The Reel Review
In 2012, after decades of discretion, Scotty Bowers, the man who unabashedly loved sex and ran a brothel to the stars out of a Hollywood Boulevard gas station in the 1940s, published a tell-all book, “Full Service,” about how he procured sex for the film industry’s MANY closeted gay celebrities. This 2017 documentary is the story of his life. And yes, with all his clients now long dead, Scotty names names.
During the first few minutes of director Matt Tyrnauer’s film, Bowers squeezes his wife’s breasts and with a twinkle in his eye, gives the camera an impish grin. That is Scotty in a nutshell – a once dashing Marine paramedic who, at 23, moved to Hollywood after WWII, got a job as a gas station attendant, and within minutes he says he was turning his first trick with Oscar-nominated actor Walter Pidgeon. Combining interviews with his fellow hustlers (who corroborate Bowers’ claims), we are treated to home videos, old photographs, and some pretty salacious details about the sex lives of celebrities from Hollywood’s Golden Era.
Bowers rattles off the names of customers and sexual conquests like reciting a telephone book – Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Cary Grant AND Randolph Scott, Cole Porter, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, and Britain’s Duke and Duchess of Windsor (or “Wally and Eddie” as he affectionately called them), just to name a few.
The information is fascinating, although the film itself has a choppiness to it that could have benefitted from a lot more of the upbeat stories of Bowers’ exploits and a lot less of the ickier details of his Depression-era, sex-fueled childhood and the sadder, final years as a Grey Gardens-styled hoarder.
Regardless, the film is still a fascinating, oddly nostalgic glimpse inside an era of sexual repression as well as a myth-busting reminder that celebrities are just people. You’ll just never look at Turner Classic Movies the same way again.
• Scotty Bowers died of kidney failure in his home in Los Angeles on October 13, 2019 at the age of 96. His wife Lois died the year before, at 85.
• Prior to her own death at age 94 in 2017, Hollywood journalist Liz Smith affirmed that Katherine Hepburn was a lesbian.
• Joan Allemand, former arts director of the Beverly Hills Unified School District, on her longtime friend: “Scotty doesn’t lie about anything. He’s a poor kid from a farm in Illinois, and when he got here, his two assets were his big penis and charming personality. That’s what he used to feed his family.”