Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Scandalous: Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
The news this week that a woman in Indiana tried to have the documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood banned from the state library system brought two thoughts to mind: #1: thank goodness she failed, and #2: Scotty Bowers rocks.
For anyone unfamiliar with his scandalous story, former Marine Scotty Bowers landed in Hollywood during the Golden Age of moviemaking. He found work there as a bisexual escort and pimp to the stars. For years, Scotty operated out of a Hollywood gas station, helping his handsome former military friends make a buck, and offering closeted celebrities a safe space to explore their sexuality. According to Mr. Bowers’ memoir, Cary Grant, Vincent Price, Katherine Hepburn, Laurence Olivier, Rock Hudson, Gore Vidal (who publicly corroborated Bowers’ claims), and many others, all became frequent customers.
Director Matt Tyrnauer captured Bowers’ story on film with the documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood. Featuring extensive interviews with Bowers, as well as his friends, family, and even a few “fans,” the movie recounts Scotty’s bio and his philosophy of sexuality. For Scotty, sex and sexuality never held shame. Rather, he saw them as elements of the human experience that deserved celebration. He also loved what he did: the film depicts Bowers, then in his 90s, still working. The blue-eyed, affable, robust man in the film looks far too young for his age.
We’d love to know Scotty’s secret to his vitality…but we have a feeling we know what he’d say.
Though he may have become a celebrity in the twilight of his life, Scotty Bowers played important roles in both Hollywood and queer history. Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood pays homage to both the man and his contribution, even as it hints at darker, painful elements of Scotty’s past. That dimension only makes the man and his story all the more intriguing.
The forces of oppression would love to keep Scotty Bowers and his story confined to the shadows of history. Even in death, he refuses to stay in the closet.
Streams on Pluto, Amazon & Hulu.