Though there has been much written about whether iconic stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era were gay or bisexual, confirming the veracity of these allegations was nearly impossible during the period that the studios’ all-powerful publicity departments controlled every aspect of what the press printed about their commodities. But what if I told you that there was someone still living who had first hand knowledge of the sexual proclivities of many of the greatest stars of Hollywood’s past and had finally decided to spill the beans? Well, there is and he has: at last the secrets of the golden age of Hollywood have come out. His name is Scotty Bowers and his book Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Life of the Stars was published in 2012 by the reputable Grove Press.
Though it is by any estimation a tell-all memoir, Full Service scans less as gossip and more as pop culture/gay history. Bowers, who is now around ninety, offers an explanation for waiting this long to share his story that seems plausible enough: though he may have wanted to tell his story before, Bowers is a gentleman and he never would have betrayed the confidences of the people who became his friends. But as fate should have it, Bowers’ longevity has enabled him not only to outlive every single person he writes about but also to find a publisher. (Publishers are leery of litigation). Indeed, the book’s narrative sheds much light on the culture of Hollywood debauchery of yore and reminds the reader that although the people and places have changed, the essential character of the town has not. If anything, it was worse then.
How does the reader know if Bowers’ story is true? Well, he doesn’t, for sure, but I do. In addition to the fact that all the dates square with historical records and what is known or surmised about the people he writes about, the biggest reason that I believe every word of this book is that its narrative meshes with the stories that have been passed down through the years in gay circles. I know older gay men who sat at the feat of the subject’s themselves and heard the same stories Bowers recounts. People bore witness. The stories were retold. Anyone who has worked inside the beehive of Hollywood knows that subterfuge is as endemic to its DNA as sunshine, but if you are gay and of a certain age and have lived in L.A., you buy probably buy the veracity of Full Service (I suggest reading the comments on the Amazon page, many from people who personally know Bowers and vouch for his character). If you are person who prefers to believe that Cary Grant was straight, then nothing will convince you otherwise, and that’s okay.
“The three of us got into a lot of sexual mischief together over the years”
– Bowers on his relationship with alleged boyfriends Cary Grant and Randolph Scott
But it’s important that we as gay people know our history. Not because of the gossip factor, but so we can feel whole and understand that we have always been here. There is something intrinsically homophobic about being intractably invested in a star’s image as opposed to the facts. One truth is what the studios (and stars) frequently propagated. Another truth, perhaps a more factual version of the truth, is that without the protection of the Hollywood studios and in the age of TMZ, Cary Grant and his husband Randolph Scott would not have been able to keep their cohabitation secret for very long.
Scotty Bowers came to Los Angeles right out of the marines after World War II and took a job as the evening manager and “pump jockey” (what they used to call attendants at service stations) at the Hollywood Richfield Gas station, located at 5777 Hollywood Boulevard at the corner of Van Ness. It was March 1946 when Bowers caught the attention of closeted actor Walter Pidgeon as well as numerous technicians from the nearby studios who would stop at the station for gas and noticed the young, handsome marine and his coeterie of friends who passed the time there.
Bowers, who was primarily straight but gay for pay, began what might best be described as a very long-term and mutually beneficial side business connecting buyers and sellers. Bowers makes it very clear that he did not personally accept money for his introductions, only for his personal hook-ups which is, perhaps, why when someone said to director George Cukor that Scotty was a hustler, George replied “yes, but he’s also a gentleman!” Indeed, Scotty seems like one of those people who just really liked attention and liked to make people happy. I’ve met a few.
Though the book has gotten some mainstream coverage, including a big piece in the New York Times and a nice segment on CBS Sunday Morning, I’m disappointed that Full Service wasn’t covered more extensively, which is why I’ve taken the time to share some of my thoughts. From my perspective, in the end it’s important that the truth comes out. After all, this is not only the story of the famous names, but also the story of Scotty Bowers; just because he is quite old now and the book is not very well-written doesn’t mean it isn’t important to be respectful of his story.
