George Albert “Scotty” Bowers–best known to the public for the explicit tales of mid-century Hollywood trysts that he carried in secret until his later years–died at his home in Laurel Canyon on Sunday, a source has told the Hollywood Reporter. Bowers grew up during the Great Depression, and served as a Marine during World War II–but after the war, he would find his niche, providing an outlet for sexual expression to stars for whom being discovered as gay could have dire consequences.
“His story, which he waited to tell until he was in his late 80s—and for years refused to tell at all—forms an astonishing counter-narrative of Hollywood and exposes the mores of the movie capital in a time when gay men and women were forced to be sexual outlaws and were publicly shunned and often persecuted, or at least forced to live double lives,” said Matt Tyrnauer, who directed Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, a documentary about Bowers’ life.
Bowers’s Hollywood story began in 1946, when he arrived in Los Angeles and found a job as an attendant at a Richfield Oil station at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue. He recalled in his 2012 memoir, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, that one fateful night Canadian actor Walter Pidgeon stopped by the station, and suggested Bowers hop in with him and go for a ride. That ride turned into an affair, which quickly turned into a thriving business.
Pidgeon would pass Bowers’s name around amongst a circle of friends–and soon Bowers was making matches between celebrity clientele and a network of male and female sex workers. He installed a trailer behind the gas station to host the liaisons, though business was brisk enough that it would eventually expand to a nearby motel, and to the homes of Hollywood’s elite. Bowers claimed he had a client roster that included Carry Grant, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Rock Hudson, Cole Porter, Tyrone Power, George Cukor, Lana Turner, Laurence Olivier, Ava Gardner, and even J. Edgar Hoover.
While Bowers has been labeled a “pimp” or even “male madame,” he insisted that he never accepted cash for his encounters with celebrities or the meetings he facilitated. Rather, he described what he offered as a discrete “introduction service.” He claimed that any money he made from his famous clients came from working as a personal assistant, landscaper, or private party bartender. His clients and friends tipped generously for those odd jobs; actor Beach Dickerson bequeathed Bowers three houses, and cinematographer Néstor Almendros gave him the Oscar statuette he won for Days of Heaven.
Some have questioned if all of Bowers’s stories are true, but, as Todd McCarthy writes in a review of the 2017 documentary, they may be more fact than fiction. “At a certain point, anyone who reads Bowers’ book or sees this film has to decide whether to believe him or not,” McCarthy notes. “At this stage, there is no reason not to; Scotty does not seem remotely like a braggart or someone desperate for a sliver of late-in-life fame.”
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