Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (documentary)

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
No, no. That's him in the middle.

“Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood” is the movie version of the 2012 memoir “Full Service,” in which George Albert “Scotty” Bowers shared juicy details about his decades-long pimping for Tinseltown celebrities. Shot by director Matt Tyrnauer (“Valentino: The Last Emperor”) back in 2012-14 (I don’t know why it took so long to get it released), the bawdy documentary shows the 90-year-old Bowers as a lifelong debaucher and raconteur who in the ’50s started using the Hollywood gas station where he worked as a trysting place for closeted actors willing to pay for the privilege of performing oral sex on attractive young men (friends of Bowers’, mostly straight, some of them old Marine buddies).

Bowers went on to play a Forrest Gump-like role in behind-the-scenes movie history, arranging same-sex dalliances for Cole Porter, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and scores of others. He sometimes joined the shenanigans, swinging both ways without ever applying a label to himself. He wasn’t officially a pimp because nobody paid him; he just made the introductions. Everybody knew him. He was at all the parties. (We see actual footage of a 1965 orgy!) He helped Alfred Kinsey in his pioneering research into sexuality. (“When Dr. Kinsey met me, he’d already heard about me,” Bowers says.)

The Hollywood historians interviewed here agree that Bowers’ tales jibe with the known facts — many of these “closeted” stars’ secret lives were open secrets at the time — and the talking heads also provide a neat mini-history of Hollywood repression, including fascinating details about the industry’s weirdly puritanical views on homosexuality.

More interesting, though, are the things we learn in the film’s second half about Bowers’ life, both past and present. He met his wife in 1980 and never told her about his previous adventures; she says she’s not going to read his book because she doesn’t want to know. He’s a hoarder, and his wife is concerned. There is tragedy in their past, and horrors from Bowers’ childhood that could fill a documentary by itself. All of this casts Scotty’s hedonism in a new light, turning him from a horny old goat with entertaining stories into a more sympathetic, even tragic figure (but the stories are still fun).

Crooked Marquee

B (1 hr., 38 min.; Not Rated, probably R for abundant profanity and sexual dialogue, a lot of nudity and sexual content.)