Here are but a few of the book’s assertions:
“I tricked with Vinny for years. Sex with him was pleasant, unhurried, gentle…in 1974 he would marry Australian-born actress Coral Browne. She worked primarily in England and although she was a dyke—I know because I would fix her up with many tricks with young women in future years—the couple were devoted to one another. They had virtually no sex life together but they cared deeply for each other.”
“We were attracted to one another and tricked often…we had many long, steamy sessions together.”
“One evening…at yet another party where I was bartending, Maxene Andrews walked in arm and arm with a girlfriend. Maxene was a lesbian and quite open about it.”
In this photo, l. to r., the Andrews sisters are: Maxene, Patti, and LaVerne.
The actor’s homosexuality has long been an established fact—it was corroborated openly by Laughton’s widow, Elsa Lanchester, with whom he shared a clearly devoted, though sexless marriage until his death. What is certainly not as well known and, to be honest, a little too nasty to be repeated here, were some of the actor’s sexual pecadillos. This may be the one instance in the book where I felt that I may have actually been better off not knowing less.
Bowers met the famous director while he was directing A Double Life, which would put the year at around 1947. Cukor became a long-time client of the author’s and frequently included him at events at his legendary estate on Cordell drive in West Hollywood, where Bowers got to know the top level of gay society in the 1940s and 1950s. Bowers also worked for years as a bartender at private parties populated by the same people he procured for; variations on a theme, I suppose.
Bowers’ stories about the legendary songwriter are fascinating and of particular interest. Not surprsingly, the Kiss Me Kate composer had a big thing for Marines.
Guilaroff was truly the hairdresser to the stars, counting everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Judy Garland among his regular clients. God only know what secrets he was privvy to. Bowers tricked with him regularly. Interestingly, Guilaroff was the first unmarried man in the United States allowed to adopt a child, who he named Jon (after Joan Crawford). If naming your son after Joan Crawford isn’t tantamount to outing yourself, then, pray tell, what is?
Bowers affirms the handsome stars bisexuality, adding that he preferred men. Scotty describes Powers as “an exceptionally nice man.”
Cary Grant and Randolph Scott:
Bowers devotes a great deal of space to this couple, whose relationship has been widely speculated about for years. Of course Grant was one of the most famous leading men of all-time. His boyfriend Randolph Scott, though less well-known today, was a major star who worked with some of the great directors and leading ladies including Mae West, Marlene Dietrich and Irene Dunne. According to the author, the couple enjoyed a healthy sex life as a threesome that lasted over many years. While he admired both men, he emphasizes his especially warm feelings toward Scott, whom he describes as exceedingly kind. He goes on to say:
“I really liked those two men and they were obviously very good for one another. In future years I would be seeing a lot of them. Theirs was a relationship that would last a long time, with the two of them eventually sharing a home together behind the familiar Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood as well as a Malibu beach house. I don’t know if their wives ever knew what was going on between them. I never asked…the three of us got into a lot of sexual mischief together.”
Oddly, Grant and Scott were photographed extensively together in their homes and if “a picture is worth a thousand words,” these photographs would certainly seem to substantiate Carole Lombard’s famous quip that they had the “best marriage in Hollywood.” What do you think?
According to Bowers, Tracy: “Lived in George Cukor’s guest house on Cordell Drive in the mid-1950s. He needed to drink to have sex. His phony romance with Hepburn was a movie within a movie. Tracy drank more than anyone I’d ever seen except Errol Flynn.”
Bowers assertions about Hepburn are particularly touching and extremely controversial. People just don’t want to think of the great Hepburn as a lesbian, but Bowers stories about Kate have been corroborated by several major biographers. He writes:
“Over the next fifty years Katharine Hepburn and I would become the very best of friends. In the course of time I would fix her up with over 150 different women. Most of them she would only see once or twice…but there was one exception. There was a very cute little 17-year-old trick that I set Kate up with early in our friendship. The girl’s name was Barbrara. Kate became infatuated with her…shortly after they started seeing one another Kate bought her a brand-new two-toned Ford Fairlane as a gift. Kate saw Barbrara off and on for just over 49 years. Kate lived out east most of the time but Barbara remained here in California. Three months before dear Kate passed away in June 2003 Barbara—who had married no less than three times during that period—received a letter from Kate’s attorneys. With the letter was a check for $100,000.”
