Scotty Bowers, during the 1940s through the 70s, was one of the most famous men in Hollywood who we never knew about - until now. Documentary filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer, with a little help from his subject, tells the colorful life story of “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.”
The sexual history of the Hollywood elite was the subject, back in 1975 with the publication, in America, of Kenneth Anger’s expose, Hollywood Babylon. (Babylon actually made its first US appearance in 1965, but copyright battles kept it off the bookstore shelves until ’75.) That book was both praised and condemned by Hollywood insiders.
Matt Tyrnauer takes his remarkable subject and great source material - from Bowers’s 2012 memoir, Full Service - and tells Scotty’s decades-long story about “making people happy.” During WWII, he served in the US Marines and fought on Iwo Jima, where he lost his brother during the battle. On his return home, he took a job pumping gas at Richfield Oil service station on Hollywood Boulevard.
Working there, the handsome young ex-Marine was made an offer he could not refuse and began his long career providing secret sex partners for the rich and famous of Hollywood. The documentary goes into, in depth, the many business and personal relations that the lovable Scotty did not make public until all those involved died. Bowers’s story is not an expose but a historical document about the Hollywood reality of those times.
I am not going to bother telling the names of all the Tinseltown luminaries and their peccadilloes brought to light in “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.” Some will strike you as “Uh, duh!” while many will garner a “WTF?!” reaction. One of the pleasures of this fascinating (at least from the viewpoint of a film buff) biopic is, certainly, the what’s what of the who’s who of Hollywood during Scotty’s era. But the real pleasure is learning about Scotty Bower, the man who, as I said, just wanted to make people happy. I give it a B+.
In 2012, a former Marine who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima published 'Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,' a tell all book about how he began a service arranging encounters for gay and lesbian Hollywood players from the corner station where he pumped gas. Scotty Bowers didn't want to return home to the Midwest after the war, instead choosing Hollywood. He started a new job at Richland Oil Gas Station on Hollywood Boulevard when Walter Pigeon drove in and propositioned him. Scotty, a bisexual, hopped into his car. Word spread about Scotty, who soon had a partitioned trailer operating behind his station and a friend issuing rooms at the motel across the street. Bowers counted George Cukor and Spencer Tracy among his friends while many of his old Marine buddies came to work for him. Those old friends who are still around not only vouch for the veracity of his stories, but claim he saved them, physical displays of affection among them notable and affecting.
"Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood" director Matt Tyrnauer ("Valentino: The Last Emperor") lets Scotty tell his stories against old stills and footage (one old home movie orgy leaves little to the imagination), including his stint as a research subject of Alfred Kinsey's. But what makes Tyrnauer's work so intriguing is that despite its often lurid subject matter, the film itself rarely feels seamy due to Scotty's irrepressible personality. Now over 90 with a mop of white curls and twinkling blue eyes, Scotty's motto is that he 'wants to make people happy.' He is still married to his second wife, Lois, who is clearly unsettled by the former life she never knew about when they wed but also clearly adores him, fretting as he scrambles up to check something on their roof (Scotty lives in a modest ranch with a panoramic view of Hollywood, left to him by Beech Dickerson, a former Roger Corman star).
If there is cause for concern, it is in witnessing Bowers' obsessive hoarding, entire areas of his home impassable due to cascading piles (Lois says she could call social services, but cannot bear to do that to him). Scotty has five garages at friends' homes piled to the ceiling, one of which he's tasked with cleaning out as Tyrnauer films. What causes hoarding? Trauma is one possibility and the only truly disturbing part of Scotty's tale takes place when he was 11, the self-proclaimed enthusiastic recipient of a male neighbor farmer's sexual abuse. A female teacher and her brother are also implicated. Once indoctrinated, Scotty offered his services to local priests who gladly accepted them for 'coins from the collection box.' Tyrnauer gently tries to tell Scotty he was abused, but Bowers will hear none of it ('Nobody's life is ruined by having their cock sucked').
Today Scotty still bartends at parties, does handyman jobs around town and maintains a feeding station for skunks and coyotes. The man who knew the secrets of George Cukor, Charles Laughton, Hepburn and Tracy, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and claims to have had a three way with Ava Gardner and Lana Turner appears a happy man. He's proud of his role sexually liberating stars whose lives were undercover due to the Hays Code and contractual morality clauses. You may come for Hollywood scandal, but leave marveling at this one man's life.
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