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.
Loved the book.
The documentary is great too.
Yes it was a great book and a great Documentary. As far as Gore Vidal corroborating the contents gives it a lot of creedence.
It was an excellent read but was unaware there was a documentary, definitely will search for it.
At one point the documentary was free on Amazon but I think there is a rental fee now. Your public library might have it though. It is well worth watching.
If you have Hulu, I just checked it’s on there.
I read the book, but I didn’t see the documentary. It was interesting. In a free society, public libraries should provide reading materials, videos, etc., for everyone’s tastes because all of the taxpayers – gay and straight – are funding them.
Sounds like the gay version of Heidi Fleiss the Hollywood madam who arranged discreet encounters for some of Hollywood’s best known players. That being said the old adage of confidentiality is timeless to say the least as betraying a trust is never done by classy people.. Even though the players in this are all dead, what’s the point of bringing up past trysts of so called ‘stars’?
This is similar to the story of Sally Stanford, the notorious San Francisco madam who operated several high class brothels in San Francisco from the 1930’s to the 1950’s that had many powerful San Francisco movers and politicians as clients and at that time discretion was most important and expected. Sally Stanford operated openly and never was busted due the the secrecy agreements she had between the local big shots as if they made things difficult for her, she had dirt on many of the top guns that could destroy careers. She ‘retired’ and became the mayor of Sausalito and eventually opened a restaurant on Bridgeway in Sausalito called ‘the Valhalla’
The woman that wanted it banned was in Lafayette, Louisiana, not Indiana.
The Accidental Polemicist
Have the book, saw the movie.
Being a fan of older Hollywood, I enjoyed them both.
“So called stars” in their day they were not so called and are to this day part of Hollywoods Golden Age. These celebrities are dead. No one is hurt. Point is mute.
It is also free on YouTube.
Gordon of the Bassets
I think that Scotty’s enterprise is discreetly referenced in Dionne Warwick’s song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” – All the stars that never were are parking cars and pumping gas.
A song written by Burt Bacharach — who had his own rumors of gay trysts.
Read the book (called “Full Service”) and saw the doc. Both are good but the book was more detailed and fun.
Ryan Murphy also made a series called Hollywood about it. It was actually pretty good.
Ryan took a lot of liberties to make it a fairy tale, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Troll rehab alert.
The right wing troll account brought in FOUR of it’s screenames to post mild, non negative comments trying to get people to forget they are screenames for the same old anti-LGBTQ troll account.
So @MarcyMayer, @Caddy4J, @winemaker, and @The Accidental Polemicist, just letting you know that you aren’t subtle.
The documentary was great, and I loved that Gore Vidal and others back him up when everyone tried to come out and say this never happened.