Documentary Review: 'Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood'

May 29, 2020
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

IN the Netflix mini-series, “Hollywood”, there is a character, Ernie (played by Dylan McDermott), who operates a gas station that’s actually a front for his attendants to offer sexual services to both male and female clients. Ernie is based on a real life character, Scotty Bowers, who acted as a pimp in Hollywood from the 40s to the 80s. He charges his celebrity clients with $20 per session.

A documentary was made on his life, “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood”, released theatrically in 2017, based on his own memoir, “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars”. We got to see the docu and it offers a lot of prurient thrills for Hollywood fans who are familiar with the stars whose sexuality was delved into in the one hour and a half docu. They include Cary Grant and lover Randolph Scott, Spencer Tracy and non-lover Katharine Hepburn (who Scotty allegedly sets up with both men and women), and of course, Rock Hudson, who shocked his fans when he died of AIDS at the age of 59. 

He never spilled the beans about them when they were still alive. But now, all these stars, and the other celebrities mentioned in the docu like actors Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon (his first customer) and Rex Harrison, the Duke of Windsor and his wife Mrs. Wallis, composer Cole Porter and director George Cukor, actresses Vivien Leigh, Lana Turner and Ava Gardner are all dead, so they cannot answer back. 

The film could have been a mere sensationalistic gossipy expose about closeted luminaries, but it also gets to delve into the sexual mores of the past and how harsh the law was against gays then. The studios created a moral code prohibiting stars to engage in any public activity that may offend conservative Christian sensibilities. 

When the docu was made, Scotty was already 92 years old, wrinkled and blotched but still up and about, driving his own car and even going up the rooftop of his garage to fix something. He’s happy he stayed long enough to see gay marriages being allowed in California. 

Since you have to keep a squeaky clean image then, celebrities and studio big wheels cannot openly express their true selves and it’s Scotty who gives them an outlet for their secret desires and proclivities. Even sex researcher Alfred Kinsey sought his help to conduct some personal and social investigation about sex.

Scotty has a lively personality and obviously enjoys gossiping, as when he says matter of factly about Cary Grant and Randolph Scott: "I've been with them individually, and then both of them, what you'd call a three-way, and I also brought another buddy so there were four of us, you know, two and two." 

The docu shows a footage from the movie “My Favorite Wife”, where Cary Grant is seen openly admiring Randolph Scott’s body when the latter is just about to dive into the swimming pool. Scotty admits that as a child of 11, he was abused by a male neighbor and he later offered his services to several priests who gave him coins. 

The director, Matt Tyrnauer, suggests he became what he is because he’s the victim of sexual abuse. But Scotty quickly dismisses it with: “Nobody’s life is ruined by having their cock sucked.”

The docu ends with Scotty undergoing dialysis because his kidneys were damaged by anti-malaria medicines he took as a marine who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima during the Second World War. We read that he passed away in October of last year. 

You could say he really lived a very colorful (he is a hoarder who has collected so much clutter in his home and garage) and unforgettable life. He says his motto is he just wants to make people happy. And he seems like he’s not just hedonistically happy about this, but also actually proud of helping liberate stars from their closeted lives at a more innocent time when they were all much much younger.