As one of the witnesses in Warren Beatty’s Reds, Henry Miller recalled, “There was just as much f*ing going on then as now, only now it has a more perverted quality.” Apparently Mr. Miller had never met Scotty Bowers whose biodoc Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood transforms sexual perversion into an art house confessional. It is now playing at the Digital Gym.
2921 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park
If entertainment industry gossip were a crime, I’d be serving a life sentence. Fresh out of high school and a copy of Kenneth Anger’s salacious bible of showbiz bile, Hollywood Babylon had already made its way into my hands. The caption below a photo of famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and wooden pal, Charlie McCarthy read: “No splinters between friends.” (If it’s so sick, why are you smiling?) For years a loyal subscriber toThe National Enquirer, when friends asked why, the answer was simple: “If it’s not true, it should be.”
At age 93, Scotty Bowers looks like the last surviving member of the Our Gang comedies, when in truth, this little rascal’s job was supplying men and women to Hollywood’s elite. From a street view, the Richfield Oil station at 5777 Hollywood Blvd. where attendant Scotty began his legendary cottage-industry was just another gas house. Was he a pimp or, as he claims, a friend doing another friend a service? The restrooms saw more than their fair share of action, but it was the trailer tucked behind the station that housed more star power than the Beverly Hilton.
1946 to 1984. All of those years he covered, many of those he was. Studio heads didn’t care who their contract players contracted as sex partners so long as the public didn’t catch wind. Scotty knew first-hand (and mouth) of the hush-hush affair between Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. When Confidential Magazine plastered their cover with news of two of Hollywood’s biggest stars inviting a man into the boudoir, it was Scotty who acted as meat in the Lana Turner-Ava Gardner sandwich. Scotty claims to have had sex with Bill Holden between takes on Sunset Boulevard and in the very swimming pool from which his character’s corpse narrates the picture.
Perhaps his biggest claim to fame was playing research subject for famed sexologist, Dr. Alfred Kinsey. Former Variety editor Peter Bart called Scotty, “The correlative tissue between the academic Kinsey and the people who were doing it.” Scotty escorted Kinsey to several of his “gang-bang” parties where the good doctor sat on the sideline with notebook in hand and presumably fully clothed.
Scotty’s first wife couldn’t stand the competition and left. He had a 23-year-old daughter who died at the hands of an abortionist. Scotty had a nighttime gig arranged when news arrived of her passing. His way of processing the grief was by tending bar at a party. (Scotty was nothing if not dependable.) Her bedroom in one of Scotty’s several home remains virtually untouched, right down to the still-operational pink rotary dial phone. In the 33 years Scotty has known his second wife, Lois, she never once questioned Scotty’s checkered past. “If she read the book, she’d jump out the window,” he laughs. Lois has no knowledge of the man Scotty once was and is in no hurry to catch up. Nor is she interested in what she calls, “Hollywood shenanigans.”
Writer/director Matt Tyrnauer’s line of reasoning isn’t always on target, particularly the argument that it was Hollywood’s imposition of a moral code that caused celebrities to seek out Scotty’s services. What a load of revisionist hooey. These self-entitled dilettantes did it because they could and I dare say that anyone who has ever had a spot in the limelight — from Bette Davis to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor — would act with the same hedonistic abandon if given half the chance.
Much of the celebrity gossip up for discussion has at one time or another been hinted at. When the subject turns to child molestation, Scotty’s Secret History reaches far beyond the gossip tabloids and into a space both dark and personal. His first act of procurement was at age eleven when he noticed his 6th grade teacher eyeing the girl Scotty was going with. In exchange, he spent his afternoons with teach’s gay brother. “I was always tricking,” he admits and shrugs off any mention of victimization. His family took up residence opposite Chicago’s Holy Angels Church and his first night in town was spent in the arms of the neighborhood priest. “I could pick up a few bucks,” he joked. They paid for his services with change from the collection box. Within weeks he had “seen” over two dozen clergymen. As Scotty sees it, “I did what I did because I wanted to do it. I knew what I was doing and it wasn’t a case of accidentally or anything!”
Are we to believe actor and comedian Stephen Fry when he says, “Scotty was pre-gay. He himself doesn’t conform to any particular label. Scotty just breezes across all the fences that we erect to separate ourselves from others.” If it's not true, it should be.