“I arranged many ladies for Hughes. Any arrangement I made for him had to be treated with the utmost confidentiality. Howard was as straight as an arrow and really liked women but, ironically, he hardly ever had sex with them. He was so fanatically fussy about his own health…if, heaven forbid, she had even the tiniest blemish or a pimple he simply would not touch her.”
Bowers’ anecdotes about heterosexual Flynn are both startling and expected. In addition to alcohol consumption at an almost impossible levels (Flynn was dead from alcoholism by 50), the author details the actor’s predilection for “young stuff.” “I don’t care if she has to be 18, just as long as she looks and behaves like someone between, well, let’s say 14 and 16.”
Edward Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson:
Full Service chronicles how Scotty procured liaisons for both Edward and Wallis whenever they were in Los Angeles. According to Bowers, they were both bisexual and, more suprisingly, none of the assignations ever suspected who they were.
“Larry often came to town from his native England. Even though he was married he secretly harbored a liking for boys. When he was here alone he would frequently call me up and ask me to arrange for a busty blonde and a well-hung guy to make up a threesome with him. Each time I sent a couple over to his hotel room…he would ask for a different girl but, quite often, he would request the same guy.”
“…she fancied me and I had the hots for her. While she was making A Streetcar Named Desire, Larry signed to do a film called Carrie, for director William Wyler so the couple were not consistently together, and Vivien often came around to George Cukor’s place for dinner alone…you seldom get a roll in the hay like you did with Vivien Leigh.”
According the book, the famous comic was a “very nice man…always very discreet about his extramarital affairs…I fixed him up with a lot of hookers, many of them high class, expensive ladies.”
You may also enjoy:
The First Sex Experiences of Celebrities
Torch Song Elegy, Volume 1: The Man that Got Away—How The Loss of a Generation of Gay Men Affected Our Ears as Well as Our Hearts
Torch Song Elegy, Volume 2: How to Reduce 20th-Century Gay History to a Stereotype in Three Lines or Less
SherwinNovember 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm
Wow ! Thanks. I bought “Full Service” months ago. If I had read your article first, I would not have had had to buy the book. Your review was fantastic.
hudleyflipsideFebruary 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm
I don’t care what they did… their films are great. I must say that at one time in my life , when young, I considered the movie business and /or prostitution.. (are they not both the same?).. but I decided that I had a lot more integrity than that…sad but sweet story..
David MunkFebruary 20, 2014 at 10:25 pm
I’m laughing as I’m typing! I would agree with your estimation that the line can be quite thin sometimes. thank you so much for reading. I hope you’ll stay in touch. David
BettyJuly 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm
Scotty Bowers is lying so much it isn’t funny. Dates he claims certain stars were doing those secret tryst have been proven false as they weren’t even in the country. Now really, can anyone take seriously the claim that a 2 bit pimp was chosen by the Duke and Dutchess of Winsdor? Will all of their security? People are so naive and spend their money on trash.
David MunkJuly 22, 2014 at 9:03 pm
Hi Betty. Thanks for chiming in. For what it’s worth, here’s my opinion: exactly because I am cynical I believe most of what Mr. Bowers writes; because public relations as a business exists to propagate falsehoods and untruths; because I know older gay men in Los Angeles who vouch for the veracity not just of Mr. Bowers but who have had first hand experiences with some of the people in the book. If there is one narrative that is more reliable than fiction created by the studios and press agents over the years, it’s the story passed down from older gay men to younger gay men through the years.
Having lived in Los Angeles and worked in entertainment my whole life, I believe little of what is officially communicated by stars themselves. At the end of the day, Hollywood is a dream factory and movie stars are liars. It’s their job to lie. Have you noticed that few go to rehab for heroin or cocaine? It’s always exhaustion or the much more sympathetic “dependence on prescription drugs.” Hollywood would ask you to believe that no one is a junkie.
As a culture, Hollywood (like Washington), has always been corrupt to its core. If anything, Mr. Bowers held back.
Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you’ll stay in touch.
