Monday, January 30, 2012

New tell-all book reveals sexual exploits of Old Hollywood

Brooks Barnes writes for The New York Times:

Straight actors who wanted to pay for sex in the 1990s had Heidi Fleiss. Gay ones during the late 1940s and beyond apparently had Scotty Bowers.

His story has floated through moviedom’s clubby senior ranks for years: Back in a more golden age of Hollywood, a guy named Scotty, a former Marine, was said to have run a type of prostitution ring for gay and bisexual men in the film industry, including A-listers like Cary Grant, George Cukor and Rock Hudson, and even arranged sexual liaisons for actresses like Vivien Leigh and Katharine Hepburn.

Now, he’s talking.

Mr. Bowers, 88, recalls his highly unorthodox life in a ribald memoir scheduled to be published by Grove Press on Feb. 14, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Written with Lionel Friedberg, an award-winning producer of documentaries, it is a lurid, no-detail-too-excruciating account of a sexual Zelig who (if you believe him) trawled an X-rated underworld for over three decades without getting caught.

“I’ve kept silent all these years because I didn’t want to hurt any of these people,” Mr. Bowers said recently over lemonade on his patio in the Hollywood Hills, where he lives in a cluttered bungalow with his wife of 27 years, Lois. “And I never saw the fascination. So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares?”

“I don’t need the money,” he continued. “I finally said yes because I’m not getting any younger and all of my famous tricks are dead by now. The truth can’t hurt them anymore.”

Twenty-six years after Hudson’s death from AIDS and more than four decades after Hollywood Babylon was first published, it will come as a surprise to no one that the images the movie factories created for stars of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s — when Mr. Bowers was most active — were just that: images. The people who fed the world strait-laced cinema like The Philadelphia Story and perfect-family television like I Love Lucy were often quite the opposite of prudish in private.


At the same time, a lot of what Mr. Bowers has to say is pretty shocking. He claims, for instance, to have set Hepburn up with “over 150 different women.” Other stories in the 286-page memoir involve Spencer Tracy, Cole Porter, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and socialites like the publisher Alfred A. Knopf. “If you believe him, and I do, he’s like the Kinsey Reports live and in living color,” said Mr. Tyrnauer, who recently completed a deal to make a documentary about Mr. Bowers.

Full Service at the very least highlights how sharply the rules of engagement for reporting celebrity gossip have changed. The sexual shenanigans of movie stars were a currency for tabloids stretching back to Hollywood’s earliest days, but studios and, subsequently, squadrons of privately hired public relations experts could usually keep all but the most egregious behavior out of the news media. Secrets were kept.

A degree of that still goes on, of course, but it’s much harder to keep details as salacious as the ones Mr. Bowers outlines under wraps. Now all it takes is one pair of loose lips for TMZ to beam all manner of embarrassing information around the globe.
The people behind the memoir, including Mr. Bowers’s agent, David Kuhn, and Morgan Entrekin, the publisher of Grove/Atlantic, insist that Full Service is not a prurient tell-all, but instead provides a window into an erased, forgotten and denied past of Los Angeles. In his pitch to publishers, Mr. Kuhn positioned it as no less than a tale about “the complex and conflicted psychosexual history of America’s soul.”

The rest of the NYT write-up can be read here.

Photo captions: Above, Scotty Bowers after his return from his first posting abroad (1944). Below, Bowers now 88, at his Hollywood Hills bungalow, where he lives with his wife.

No comments: