Posted July 8, 2012 by D. K. Holm
Hollywood is called the dream factory but apparently we ordinary citizens have no idea of the full range of falsity Tinsel Town erects in order to keep us falling for its dreams. Take Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. To the public theirs was a many-decade love affair in which the Catholic Tracy never left his wife and Hepburn was steadfast. Their union was lauded in such bestsellers as insider Garson Kanin’s memoir Tracy and Hepburn from 1988. That book was even published after their deaths, but the finite nature of human life apparently doesn’t relax the intensity of protectiveness that the movie industry enacts to protect their investments. According to a local observer, the reality of their union was much different than the press clippings suggested.
In the eyes of Scotty Bowers, Tracy was an essentially gay bisexual alcoholic who could drink a bottle of scotch a night and when he couldn’t find the bathroom in the middle of the night peed on the wall. He never had sex with Hepburn. She was an independent minded shrew with terrible skin that cinematographers found difficult to photographed, a woman who bristled against the studio chiefs’ efforts to make the barely closeted Lesbian seem more “feminine.” Their “romance” was wholly the product of publicists, and in fact, Tracy could barely stand Hepburn who treated him with condescension, even through all the times they had to have their trailers next to each other and appear at premieres together.
The 88-year-old Mr. Bowers makes these revelations in Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, written with Lionel Friedberg (Grove Press, 288 pages, $25, ISBN-13: 978-0802120076). Mr. Bowers was a depression era Illinois farm boy who joined the Marines at the start of WWII and after discharge ended up in Hollywood, where he had odd jobs landscaping and working in a Richfield gas station then located on Hollywood Boulevard, down the street from several of the studios and the homes of mega-stars, a job which inspires the punning title. From the late 1940s through the ’50s, when he became a private bartender, Mr. Bowers also hooked up celebrities with comely boys and girls of his acquaintance. Taking no fee, unless he was “tricking” with the celebrity himself, Bowers was rather a power networker, and any financial transactions were between the client and the tricks. Just as his gas station was the intersection between Hollywood and the real world, Bowers was the intersection between an increasing number of hard up young men and women and a large community of sexually hungry stars. Bowers’s reputation was international. Mr. Bowers maintains that he set people up because he believes in free love, the expression of human sexuality, and people finding their own happiness. Though Bowers preferred women, he says, he was also able to perform with men and formed closed relationships with many of his clients, he says.
Mr. Bowers was always entrepreneurial, making money in his home town and later in Chicago with shoe shines, paper routes, and gay liaisons with adult males. Though little Scotty was molested by the farming father of a friend, the adult Bowers takes no umbrage. He later is grateful for the intimacy he learned from the mentor. His first adult experience was with a man on his paper route. He was intimate with a Windy City priest and was then passed around among other clerics and also groups of poker players. As a marine Bowers fought at Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, and acquired many male friends, who later seemed to have no resistance to supplementing their income by hanging around Scotty’s gas station waiting for pick ups.
Mr. Bowers’s memoir is adequately written – though with the help, apparently, of Mr. Friedberg the narrative pauses periodically to go over well covered ground about stars such as Judy Garland or on how facets of show business work. On the other hand, Mr. Bowers takes the reader behind the curtains of the gay underground and explains how things really worked before gay liberation. He could have given Kinsey a helping hand.
In fact he did. One chapter describes how Bowers met Kinsey, offered to show the “square” how human sexuality really worked, and facilitated the transfer a treasure trove of pornography from King Farouk to Bloomington, Indiana.
Other fascinating revelations include:
• Bowers got his start as a liaison when Walter Pidgeon pulled into a gas station and solicited the lad for a threesome with Jack Potts, a celebrity fashion worker.
• After first joining the Marines Bowers began to spend time in Hollywood on furloughs during basic training, where he met clothes designer Orry-Kelly while cruising.
• Bowers was a regular trick of Cole Porter who didn’t trust his friends. One night, Porter hid under the dinning table during a party while Bowers solicited backstabbing gossip from Porter’s otherwise flattering friends.
• Bowers affirms that Cary Grant and Randolph Scott were longtime lovers, and that he had threesomes with them, and provided the duo with companions both singly and together.1
• Errol Flynn apparently preferred teenage girls, which Bowers provided, though Flynn was often too drunk to entertain by the end of the evening.