ArthurAugust 8, 2014 at 11:03 pm
What a captivating review! Loved it! Many of the truths told here seem so “obvious” once they are revealed. And, unlike people, the photographs do not lie. Now I want some more!
David MunkAugust 15, 2014 at 11:47 pm
I agree with you 100% and with most of what Scotty wrote. It is not a well-written book, but I think it is earnest and (mostly) truthful. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts. It means so much to me.
Christine PenmarkeOctober 18, 2014 at 11:13 pm
I haven’t read the book as of yet but am looking forward to it! Would love to find out more about Judy Garland and her rather enormous appetite for sex!
David MunkOctober 19, 2014 at 3:36 pm
Hi Christine. I read the book a while back, but if memory serves I don’t think Judy is mentioned. Perhaps Vincente Minnelli was, though. It’s hard to recall because there the book is fairly dense with debauchery. By the way, I believed most of it.
john beggNovember 22, 2014 at 6:10 am
I liked your reference to Washington–called here “Hollywood for ugly people.”
The sexual element here is pretty much the same as in your review of out there, but as the English say:
“When you pull back the veil, they’re all bloody at it–all of them.”
The sinister element here is hard to match..although, I’m sure Hollywood can be sinister as well, in different ways, it’s just that here, the sinister element in primal…destroying other men’s lives if far, far more important, and arousing to us, than sex at Washington could ever be.
How’s that for perverse?
David MunkNovember 23, 2014 at 3:32 pm
With all that going for it, I can only assume that you have a very good reason for being there! At least LA had that stunning weather.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read Stargayzing and sharing your thoughts. I hope you’ll stay in touch.
Rafael StormDecember 3, 2014 at 6:09 pm
The book is a badly written, unbelievable series of fictitious anecdotes about a slew of people, all of whom are dead and can’t answer Bowers’ assertions. If you believe it wholeheartedly, simply because the dates can be verified on the net, remember that Bowers (or his editor) was able to do exactly the same thing. It’s hardly revelatory to read that Cukor and Porter were gay, but Bowers seriously crosses the line with his assertions about some of the others. I can’t imagine the patrician Kate Hepburn having anything whatsoever to do with a street hustler like Bowers, and as far as that claim about the letter and check to Bowers’ female client from Kate in 2003, where are the photocopies? This one would have been SO easy for him to prove, and since he didn’t, I believe everything that’s in his vile book is a lie. Some of these performers were indeed closeted gay, as I believe that Hepburn and Tracy were, but I don’t think he had a single experience with any of these folks. Would Walter Pidgeon, a longtime contract player at M-G-M, the strictest studio when it came to enforcing the morals clauses in its stars’ contracts, use a gas station attendant and total stranger to be his pimp?
(P.S. A word to the wise for all of us who enjoy writing in public: there’s a big difference between the plural and possessive, so we should all be very careful about how and where we place and use that apostrophe and those “s”s.)
David MunkDecember 3, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Thank you for reading Stargayzing and taking the time to comment. For the record, I don’t believe Bowers’ assertions merely because the dates can be verified, I believe them, in large part, because of the oral history that has been passed down to some of my older gay friends in LA (many of whom knew Bowers and the extended cast of characters). I think it is very hard for people to hear negative things about people they idolize, but if there is one thing I know from personal experience working in the music business in LA and NY for over twenty years, the truth is often far worse than anything people would want to believe about there idols and there is no level of deception that is too great in show business.
The names, faces, and addresses may have changed in the last hundred years, but I believe that the culture of excess, nihilism, and mendacity has always defined the general character of Hollywood. As for my punctuation, I appreciate your sort of snarky advice and assure you that I am doing my very best to make Stargayzing read as professionally as possible. It is difficult sometimes to not make mistakes because I am one person shouldering the entire enterprise and things fall through the cracks. This is not an excuse for mistakes, just an explanation—and I will re-read the piece once more. I guess as a gay man “s”s have given me trouble from time to time.
Thanks again for your passionate response.
