July 1, 1923 – George Albert “Scotty” Bowers
Back in summer 2012, when I still had places to go, my Portland MAX train book was such a salacious read that I worried that someone might scan it over my shoulders. Scotty Bowers‘ book titled Full Service: My Adventures In Hollywood And The Secret Sex Lives Of The Stars, written with Lionel Friedberg, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, proved to be a lurid, no-detail-too-much account of an X-rated underworld that Bowers negotiated for over three decades without getting caught.
In the book, Bowers describes his experiences as one of the greatest pimps in Hollywood history. He ran his operation out of a Richfield gas station at 5777 Hollywood Boulevard, at the corner of Van Ness Avenue in Los Angeles. You can still see where it was, but the station was demolished in the 1970s.
Bowers worked the night shift at the gas station, and he also helped turn the place into a sort of drive-in brothel with a trailer behind the station where he introduced movie stars to his young friends. He never charged for his services. But, he knew all about it; as a youth, Bowers did charge for his services, tricking with Catholic priests and assorted strangers in Chicago.
Full Service is a memoir that names names. Bowers book came to mind today as I read the roster of Hollywood stars that were born this day.
A farm boy from Illinois, Bowers’ family was driven off their land in the Great Depression. He grew up in Chicago. During WW II, Bowers was a U.S. Marine who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, losing his brother and two close friends. According to Bower’s book, his special career began after the war in 1946, when he became a bartender, caterer, waiter, and handyman to the stars.
According to the book, one evening, Walter Pidgeon drove up and propositioned Bowers, who accepted. Soon, word got around among Pidgeon’s friends, and Bowers, from his base at the station, started “arranging similar stuff” for some of Bowers’ other customers.
Not all his clients were famous. Film production was flourishing in the late 1940s, and there were writers, set and costume designers, hairstylists and other ”artists with open minds”, as Bowers put it. It was also an era when the police raided gay bars. Bowers:
The station was a safer hangout. Sometimes police would come around, sure. But I think I never got caught partly because I kept everything in my head. There was no little black book. I was Hollywood’s go-to guy for setting up tricks. Some folks around town even began calling me ‘Mr Sex’.
For Zsa Zsa Gabor’s sixth husband, Jack Ryan, the designer of the Barbie Doll, Bowers would find Barbie doll types. Errol Flynn liked his girls very young but he would usually pass out drunk.
Bowers put himself out there too, and he seems to have had an irresistible dick. Bowers:
As a bartender, I would often whip it out and stir drinks with it. Folks loved that.
Among the folks, nearly all men, who loved a trip on Bower’s dick: Spencer Tracy, director George Cukor, songwriter Cole Porter, Laurence Olivier, young and mature Anthony Perkins, Vincent Price, photographer Cecil Beaton, the great actor Charles Laughton, Stephen Rutledge, Tyrone Power, writer W. Somerset Maugham, Howard Hughes, Tab Hunter, Malcolm Forbes, Harold Lloyd, Tony Richardson, chanteuse Édith Piaf, plus closet case Raymond Burr, Tennessee Williams, The Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Noël Coward, along with three-ways with Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. The alcoholic bully Bing Crosby appears to be the only male star to not give Bowers a blow job.
I am not a particular fan of the work of Tracy, but I’m certainly not a detractor. In Full Service, Bowers tells of multiple sexual encounters with the masculine star, all with Tracy being very drunk.
Full Service has frank and shocking stories about Bower’s sexual liaisons with stars and celebrities of both sexes. He relates how he procured women for Desi Arnaz (Lucille Ballhated him for it). He recounts how he set up men and women for orgies with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Stories of Bowers exploits circulated for decades and were alluded to in books such as Kenneth Anger‘s Hollywood Babylon (1959). Bowers finally decided to write about his life when most of the people involved were dead and, in his words:
The truth can’t hurt them anymore.
Full Service came from more than 150 hours of interviews, and when it was published it drew a lot of publicity, including a profile in the New York Times, and a feature on CBS News Sunday Morning. One reviewer wrote:
Bowers has a savant-like quality: a result of his refusal to be embarrassed by sex.
In 2006, film critic Peter Debruge wrote:
Everyone knows Scotty. After all, he’s been serving drinks to the Beverly Hills crowd for almost 60 years, working a different party almost every night of the week, sometimes two a day.
