The story of Scotty Bowers’ sexual adventures in Hollywood could easily fill a 10-volume set. For the time being, people can find his exploits chronicled in a single book, his 2013 memoir Full Service, or the Starz documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, which is now in the running for Emmy consideration.
Together, the memoir and film reveal a side of the movie capital long relegated to the shadows—a cloaked world where closeted stars of the 1940s, 50s and beyond, desperate for sexual release and intimacy, turned to Bowers for services.
“He’s the most notorious gay hustler in the history of Hollywood,” says director Matt Tyrnauer of Bowers, who turns 96 in a couple of months. “The experience of interviewing Scotty on and off over a two-year period was amazing, extraordinary and unique. It gave me a memory map, really, his map of a lost city.”
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The key location on that map was 5777 Hollywood Boulevard, then a Richfield filling station where Bowers—fresh from service in the Marines in World War II—got a job pumping gas. Within hours, it seems, Oscar-nominated actor Walter Pidgeon pulled into the Richfield, liked the looks of that cute young pump jockey and invited him up to his estate.
“I didn’t really know who he was actually,” Bowers, an impish nonagenarian with remarkable recall, tells Deadline. “I hadn’t seen any of his movies or anything.”
From that point on, Bowers’ career took off as a provider of sexual companionship to Hollywood’s elite, many who drove right over to the Richfield.
“It’s hard to believe, unless you were there, how much fun that gas station was,” Bowers beams in the documentary. “I was fixing every bit of 20 [stars] a night, seven days a week.”
He maintains he accommodated, either personally or through a growing stable of handsome young men he retained, a stunning array of luminaries: Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Spencer Tracy, Charles Laughton, Cole Porter, Laurence Olivier, director George Cukor and the visiting Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII and his wife, Wallis Simpson).
Bowers also says he arranged female sexual companionship for Katharine Hepburn and Vivien Leigh, and wrangled sex partners for straight stars including Bob Hope, William Holden and Yul Brynner, among others. Sometimes he did the honors with women as well, he claims, sleeping with Bette Davis, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. The term ‘pansexual’ seems to describe Bowers best.
“What is he? He’s everything, you know,” Bowers observes, speaking of himself in the third person. “It’s easier to cop out as ‘everything’ rather than individually pick this and pick that and change them around.”
Part of Bowers’ appeal to Hollywood stars was his non-judgmental view of their sexuality and his absolute discretion, a policy he maintained throughout their lives.
“When everyone was living I would never think under any circumstances…no matter what anyone offered me, I wouldn’t write a book,” he comments in Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.
His decision to break his silence, long after the deaths of Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, et al, has met with a predictable backlash from some fans and critics. In the film, Bowers’ wife, Lois, sums up the attitude as, “‘You took away their dream. Shame on you.’”
Bowers responds by saying a), there’s nothing wrong with being gay, so revealing that fact about a star shouldn’t be an issue, and b), people in Hollywood at the time were in on the secret—it was only fans in the sticks or the willfully ignorant who were in the dark.
“People [in Hollywood] knew, especially about Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. That went on for years! They lived as lovers for 10, 12 years, together,” he comments. “And all of a sudden people say, ‘Well, how can you say Cary Grant’s gay?’”
To Tyrnauer, there’s something more sinister about the criticism. He sees it as an attempt to “straight-wash” history.
“Our mutual friend Gore Vidal used to refer to the ‘heterosexual dictatorship,’” Tynauer observes. “And I think the heterosexual dictatorship is rearing its head a little bit in response to Scotty’s alternate narrative of Hollywood, because he supplies information that was suppressed and people don’t like to confront that.”
To continue to suppress that information, Tyrnauer believes, is effectively to endorse a system that drove gay people underground in that earlier era.
“It was a very unfortunate period for gay and lesbian people because they really had to hide their identities, and so much of that covers itself up because it had to at the time,” he notes. “It was so dangerous to be openly gay because the vice squad was after you, and the press was after you, and they sometimes would collude, and your life could be ruined.”
“It’s hard to believe how red hot the vice squad was in those days. I mean it really was,” Bowers adds. “They’d bring pictures, actual pictures, of me with [stars]… ‘Is this you?’ And I’d say, ‘Jeez, that’s great. I wish it were me.’”
Tyrnauer dismisses what he calls “pearl-clutchers” scandalized by Bowers’ revelations.
“Scotty’s really a hero and a symbol of a liberated life to a lot of people,” he maintains. “So when you actually trash him and trash the point of the film, you’re trashing an entire community and basically telling them to go back in the closet and be a cloistered person that’s tagged as a mentally ill degenerate. It’s not that pretty, really.”
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