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Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood


Eucalyptus P. Millstone
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Now showing on Hulu, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.

Exploitational. Audacious. Provocative. Lurid. Trashy. Depressing. Outrageous. Poignant. Human. That's my take on this 2017 cinematic profile on Scotty Bowers -- gas station attendant extraordinaire -- and an addendum to his best-seller-2012 memoir Full Service.

Bowers (IMO tackily and tawdrily) outed his movie star clientele, all of who were long gone when his tell-all tome was published. The documentary keeps the ball rolling and dishes the dirt on the usual suspects: Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. Cary Grant and Rock Hudson. Charles Laughton. George Cukor. News to me: Walter Pidgeon was gay. Ditto Spencer Tracy (!), who was, perhaps, just bisexual. His "romance" with Katherine Hepburn was, according to Bowers and the filmmakers, strictly Hollywood hogwash. Both "lovers" were each other's beard (Kate danced to the Songs of Bilitis). As was the case with royal clients The Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The star of director-accomplice Matt Tyrnauer's film was in his nineties during production but relates his underground misadventures behind closed doors with razor-sharp detail. Threesomes with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. Individual trysts with Vivien Leigh, Bette Davis, and J. Edgar Hoover. Caterer to rapacious and oral Cole Porter (Gabriel wasn't the only one doing some blowing).

For the terminally coprophagous with a lusty appetite for the down 'n dirty . . .

For unsuspecting naïfs and the totally clueless with a perverse passion to have the scales wickedly ripped from their eyes re (perhaps favorite) Silver Screen stars of Yesteryear . . .

For sociologists, psychologists, gossip column junkies, busybodies, and other students of human nature . . .

For folks who simply are tired of 31 Days of Oscar . . .

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood offers a Magical, Misery Tour of  the scandalous, salacious, sordid, and sometimes seriously sad saga of "The Pimp to Hollywood Stars."

 

 

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I don't know whether or not you're gay and I'm not asking you to declare one way or the other, but as an older gay man I can attest to the huge void I've felt for most of my life in terms of understanding my place in the common cultural history of our country. This doesn't mean (I hope) that I'm willing to accept without question anything which promises visibility into previously shuttered areas. Supermarket tabloids seemed at one time to be particularly fond of pulling the gay thread and cause celebres like Hollywood Babylon presented a lot of questionable material as fact, so the waters have been pretty muddied by this point in terms of credibility. It makes it particularly difficult for those of us with a valid yearning to know the history of our kind going back beyond the most recent generation(s). I'm not going to rally around Scotty automatically, but I will say that I tend to believe him, though I don't think there's anything particularly heroic about him or his story. But I appreciate his matter-of-fact style and the apparent joyful spirit in which he operated, not forgetting that he was a for-profit sex worker with an unsuspecting wife at home. If his story is true...and, as I said, I tend to believe it...then I think we have to honor his discretion for all these years, even though we might ultimately choose to call his disclosures tacky. He wrote about what he knew. As a one-time self-indulgent sexual being myself I read his story with more interest than disapproval and his interactions with "celebrities" only seemed to confirm what I'd already gleaned about human (sexual) nature for myself over the years. To insist that this material is shocking seems to me to be beside the point. It really comes down to whether or not you feel Scotty can be believed. You used the word depressing and I agree that there was some of that in the hoarding aspect of his final days, but I can sympathize with the position of an older man (who has since died) wanting to relive some of the glories of his youth one final time. Actually, in this case it's for the first time, since, as I mentioned, he had honorably kept his secrets for many years. Bottom line is that I buy into his story, though I certainly respect doubters. 

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7 hours ago, DougieB said:

. . .You used the word pathetic . . .

DougieB,

Nope! Perhaps "pathetic" was used in one of the articles linked in my post.

I'm not gay, and strive to be nonhomophobic.

I had mixed feelings about Scotty Bowers while watching Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood. On the positive side, I admired his insouciant I don't give a damn about what other people think of me! attitude. I also dug his willingness to take full responsibility for his behavior, and not blame Mommy and Daddy and even the priests who "molested" him. He struck me as the perfect definition of a "sybarite." He offered no apologies for his lifestyle and neither asked for nor wanted forgiveness for living life on his own, hedonistic terms.

On the negative side, I don't respect Bowers for having crassly outed celebrities long dead and unable to speak for themselves. Doesn't bug me if Walter Pidgeon, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, et al. were homosexual or bisexual. Because of the era in which they lived, they chose -- or were forced, if you want to look at the matter that way -- to hide "in the closet." Different times, different mores.

Do I believe Bowers' revelations? Frankly, I don't care if they are true or false.

I haven't read Bowers' exposé Full Service, which -- based on the few reviews about it that I perused -- is a lot more explicit and "raw" than Matt Tyrnauer's documentary. That is my biggest objection -- Bowers' crudeness and vulgarity when revealing intimate, private details about his clients. Hearing that Charles Laughton "liked to suck c0ck" leaves an image in my mind that I could have blissfully lived my whole life without ever having. Bowers' unfiltered candor, for me, was too brutally honest. Although I genuinely believe that his intent was not malicious, he nonetheless -- IMO -- tarnishes the -- OK, false, manufactured -- images of his famous customers.

To me, it's as though Scotty Bowers wee-weed on their legacies to irrigate his own.

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I read your post again later and saw that you had said depressing, which I had misremembered as pathetic, so I went back and changed it. Sorry about that. 

I guess I see it as an oral history, and a valuable one. Hollywood seems to have always been a chatty town and I'm sure stories about sexual exploits were well-circulated at the time. What Scotty did was write it down, using his own personal, first-hand experiences. He waited a long time to do it, but must have finally realized that at his age it was now or never. My personal feeling is that this humanizes his subjects rather than exploits them, but I realize that what I take in stride can ring all sorts of alarm bells for a lot of the population. The argument that it's unfair to people who can't defend themselves has some merit, but it also highlights how lucky they were to have had studio goons to cover a lot of this up and a press which could only resort to blind items and innuendo. (Liberace, of all people, won a lawsuit against a British paper for suggesting he liked guys.) Stories like Scottie's are all too rare and the fact that obscure pre-"gay" culture, Kinsey-style sexual narrative, and movie history all intersect in one place makes it fascinating to me personally. 

I realize that I'm actually referencing the book more than the documentary. The movie itself kind of meanders and wastes a lot of time on the present day (rummaging through mementos, a book signing, etc.) and the actual older man we see in it isn't as compelling as the story he had to tell about his youth. If they'd modeled the documentary on something like The Celluloid Closet and stuck more closely to the real subject at hand, I think it would have turned out better. I know that at one point post-documentary there were plans to make Scotty's story into a dramatic film, but the pandemic may have derailed that. Also, it turned out that Ryan Murphy kind of appropriated Scotty's story for his fictionalized Hollywood mini-series on Netflix, so he may have pulled the rug out from under a movie project.

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