Robert Benevides, the longtime partner of actor Raymond Burr, said:
Scotty just liked to make people happy.
Filmmaker John Schlesinger and writer Dominick Dunne also attested to Bowers’ honesty.
Joan Allemand, the former arts director of the Beverly Hills School District, who knew Bowers for more than two decades, wrote:
Scotty doesn’t lie about anything. He’s a poor kid from a farm in Illinois, and when he got here, his two assets were his big penis and charming personality.
A 2012 profile in the New York Social Diary attested to Bowers’ many, many, connections, career, and character:
Clients all agreed that he was ‘very good’ at what he did, and very agreeable… And very discreet. He did not discriminate. He even had one regular longtime client who had no arms and no legs. The Scotty I knew was a guy who always seemed to be enjoying his life working morning, noon and night, with never a gripe; always with a smile to greet you, and never with an axe to grind. After a lifetime in Hollywood, that’s a remarkable feat and its own kind of Zen.
Matt Tyrnauer, director of the documentary film Scotty And The Secret History Of Hollywood (2017), wrote of the naysayers:
…it is merely proof of the enduring power of the Hollywood myth machine, created there by outsiders, Jewish immigrants, themselves who were furriers and glove manufacturers projecting a lie of a made-up image of white Americanism… I think there are a lot of people who want to cling to that.
Writer William J. Mann, who interviewed Bowers for a biography of Katharine Hepburn, wrote:
I found him forthright and honest and not interested in personal fame or gain.
Bowers makes an appearance in The Unexpurgated Beaton: The Cecil Beaton Diaries As He Wrote Them (2003), calling him “a really huge phenomenon”, plus he shows up in In Bed With Gore Vidal (2013) by Tim Teeman, and in Emanuel Levy‘s Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood’s Dark Dreamer (2010).
The Hollywood Reporter review of the documentary commented:
At a certain point, anyone who reads Bowers’ book or sees this film has to decide whether to believe him or not. At this stage, there is no reason not to; Scotty does not seem remotely like a braggart or someone desperate for a sliver of late-in-life fame… When Scotty says he likes to make people happy, he clearly includes himself, and that he seems to have done in spades.
For most people the most shocking thing in the book was how Bowers arranged 150 women for Katharine Hepburn and male sex partners for Spencer Tracy. The book seems to have really touched a nerve with a public that assumed that Hepburn and Tracy were one of the great straight romances in showbiz history. Bowers writes that their love affair never existed, and it was made up to throw people off the truth. Hepburn and Tracy were bearding for one another.
Both stars lived for extended periods of time with Hepburn’s favorite director and close friend, Cukor. Even then, it was no secret that Cukor was gay and one of the great entertainers in Los Angeles.
45 years ago, I had an affair with a noted screenwriter. He went to Cukor’s parties and had a romantic relationship with him. He told me that Cukor kept his gay and Hollywood celebrity parties separate. He attended both the dinner parties and the famous Sunday pool parties.
Cukor told my friend that Hepburn was strictly lesbian, and that Tracy was a highly repressed, self-hating gay Catholic and alcoholic. Tracy stayed in a cottage on the Cukor estate where he would meet men for drunken sex. This is where Bowers says he had his sexual encounters with Tracy. My friend told basically the same stories about Hepburn and Tracy that Bowers writes about decades later. Cukor told my friend that the silliness of the story of the famed Hepburn-Tracy romance showed how gullible the public was and how effective the Hollywood PR machine could be.
My friend also knew Bowers and told me stories about him, but they seemed so outrageous I was incredulous at the time.
In 1950, Bowers stopped working at the service station and began working as a party bartender, while continuing his services. Bowers writes that he continued this life until the 1980s; and the start of the new plague. Bowers:
HIV/AIDS brought an end to the sexual freedoms that had defined much of life in Tinseltown ever since the birth of movies. It was obvious that my days of arranging tricks for others were over. It was too unsafe a game to play anymore.
Bowers was never prosecuted by the authorities for his activities. The actor Beech Dickersonwilled three houses to Bowers. The great cinematographer Néstor Almendros bequeathed him his Oscar.
Scotty And The Secret History Of Hollywood is streaming on Netflix.