Do you ever wonder what it was like back in Hollywood’s Golden Age? The world was a different place, where the entertainment industry was a literal wild west. During this time, the Production code and studio system took over Hollywood, treating its talent like product. Who were these people behind the glitz and glamour of the silver screen? Would we ever truly know the stories behind some of the great talents of the forties and fifties?
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood spills the tea on the sexual exploits of some of the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but primarily focuses on the life of a man said to have provided a slice of freedom for celebrities imprisoned by morals clauses and societal standards. A contrast to the pristine and values-oriented era after World War II, Hollywood was a place eons ahead of the rest of the country. A self-proclaimed LGBT pioneer, Scotty Bowers states he has “serviced” the likes of Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Randolph Scott, Vivien Leigh, and many more. In a time where being gay was stigmatized and career-threatening, Scotty dared to defy the rules and his services provided an escape for many looking for a little “trouble.”
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is an entertaining documentary that breathes life into Scotty Bowers’ best-selling memoir Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Director Matt Tyrnauer follows Scotty throughout his everyday life as he tells the wild stories of his past. At 95 years young, Scotty is still sprightly and alert, basking in adoration from old friends and colleagues as they recount crazy sexual adventures with the stars.
A married man for almost 35 years, Scotty has settled but keeps the memories of his past alive. His wife seems oblivious to Scotty’s reputation and even questions whether she would have married Scotty if she knew about it. Disinterested in “Hollywood shenanigans,” Lois experiences a different Scotty than the rest of the world. Unfortunately, she often finds herself trapped among Scotty’s endless piles of things. Seemingly retired, Scotty has become a hoarder- his reputation scattered across cluttered homes and garages around Los Angeles. What happened to Scotty as the times have changed? Scotty’s life could have gone a number of ways, but the documentary introduces a man who happily reminisces the days long gone.
Many soldiers returned to suburbia in the time of peace and economic prosperity following World War II, but Scotty relocated to Los Angeles. A handsome and business-minded young man, the move was fate. Shortly after, Scotty found employment at the Richfield gas station- a place that now exists under the cover of gentrification and a shiny new fire department. After a chance meeting with Walter Pidgeon, the Richfield gas station became the end of the rainbow for the Tinseltown elite.
Scotty began running a brothel of sorts – setting up rendezvouses for the rich and powerful, the young and beautiful of Hollywood. Through word of mouth, Scotty rose to prominence, accumulating his own fortune. What we learn about Scotty along the way is interesting. Having started out “tricking” from an early age, Scotty never sees himself as a victim of past circumstances. A Forrest Gump of Hollywood, Scotty Bowers finds himself everywhere – mingling with the like of J. Edgar Hoover, aiding Alfred Kinsey in his studies of human sexuality, and even beside the Beatles. There was no place Scotty’s influence did not reach.
Both the memoir and documentary are polarizing, leaving viewers to wonder if it is acceptable for Scotty to kiss and tell after all this time. With many of the figures mentioned no longer here to confirm Scotty’s stories, there is no way to verify the truth. There are two main sides: The first is those shocked over Scotty’s tales about the stars – conditioned to the carefully curated image of celebrity. On the other are those who are scholars of old Hollywood. The sexual exploits of the stars aren’t really news and were known as “open secrets” within the Hollywood bubble.
Regardless of the past, Scotty is an example of a life well lived, and his raunchy Hollywood tales are the kind industry executives wish they could have thought of on their own. Scotty’s story sounds like the makings of an interesting biopic, but the material would be pretty risky to take on the amount of old hearsay floating around. Depending on the perspective, audiences will either love or hate this. Hollywood history buffs may find it to be the latter, but you can’t ignore that it showcases the stars of the past in a more human light, instead of regal images frozen in black and white.
Georgia-born, (North) Carolina raised, Adriana is now based in Southern California (Migrating between San Diego and LA). As well as being a writer, she works as a film festival Marketing Coordinator. She has always been passionate about film, writing, and creating and celebrating work that champions diversity and feminism. She is also a potato enthusiast and fashion school defector.