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Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (2018)

As classic film fans will tell you, the new wave of Hollywood secrets coming out today are nothing if you know about studio era history. Certain stars troubles were well-known, if not open secrets in the Hollywood of the ’30s and ’40s, and that includes sexuality. In 2012 author Scott “Scotty” Bowers wrote the book, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars where he claimed to have run a successful gay brothel out of a Hollywood Blvd. gas station that catered to the wealthy and closeted. The eventual documentary, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood will certainly fascinate fans who believe what Bowers is selling, but what’s more enticing is the subject’s sad life now.

Bowers is a man with a colorful history. After serving in the U.S. military he went to Hollywood and took up residence as a gas station attendant on Hollywood Blvd (the location is now the Hollywood Fire Station). It’s there that he claims he became the go-to man for the actors of the era, giving them access to “tricks” as a means of letting their sexuality run rampant. As the film lays out, Bowers claims to have been in relationships of various duration with Spencer Tracy, Walter Pidgeon, and George Cukor, to name a few.

There are many who claim Bowers’ stories are utterly false, and director Matt Tyrnauer attempts to find something passing for the truth in Scotty’s stories. Tyrnauer interviews two other men who claim they worked at Bowers’ gas station. One claims working for Bowers “bought [his] house” and that the man was so kind that, unlike regular pimps, he never took a penny from the men he employed. Another former colleague seems reluctant to discuss events, telling Bowers to call the men he serviced “clients” and not “tricks.” It is this latter story that gives credence to Bowers’ story, if only because it doesn’t come off as sycophantic.

Tyrnauer understands there’s no way to definitively prove anything and so watching Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood means jumping into the narrative with both feet. Classic Hollywood fans have probably heard about the sexuality of the stars trotted out: Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Charles Laughton, so hearing that they were gay isn’t ground-breaking. For Bowers, his book is meant to showcase the stars as people who had sex and, yes, weren’t straight. This seems to shock older readers. Bowers drops in on a retirement community where he tells a surprised woman about Katharine Hepburn’s lesbianism.

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It is hard to believe Bowers is really doing a public service, but it’s hard not to applaud his dedication (if it’s to be believed). He allegedly turned down Confidential magazine when they offered him a (then) hefty sum to discuss his threesome with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner. And he’s shown with a large group of people who worship at his feet. Yet all that glitters isn’t gold. Tyrnauer’s camera turns to look at Bower’s himself, and how the life he’s put down on the pages of his book might be the only way he can cope (or avoid) the real problems in his life.

Scotty’s story isn’t about the secret history of Hollywood, but his own secret history. Scotty and his wife of 35 years, Lois, live in a beautiful home in the Hollywood hills that’s falling apart due to a combination of neglect and Bowers’ hoarding. We watch him travel to a variety of different storage spaces packed with junk while his wife continually discusses how unsafe the house is for her. There’s no overt discussion of Bowers’ hoarding, though it’s evident that much of it might have to do with Bowers’ undiagnosed war trauma. He’s also frank about his sexual abuse, and it is these claims that threaten to turn you away from him as a subject. He maintains everything he did was a choice, even if he was a child being taken advantage of by Catholic priests.

For Bowers, his reputation is everything; the reputation he gained in Hollywood, as well as the adoration from people who believe him. It’s amazing to hear his wife, a woman he’s spent three decades with, question whether she’d have married him if she’d known about his exploits.

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is a mixed bag. It’s an intriguing look at an unseen Hollywood player who you either love to hate or believe wholeheartedly. The claims are specious and will never be proven, so if you’re watching you either believe him or want to discredit him. The movie is a flawed portrait of a flawed man who built his life around what was once seen as a flaw in humanity.

Ronnie Rating:

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Kristen Lopez View All

I'm a college student getting my Master's in English, but dreams of getting an additional degree in Film. I'm a movie reviewer for several sites, but I also write classic film reviews for several other sites. I stretch myself pretty thin these days. You can usually find me at a bookstore, or a movie theater. I dream of the day when the two are combined. I base a lot of my friendships on favorite movies.

