By Brian Bixler
A lot of people might admit one of their guilty pleasures is reading a magazine or book that dishes the dirt on Hollywood stars. In his new book, Scotty Bowers (with Lionel Friedberg) doesn’t just dish the dirt; he gets down on all fours and rolls around in it, dragging the reputations of many beloved stars through the mud — or in the case of Charles Laughton and Tyrone Power, through something even filthier.
In “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars” Bowers paints a portrait of himself as the uber gigolo of Tinseltown during its Golden Age. It’s a book full of salacious stories, scurrilous at best and scatalogical at worst, about some of biggest icons of the silver screen. Sadly, none of his subjects (or victims, if you will) is still alive to refute or confirm his outlandish tales. That alone makes his accounts suspect.
One lifelong friend, the recently late author Gore Vidal, states on the book jacket that “Scotty doesn’t lie,” but any discerning reader will find this memoir to be literally incredible. A farm-raised Midwesterner and Marine who landed in Hollywood after WWII, Bower claims to have rubbed more than elbows with some of the greatest artistic, scientific, literary and political minds of the 20th century. His recollections in the book come off as distasteful if not borderline delusional. Even if they are true, they are moments that were certainly meant to remain private, but Bowers unapologetically recounts them in disgusting detail.
One of his claims is that playwright Tennessee Williams once wrote a book about Bowers’ life, but he asked the author to burn it because it made him “sound like the mother of all queens.” It would seem Bowers, now nearing 90, has chosen to set the record “straight” by telling his own story. Indeed, he reiterates throughout the book that he has been married, had a daughter and prefers sex with women; yet, most of his sexcapades in the book are with men. He puts on parade the usual suspects that any book dealing with gay Hollywood usually mentions — Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift, Tony Perkins, Tab Hunter, Noel Coward, Cole Porter and Cary Grant — but he throws in some surprises like Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and even the heterosexual misadventures of stars like Desi Arnez, Bob Hope, Vivien Leigh and Elsa Lanchester as well as plenty of producers, directors and B-listers whose names few people will remember. He drops so many names it’s a wonder he didn’t have a menage a trois with JFK and Marilyn Monroe. When he starts emptying his memory banks for something scandalous to write about Mae West and Gloria Swanson, the result is more pathetic than interesting.
And it isn’t just Hollywood royalty who receives his tarnishing treatment. He claims to have bedded the Duke of Windsor going so far as to say that his marriage to Wallis Simpson was a sham; that what is regarded as the love affair of the century was all a ruse because both of them were gay and the royal family colluded to create the myth to prevent a homosexual from ascending to the throne of England.
Even more far-fetched is a chapter that involves him meeting with former King Farouk of Egypt and persuading the monarch to share some of his massive pornography collection with Dr. Alfred Kinsey when the famed scholar was continuing his studies on human sexuality during the 1950s. Bowers recalls working closely with Kinsey to supply female interview subjects for the research with a convenient disclaimer that the two had an agreement that Bowers would never receive credit for his assistance in the landmark study.
While asserting his preference for intercourse with women, he is fast and loose with labels, declaring some of the rich and famous to be gay, then describing them as bisexual a few paragraphs later; and his stories are told with more than a hint of schoolboy braggadocio.
Learning the sex trade on the streets of Chicago, where he began hustling priests and married men, his Hollywood story begins, he says, when he was picked up by Walter Pidgeon for a sexual liaison while working at a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard. Before long the filling station became a reputed spot where stars and others could fulfill their every fetish, proclivity and depravity, thus giving Bowers the title for his book.
Dressing it up as some noble gesture, when he couldn’t do the job himself, Bowers says he never accepted “tips” for arranging sexual favors for the stars with others from his cadre of two-bit hustlers, whores and “straight” boys who were financially hard up. Perhaps this book is his way of cashing in to make up for the money he voluntarily missed out on back in the day.
Readers will be drawn to the title of this book out of prurient interest, but after turning the last page, they will feel like a participant in something so sleazy, they might feel the need for a shower. This book is a lot to swallow and should be read with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Brian Bixler is a writer and book reviewer who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla.