The new gay memoir of the moment is Full Service, outlining the life and times of Scotty Bowers, a Hollywood “fixer” in the 1940s and ’50s. He matched beautiful young people up for sex with movie stars, judges, doctors, lawyers, and other social leaders. He did this, he says, to make people happy.
Sometimes this is called being a pimp.
He was a good-looking kid. First picked up by actor Walter Pidgeon while working at a gas station, this newly discharged Marine had been making money for sex with men since childhood. He liked sex so much that he refused to discriminate between men and women, taking both to bed as long as a “tip” was offered. As an added advantage, every time he was picked up by someone famous he also met others equally, or more, famous.
Sometimes this is called prostitution.
Bowers used his employer’s gas station for sexual games without permission, and had a van parked behind it so he could offer a safe location for sex acts. He also worked as a bartender at private parties, priding himself on his ability to stir drinks with his erect member.
Quite the playah, yes?
And by his own account, he “knew everybody who was anybody,” because people who benefitted from his matchmaking services recommended him to others. This brave entrepreneur even found himself sitting down to dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, then having a foursome with them.
He allegedly arranged for more than 150 beautiful brunettes to spend time with Katharine Hepburn, who was by no means the love of Spencer Tracy’s life. Even Spence, when in his cups, could find himself attracted by Bowers’s sleek, well-tended muscles. He writes that the whole Tracy-Hepburn romance was a PR cover to shield them from prying media.
As for his own conquests, he lists a formidable group of A-listers, and suggests he was particularly close to Tyrone Power, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, and others who have long been the topic of “are they/aren’t they?” rumors in the gay community. Think of a major artist in the film business during this period, and Bowers is most likely eager to drop that name.
Women, straight and gay, also wanted sexual partners vetted by Bowers. Young, attractive lesbians wanted to be matched with the major stars they’d heard were gay—a Hepburn or Crawford; handsome men also knew their fortunes could be made if they could gain access to the likes of Rock Hudson, Tennessee Williams, Cecil Beaton, or the Duke of Windsor.
All this time, Bowers was married and had a daughter—though he rarely went home at nights, preferring to stay in the luxurious houses of his vast clientele. He emphasizes that he took very good care of his wife, providing shelter and food, even if he was not interested enough to be home with her.
The arrival of the AIDS epidemic took the fun and funds out of Scotty’s life. By the time this devastating disease was spreading, Hollywood’s studio system was dead—as were many of the stars, designers, writers, directors, and producers of Hollywood’s “Golden Age.”
A memoir is always a chancy read. Does the author really have important lessons to share, or important new information about his life and times? Good autobiographers have a special interest in the truth.
I can only recommend this book to those old enough to remember the magical artists Bowers discusses, and who also want to know about the sexual eccentricities they favored.
Hardcore Hollywood trivia-buffs may find that the only original tidbit in this book is Bowers’s use of the phrase “I tricked him” rather than “I tricked with him.” He was attractive and engaging enough to keep in touch with celebrities, yet wound up broke. He protests again and again that he never charged for his matchmaking services, and only took “tips” from his own clients.
Perhaps he’s trying to trick his readers?
Kit van Cleave is a freelance writer living in Montrose. She has published in local, national, and international media.