Scotty with actress Valerie Vernon and Constance Dowling in the 1950s.
Courtesy of Scotty Bowers archive.
In our October 2006 issue, in an article excerpted from Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, Vanity Fair outed Spencer Tracy. William Mann, the bookâ€™s author, told me his source for this information was a man who says he had sex with Tracy on numerous occasions at the cottage the star leased from George Cukor on the directorâ€™s estate. (The received explanation was that Tracy, a Catholic separated from his wife, shared the cottage with his lover, Katharine Hepburn.) Mann said that the man in question, whose name was Scotty, had become a well-known figure in certain Hollywood circles. He worked at a gas station on the corner of North Van Ness Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, out of which, he says, he and a cadre of his male and female friends serviced Hollywood celebritiesâ€”many of them closeted homosexuals. Mann was assured he could totally trust Scotty by the late Cukorâ€™s longtime secretary. Scotty agreed to cooperate with Mann on the condition that his last name be withheld, because he was married.
His full name, Scotty Bowers, appeared in 2012 on the cover of his autobiography, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, co-written with Lionel Friedberg and produced by literary agent David Kuhn, a former V.F. editor under Tina Brown. The book alternated chapters of Scottyâ€™s valiant service in the Marines during World War II with chapters of his sexual exploits with his clients and close friends in the film industry. His long, startling list included, in addition to Tracy and Hepburn, Cary Grant, Tyrone Power, Rock Hudson, Charles Laughton, Raymond Burr, Vincent Price, Cole Porter, and Vivien Leigh.
Someone else who could have been on that list was Gore Vidal, whose editor at V.F. was Matt Tyrnauerâ€”before Tyrnauer turned full-time to directing and producing documentary films. Vidal encouraged him to option Scottyâ€™s book, because everyone in the know, he said, knew that every word in it was true. Dominick Dunne also vouched for Scottyâ€™s veracity to Tyrnauer.
The resulting product is Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, which was a hot ticket at the Toronto Film Festival, and which opens at the ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles on July 27 and at the IFC Center in New York on August 3.
The film depicts the manâ€”who has long been designated a pander, a bawd, a male madam, a pimpâ€”as he is today, an endearing 95-year-old hoarder, living with his second wife, a roadhouse singer. He fills up two housesâ€”one of them bequeathed to him by a wealthy male loverâ€”and multiple garages with his memorabilia. He speaks lovingly of his first wife and their daughter, who died young, and he phones his nephew to ask him not to let his mother see her brotherâ€™s autobiographyâ€”â€śIt would upset her.â€ť Speaking of his only other sibling, the brother killed in World War II, he breaks down in tears. An animal lover, Scotty puts out pet food at night for the skunks and raccoons in his neighborhood.
Itâ€™s no wonder that Alfred Kinsey studied this man intensively. He is not in the least embarrassed about giving pleasure through sex for $20 a pop. He is not even ready to blame dozens of priests who used him for sex when he was a kid in Chicago. He visits a few of his old colleagues in the sex business, and they all seem to feel the same. They provided a safety zone for people whose careers would have been ruined if the truth about them emerged in the decades before gay rights and the AIDS crisis. Above all, Scotty insists that he would never have considered exposing a single one of them when they were alive.
He talks at length about Hepburn and Tracy: â€śThey were merely friends. . . . They were not in the bed department together at all.â€ť He says Tracy, drunk, would ask him to spend the night, and then, the next morning, would act as if nothing had happened. Asked whether he really obtained 150 female sex partners for Hepburn, he replies, â€śRemember, this was over a period of 39 yearsâ€”almost 50 years.â€ť Hepburnâ€™s lesbianism is confirmed on camera by the late gossip columnist Liz Smith. (William Mann and Stephen Fry also appear as talking heads.)
The film is full of revelations. My personal favorite is Scottyâ€™s assessment of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. During their visits to L.A., they would stay in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, requesting Scotty to provide partners for themâ€”usually guys for him, girls for her. He says the duke was rather shy. The duchess called all the shots. â€śShe was a real ballsy chick,â€ť Scotty recalls.