By Chris Nashawaty
July 26, 2018 at 08:18 PM EDT
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Credit: Greenwich Entertainment

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

type
  • TV Show

It’s a shame that the titles The Celluloid Closet and Hollywood Babylon were already taken, because both would have been perfect substitutes for Matt Tyrnauer’s deliciously salacious new documentary, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.

The Scotty in the title is Scotty Bowers – a 91-year-old ex-Marine and L.A. hustler who, back in the 1940s and ‘50s, had a stealth alter-ego as a go-between for gay and bisexual Tinseltown luminaries and young-buck escorts. After returning from World War II, Bowers ran a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard which served as a sort of undercover brothel and Dionysian Shangri-La for image-conscious stars. Celebrities such as Cary Grant, Bette Davis, Cole Porter, Randolph Scott, Rock Hudson, Laurence Olivier, Janet Leigh, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and even the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were clients. And more than that, friends. They knew that they could trust Bowers – a gentleman pimp who could keep a secret. Until now, that is.

Adapted from Bowers’ 2012 memoir, Full Service, Tyrnauer’s dishy exposé follows the senior-but-still-frisky Bowers as he settles into his golden years alongside his long-suffering wife, who turns a blind eye to his tawdry past, if not his hoarder tendencies. Still, even in his nineties, Bowers is as impish as ever. He’s never more alive than when he’s indiscreetly spilling the sensational details of his past and the pasts of others. With a mop of curly white hair and a mischievous, satyr’s twinkle in his eyes, Bowers provides a corrective and a counter-narrative to the repressive, PR-massaged Golden Age of Hollywood – a dream factory built atop a mountain of lies and sanitized half-truths. He’s not just a name-dropper, but a master storyteller. Whether you believe every spicy morsel that drops from his lips is entirely up to you.

If you’ve already pored over Bowers’ book, there’s a bit of redundancy and repetitiveness to the gentleman hustler’s revelations. But honestly, who tires of hearing gossip about A-list gang bangs, fetishes, and hook-ups? Tyrnauer draws out his not-very-introspective subject with a fly-paper approach rather than a crowbar, and he lends Bowers both humanity and sympathy without ever judging him. That part is left up to you, which feels right. After all, Bowers never judged his famous friends either. He just saw his role as facilitating happiness. You can take issue with his outing dead celebrities who no longer have the chance to defend themselves. But Bowers is unapologetic, almost defiant. He did what he did and is who he is. He makes no bones about it. Not while he’s enjoying every last second of his long-belated close-up. B+

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

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  • TV Show
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