• Bowers met Tyrone Power while both were in the Marines, and later met Charles Laughton, who was in a marriage blanc. Both men had cloacal obsessions. Laughton hated Laurence Olivier for unknown reasons, and the equally hate-filled Olivier pretended that Laughton didn’t exist, even on the set of Spartacus, where they had a couple of scenes together.
• The author also says he spent a lot of time with the refined Vincent Price as trick and friend, and also provided ladies for Price’s wife, Coral Browne.
• Bowers claims that the grand romance between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor was a royal put up job designed to disguise their true sexual identities. Bowers goes on to assert that the Duke was a nice, sociable guy, though other memoirists have claimed that the Duke was the most boring conversationalist alive. Bowers also maintains that director George Cukor was a nice person but the few anecdotes he relays concerning his supposed friend and client make him sound like a truly horrible person.
• Montgomery Clift was a snob and very picky and critical of his tricks. Roddy McDowell was also a snob and also terribly fussy. James Dean was exclusively gay, and was hostile and unpleasant to everyone. Rock Hudson hated Dean when they made Giant. Hudson’s own marriage was a put up job by Hudson’s agent, Henry Willson, who manufactured numerous heart throbs out of gay men. Bowers says he supplied men to Willson and Hudson, and women to Hudson’s wife, to whom Rock was married for three years in the 1950s.
• John Carradine was a student of the disciplinary arts. This grandson of the evangelical founder of the “Holiness Movement” most often seen in the company of women “in patent leather boots and a studded belt,” wielding various whips and ropes. Bowers says he also know Carradine’s son, David, who died under similar straights.
• Bowers gamboled with Ramon Navarro, Noel Coward, Maugham, Cecil Beaton, Raymond Burr, Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Clifton Webb, and Tennessee Williams, whom Bowers says wrote a piece about Bowers life, but which Bowers convinced him to suppress.2 He also says he saw J. Edgar Hoover many times dress up as a woman, though apparently more for comical kicks than to pass.
• Bowers says he had long terms affairs with Edith Piaf, Vivien Leigh, the wife of publisher Alfred Knopf, and Barbara Payton, the tragic actress whom Bowers says was a high class call girl before she became an actress.
Setting aside the accuracy of the book, and the reasons for Mr. Bowers’s disclosures, Full Service uitimately preys on a long term national trend whose roots are in grade school bullying. There seems to be an American mania for getting closeted homosexuals to “come out of the closet.” In the case of several well known stars, the ridicule, disquised as encouragement, is relentless, across tabloids, stand up comedy routines, cartoon shows, and print journalism, which often views the various stars as ipso facto ”out.” A personal decision is thereby abrorgated by the media on the official premise that a celebrity has no right to “privacy,” but the urge is really rooted in the morbid triumphalism of all bullies, who simply want to humiliate others by exposing their weaknesses – that they can’t fight, that they are cowards, that they are gay.
In life and writing, Mr. Bowers seems refreshingly game for anything, except for revelations about anyone he doesn’t know, or who isn’t dead, or who is among the recent crop of young stars, who are generally open about their hedonism anyway. Left out of the chronology is any mention of Brando, Paul Newman, or Tom Cruise and John Travolta, who have once again been in the news lately. The most recent figure mentioned is John Holmes, whom Bowers set up with various clients. Nevertheless the volume comes with the imprimatur of Gore Vidal, who provides a blurb on the flyleaf, “I have known Scotty Bowers for the better part of a century. I’m so pleased that he has finally decided to tell his story to the world. His startling memoir includes great figures like Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Scotty doesn’t lie—the stars sometimes do—and he knows everybody.”3 Perhaps we’ll find out more if there is a posthumous edition.
1 The chronology seems a little off here. Other sources suggest that Grant and Scott only lived with each other in the 1930s, before Bowers arrived on the scene.
2 Bowers has a brief walking part as “Smitty” in a bio of Tyrone Power.
3 One suspects that there is a little bit of Bowers in Vidal’s The City and the Pillar, or that Bowers might have encounter Vidal’s childhood friend Jimmy Trimble, who died in the Pacific war.