9 thoughts on “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (2018) Leave a comment

  1. Young lady, you need to adopt a more responsible approach to reporting on the alleged homosexuality/bisexuality of famous people who are long deceased and therefore incapable of responding to the rumors. For instance, it’s not an established fact that Cary Grant was “gay” or “bisexual,” yet you write as if it is an established fact.

    It’s much too coincidental that Scotty waited until after all these people died in order to make these allegations.

    • Ma’am, I understand your concerns, though in the classic film community the discussion about Grant is well-known. Numerous writers and documentarians have reported on the subject, so there is plenty of material to mine for corroboration. I urge you to seek it out. That being said, I certainly agree with you that Bowers’ claims are questionable at this point. I’m simply reviewing what I thought about the movie. You are welcome to your own thoughts on the stars, as am I. Thanks for reading!

  2. The fact there are rumors about Grant does not necessarily give credibility to the rumors, regardless of how many people repeat them or mention them in books or documentaries. Please always delineate between fact and speculation/opinion.
    You have to understand that there are writers and documentarians promoting an agenda by hinting that this person, that person, and the other person might have been bisexual or gay. For instance, sketchy authors such as Charles Higham and Marc Eliot come to mind.
    Again, rumors are rumors — they’re not established facts. And even if it’s true that some of the people rumored to be gay or bi were gay or bi, it’s absolutely reprehensible that this Scotty person believes he has the right to expose people’s most intimate secrets for monetary gain.

  3. Hi Kristen, I understand where Margaret’s criticism comes from. My problem too is with unfounded rumors, of any kind. So many books now come out – after a celebrity has died of course – insinuating everything and anything, in general simply for the money. Darwin Porter comes to mind. It very much bothers me.

    The problem is not if Grant was gay, because there have been many Hollywood actors who were/are. Rock Hudson, Alec Guinness and Charles Laughton were. We know that for a fact because they admitted it. Who cares? But I don’t like speculations of any kind. It reminds me too much of what is going on now. A simple accusation leads to a trial by media. Do we know any facts? In general no, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Everything is taken at face value. And that simply is not right.

    Don’t want to get into an argument, but books like that bother me.

    • I certainly understand the criticism regarding certain authors like Porter. WHen it comes to Grant, specifically, though there is evidence from people who were actually there, such as acclaimed fashion designer Orry-Kelly who wrote in his memoirs on the subject. I’m a journalist in my regular job so I wouldn’t flagrantly throw out words that are untrue. Please trust I’ve done my homework on this subject. Thanks for reading!

  4. No, Kristen, once again, someone saying Grant or anyone else was “gay” is not what we call *evidence.*
    And I’m sorry, but the fact you are a “journalist” isn’t proof that you wouldn’t say things that are untrue — tons of journalists say things that are untrue.
    Orry Kelly and Cary were roommates in the 1920s when Cary was working odds and ends. Cary was a pallbearer when Orry died.
    Cary may well have been bi, or had some bi flings, but the larger point you need to understand is that there are “journalists” such as Charles Higham and Marc Eliot and Darwin Porter who have an agenda to push. They have no regard for the private lives of others. They repeat rumors in their titillating books, and then impressionable people such as yourself think, “Well, that guy’s a journalist and he printed the rumors in a book, so it must be true!” (LOL)

    Any of these people from the Golden Age of Hollywood who may have been gay, bi, or experimented a little bit with the same sex, obviously wanted to keep that a secret — otherwise they would have announced it to the world as Rock Hudson, Charles Laughton, and Alec Guinness did.
    So it’s reprehensible for these “journalists” to expose the intimate discretions of these people who are long dead, simply because they have a political agenda to push AND they want to profit from airing the secret lives of consenting adults.

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