One thing is for sure: Scotty Bowers is one of the most unique individuals you’ll ever have the pleasure (or not?) of meeting.
In Matt Tyrnauer’s (Valentino: The Last Emperor, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City) documentary, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, Scotty Bowers’ surreal life as a Hollywood “matchmaker” for 1940s and 50s homosexual movie stars on the down low is almost too fantastic to believe. But here it is, from the mouths of those who were there and are still alive to talk about it.
Based on his best-selling tell all biography, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, the film wastes no time jumping right into all the titillating details. From there, the narrative takes the next 97 minutes to deliciously examine this complex but ultimately human character. His life is like a Russian tea doll: one layer gets peeled away only to reveal another more fascinating one.
But first things first: who is this guy again?
Scotty Bowers came to Hollywood in 1946 following his discharge from the Marines after World War II. Strikingly handsome and personable, he immediately caught the eye of many of the town’s stars, who encountered him at the Richfield gas station where he worked at 5777 Hollywood Boulevard.
The first of his encounters was with Walter Pidgeon, who by coincidence met Scotty during a stop for gas. He invited the handsome young ex-marine over to his Hollywood estate for an afternoon in the pool, followed by an evening of sex.
After that encounter, Scotty made his entrée into the closeted world of Hollywood’s leading men and ladies. He began having sex with many of them, then started connecting them with his band of beautiful and promiscuous friends, most of them newly discharged from the military.
Back at the Richfield station, right beneath the noses of the unsuspecting owners, Bowers set up a trailer on an adjacent lot as a sexual Romper Room for his clients who needed to be discreet—which was basically everyone in those days.
When the trailer was booked, an equally enterprising motel owner across the street would inform Scotty which rooms were vacant on any given day and leave them unlocked for his clients’ use.
Scotty was close friends (with benefits) with Gore Vidal, slept with Rock Hudson (among a veritable dream cast of other male and female stars.), had three-ways with Edward and Wally (the British king that could have been and his American wife), and brought Vivian Leigh to orgasm multiple times in one session. And those are just the highlights.
At a certain point, anyone who sees this film has to decide whether or not to believe him. Now 94 and sporting a mop of white hair and a generally genial attitude, Scotty does not come across as a tell-all opportunist. He was always ultra-discreet and, incredibly, says he was never paid for sex by the stars he serviced. He made his money as a bartender at the private parties where he would then arrange liaisons. “I ran an introduction service,” he humbly professes
His wild stories are backed up by a host of credible witnesses who make cameos in the film. For example, legendary Hollywood columnist Liz Smith who was good friends with Katherine Hepburn validates Scotty’s claim at that Hepburn was a lesbian and Spencer Tracy had homosexual tendencies.
Of course, that revelation has not set well with many who prefer the Hollywood love story perpetrated by the PR machines. But Bowers doesn’t really care. He knows what he knows. He’s shameless and takes no blame or remorse for his life.
Tyrnauer takes great care to portray Scotty in all his unapologetic pansexual glory. The film goes into many salacious details about the sizes of men’s penises, clients’ bizarre sexual fetishes, and much more—all told through Scotty’s sparkling blue eyes and mirthful, frank exposition.
The director also gives us insight into Bowers’ private life. He and his wife, Lois, (yes, wife) are seen rambling around their house, which can only be described as a hoarder’s home. Located high in the Hollywood Hills, his unnavigable living space serves in stark contrast to the beautiful view of the city laid out below them. Poor Lois seems disgusted by the mess but powerless to do anything about it, admitting that she would never leave because she loves him.
We get a couple of glimpses into Scotty’s past. His horrific experiences on the front lines at Guadalcanal during world War II still haunt him. He lost his only child, a daughter, after a botched abortion when she was in her early 20s. And although the film only scratches the surface of childhood sexual abuse, it’s obvious that it influenced his attitude toward sex.
But those passages, while poignant, are brief. When Scotty says he likes to make people happy, he clearly includes himself, and that he seems to have done in spades.