed that amount.
“I asked him about Matt Tyrnauer‘s Scotty, a long-in-the-works documentary based on ‘Full Service‘ that was reportedly screened for buyers at least year’s Cannes Film Festival. He only said that he’d offered over 100 hours of recollections in front of Tyrnauer’s camera, and that the film was in the home stretch, etc. I said it would be great to see the finished version play at one of the festivals next year.
“I told Bowers that I enjoyed the book (the prose was finessed by Lionel Friedberg but the stories are all Scotty’s), but said I had trouble believing that Walter Pidgeon and Spencer Tracy had gay appetites. He only said that they were warm, elegant fellows who sometimes indulged, especially in Tracy’s case after bending the elbow a few times.”
“Happy Times,” posted on 1.29.12: I’ve heard all the tales about certain old-time Hollywood stars preferring same-sex encounters that everyone else has. Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Cole Porter, Montgomery Clift, Randolph Scott, George Cukor, etc. But I’d never heard, frankly, that Walter Pidgeon and Spencer Tracy played in this pool, and I never knew that Vivien Leigh may have been somewhat lezzy.
“There are many such stories, in any case, in a new Old Hollywood tell-all book called “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,” which was profiled in a 1.29 N.Y. Times story by Brooks Barnes. (It was also described in a 5.20.11 Entertainment Weekly piece by Adam Markovitz.)
“Based on the recollections of 88 year-old Scott Bowers, a one-time arranger of sexual services (some straight but mostly gay) from the late ’40s to the early ’80s, and written by Lionel Friedberg, the memoir is being published by Grove Press and is set for release on 2.14.
“The last book to explicitly spill in this fashion, to my recollection at least, was Kenneth Anger‘s “Hollywood Babylon,” which was published in 1981.
“‘A lot of what Mr. Bowers has to say is pretty shocking,’ Barnes writes. ‘He claims, for instance, to have set Hepburn up with ‘over 150 different women.’
“The book sounds like it might be credible. Barnes quotes Vanity Fair writer and documentarian Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) saying the following: ‘If you believe him, and I do, he’s like the Kinsey Reports live and in living color.’
“Barnes himself writes that ‘perhaps it’s hard to look at Mr. Bowers today — an elderly man with sloped shoulders and a shock of unruly white hair — and believe that a half-century ago he was sought out by some of the most handsome men to have ever strutted through Hollywood. But after some time with him, the still-sparkling blues and the impish smile help convince you that he could have definitely had seductive powers.’
“Bowers’ story ‘has floated through moviedom’s clubby senior ranks for years,’ Barnes writes. ‘Back in a more golden age of Hollywood, a guy named Scotty, a former Marine, was said to have run a type of prostitution ring for gay and bisexual men in the film industry, including A-listers like Cary Grant, George Cukor and Rock Hudson, and even arranged sexual liaisons for actresses like Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn.
(l) 21 year-old Scott Bowers in 1944, and (r.) the 88 year-old 2012 version.
“‘A $20 bill, given as a tip, according to Mr. Bowers, bought his services in the beginning. That was 1946, and he was 23. As Mr. Bowers tells it, he stumbled into his profession by accident. Newly discharged from the Marines after fighting in the Pacific during World War II, Mr. Bowers got a job pumping gas at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, not far from Paramount Pictures.
“‘One day Walter Pidgeon (Mrs. Miniver) drove up in a Lincoln two-door coupe, according to the book, and propositioned Mr. Bowers, who accepted.
“Soon, word got around among Pidgeon’s friends, and Mr. Bowers, from his base at the station, started ‘arranging similar stuff’ for some of Bowers’s more adventurous friends.
“Mr. Bowers writes that, in addition to his gay clients, he also gained a following among heterosexual actors like Desi Arnaz, who used him as a type of matchmaking service. Mr. Bowers, who says he personally ‘prefers the sexual company of women,’ says he never took payment for connecting people like Arnaz with bedroom partners.”