MeMarch 13, 2015 at 9:40 am
All is correct I didnt read the book, but hollywood is filthy and discusting and totally against Jesus Christ and almighty God!!! So yeah I believe this book and that many actors are gay and sold their soul to satan for hollywood. It doesnt take a rocket scientist to see this!!!
David MunkMarch 18, 2015 at 12:24 am
I agree with your conclusion but not at all with your reasoning. Being gay isn’t selling your soul to Satan and, if it is, why are you reading a blog with the word Gay right in the middle?
Joe SchwartzMarch 19, 2015 at 3:32 am
Clearly a lot of Hollywood stars were/are gay and have legitimate cause to keep that aspect of their lives secret. That’s still a sad fact of life common to people everywhere and even more so for those in the public eye. But that truth doesn’t legitimize the outlandish tales and outright terrible stories this “Gentleman Hustler” spins for his own enrichment and celebrity. No gentleman, let alone friend and confidant would ever tell such “stories out of school” as we say down here, so that moniker can be done away with from the start. That to a person everyone of his “clients” are dead and can’t answer these salacious accounts, the Charles Laughton story springs to mind, not only calls Bowers’ veracity into question but seems all the more reason to let the stories remain secret whether they are true or not.
David MunkMarch 19, 2015 at 6:36 pm
You bring up some valid points, Joe. Laughton’s sexuality was not debatable, it was openly shared by his wife Elsa Lanchester, which doesn’t make the particular story true. All I can say is that if Bowers was simply seeking celebrity I doubt he would have waited until he was so very on in years.
Sharing his assertions doesn’t make them true, it only makes them his assertions. I happen to personally feel that some of them are true; that has been confirmed by older friends in LA he knew him as well as some of the subjects. It’s interesting to discuss, in any event, and I am grateful you took the time to comment.
JaneMay 21, 2016 at 5:12 pm
Ridiculous glory hound. It’s not hard to pull dates and names together. While it was pretty well known that Hollywood was wild at the time, this guy was basically a nobody who claims to have slept with every star at the time and decides to tell all once they’ve all died and can’t dispute it. Does nobody seem to think that’s odd? He’s looking for his 10 minutes of glory of having written his own version of the National Enquirer before he checks out of this life. Crazy.
David MunkMay 22, 2016 at 1:03 am
Hi Jane…several of my older gay friends in LA confirm the veracity of the book. I’m more curious about the emotional placement of your reaction, as saying that someone was gay or bisexual is not a bad thing, is it?
DianeApril 4, 2019 at 4:54 am
In inclined to believe statements from Mr. Bowers except that of Tyrone Powers. To say he preferred men with nothing to back that up is observ
DianeApril 4, 2019 at 5:03 am
I’m inclined to believe these statements from Mr. Bowers, except that of Tyrone Power. To simply say, “he preferred men” is absurd.
He has nothing substantial whatsoever to back up his claim. Tyrone married several times and his whole career was centered around women…he adored them.
David MunkMay 14, 2019 at 4:47 am
I adore women too and my life has centered around them to a great extent, though I prefer men. Your position defending his heterosexuality seems to describe me as well. Thanks for responding. David
Kimberley VanderlindenJuly 27, 2019 at 9:32 pm
You know, the ancient Greeks and Romans had it right; they had sexual relationships with whomever they were attracted to, be it Male or female. We are just denying ourselves a natural, physical right by suppressing our sexuality and putting names and stereotypes on each other. I am from Canada and have heard whispers over many years of most of these stars, well before Mr. Bowers book was published. I found this to be very refreshing, and alot of the relationships to be very touching, I.e. cary grant and Randolph Scott for one. People need to open their eyes and hearts to more things than the relationships between movie stars if we ever want any truths to be told!
David MunkSeptember 9, 2019 at 11:28 am
I enjoyed your thoughtful comments. It is always so fascinating to me how stars and celebrities are, in the end, just objects for us to project our needs, fantasies, and dreams. When a fan doubles downs on a belief about a star as if it were impossible he or she is gay, it’s as if the star is no longer human and instead exists primarily as a vessel to the fan’s particular psychological needs. In the end, there is no agreement, just a relationship between the fan and himself (or, to be more specific, his unconscious.)
Thanks for reading,