Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The pimp to the stars

Have you heard of this guy – Scotty Bowers? He has a book out called FULL SERVICE and there’s a documentary about him making the rounds on the art house circuit. He is 95 and still telling tales.

Scotty Bowers was a WWII combat veteran who drifted into LA after the war, and as a young man in his 20’s got a job pumping gas at a Richfield station in Hollywood. One day actor Walter Pidgeon pulls into the station, takes a liking to him and invites him back to his place for a dip in his pool. You can figure out the rest.

From there Bowers serviced many celebs and notables – both men and women. And became the pimp to the stars – running all of this out of the gas station. He enlisted his Marine buddies and young women who needed money. Now I know why they call them the “ Fabulous Fifties.”

A friend of his needed a place to store his mobile home and Scotty arranged for it be in the back of the station. For eight hours a night the shock absorbers on that thing were severely tested.

The book is outrageous and he names names. Ever wondered why the great Cole Porter would ask for fourteen guys at a time? What bizarre shit the Duke & Duchess were into? How Vivian Leigh was in bed? What it would be like to be in a threesome with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner (at Sinatra’s house no less)? The real relationship between Spencer Tracy and Kate Hepburn? If you’re to believe this book, Scotty Bowers slept with EVERYBODY, Oscar-winning actresses and Noel Coward. Tennessee Williams wrote a biography about him (that Scotty asked him not to publish). Oh yeah, and he once did J. Edgar Hoover.

And this is just scratching the surface. Is all of this true? I doubt it. But if even HALF of it is true – WOW! Lots of dish and also a real look into the gay world of homophobic Hollywood back then; a heartbreaking world to be sure.

The documentary, called SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD, is disappointing. Most of the movie is just following him around today. Sorry but not interesting. I want to hear more about Cary Grant. I want to see selfies of Scotty in the sack with Lana and Ava.

I of course only read the book because of my historical fascination with mid-century Los Angeles. But it is pretty insane.

Scotty Bowers is the ultimate name and pants dropper.


Peter said...

I wonder who'll be writing the book in a few decades about today's closeted stars. We know who some of them are. Sad that they don't feel they can live openly and honestly.

As for a threesome with Lana and Ava, if he's telling the truth, then I truly hate that man for having had that experience. No fair!

E. Yarber said...

Unfortunately, Bowers will go into highly specific details about dates and places that can easily be checked and debunked. Like HOLLYWOOD BABYLON and other scandal-mongering books, these stories are largely mythical.

There used to be a subset of scripts that would make the rounds involving biopics of classic Hollywood stars that invariably featured extensive sex scenes. I always felt queasy reading them because I got the impression that the writers wanted a studio and actors to reenact their peculiar fantasies rather than actually explore the lives of the figures involved.

I'm not saying there wasn't plenty of wild stuff going on, but that there's one school that tries to research and figure out what actually happened while another goes over the top with speculation. Who's dying on the cover of the ENQUIRER this week?

I still can't get rid of the image of Marilyn Monroe and Jack Benny making the rounds of nude beaches together from an old book by a guy who claimed that J. Edgar Hoover turned into a drag queen every time the newsreel cameras were away.

Matt said...

"For eight hours a night the shock absorbers on that thing were severely tested."
"Scotty Bowers is the ultimate name and pants dropper." 😂

I am fascinated by Hollywood. When I was casually browsing thru many articles I came across this on Scotty Bowers' book -

The story about Charles Laughton was truly disgusting.

Currently I am reading a book about 70s Hollywood by Peter Biskind. That decade must have been horrible with all the drugs, infidelity etc...

Most shocking was the way cocaine was used. They used leave a line on the table as tips for the waiters.

And women just about slept with anyone for a movie role.

Amy Irving sleeping with half of Hollywood to make Spielberg jealous and then his insecurity was such that he finally married her.

But the person who really takes the top spot has to be Don Simpson.

Injecting fat into his penis to make it look "weildy". Forcing each and ever actress of his movies to sleep with him before they got the role. Demi Moore, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman come to my mind.

And actresses too didn't mind. Very pathetic people.

I guess and hope, all of that is over with the #metoo movement or are things still the same behind closed doors?

Elf said...

Sounds like the perfect guest for Gilbert Gottfried's podcast, which I'm amazed Ken has not done yet.

Devlin Thompson said...

Journalist Larry Harnisch went through and fact checked it in detail and pretty well demolished it. His multi-part study is an interesting read in its own right:

Matt said...

From the few books I have read I can tell that there are 2 types of books.

Books of insiders like Peter Bart, Lynda Obst, Julia Phillips, Joe Eszterhas. The insiders book always stays clear of saying anything. They paint a rosy picture of mutual love. Women crazy about the men in power and "willingly sleeping" with them and casual flings on the location.

Books by Outsiders like Peter Biskind, Scotty Bowers, Charles Fleming are the ones which paint the real picture of casting couch, forced BDSM and debauchery in the name of being an "artist".
Even if half of what the outsiders say is true, then still Hollywood is a land of degenerates.

But who knows, if I was part of them, I too would probably be like them.

Craig Gustafson said...

I read Bowers's book a couple of years ago. Waiting until you're ninety and the last one breathing before telling stories about people who can no longer refute them is strategic genius. I'm sure the GOP could zip Bowers through a supreme court confirmation hearing, if they weren't busy ramming Kavanaugh into us like a radioactive dildo from a sci-fi porn movie.

Mike McCann said...

How convenient that all the names dropped are now dead and unable to defend themselves.

Earl Boebert said...

Another vote for reading Larry Harnisch before spending your hard-earned dough on the Bowers book.

It should be noted that Harnisch is not somebody who started from scratch when examining the Bowers book; he has spent years studying LA and Hollywood during this period for his book-in-progress on the Elizabeth Short/Black Dahlia case.

E. Yarber said...

Whenever I'm afraid someone is about to take me seriously, I casually mention that before I came to LA I had an opportunity to get a Private Investigator's license in California. It's heartening to see my companion relax with the certainty that I'm indeed totally out of my mind. They assume I'd be running around like Mannix when the reality was that 90% of the job was tediously checking public records.

Movie history is the same way. Books on the subject can be PR exercises, wallows in gossip, or ones where some sap has to bury themselves at UCLA or studio archives poring over budgets and production reports written to satisfy the money men, not titillate the public.

Scandal mags like CONFIDENTIAL would build entire worlds of innuendo around one uncontested fact. That's how Liberace was able to successfully sue the periodical for claiming he was gay. Even though he was homosexual, their reporting was full of holes. The same company was willing to hide information about Rock Hudson's male affairs by taking payoffs and letting the studios toss lesser stars like George Nader or Rory Calhoun to the wolves. Years later all these slapdash stories get dusted off as though they're serious revelations, because people like to believe the worst.

Did John Ford have an affair with Katharine Hepburn while making MARY OF SCOTLAND? Depends on who you talk to. They did, they didn't, he waited too long and Howard Hughes swept her up. Even Hepburn's later anecdotes can be taken different ways. Did John Ford have an affair with Madeline Carroll while making THE WORLD MOVES ON? Yes. It's not all one way or another.

Likewise, some claim that after Ford made Spencer Tracy's first film, he refused to work with the actor again until THE LAST HURRAH out of jealousy over Hepburn. If you burrow into studio files, however, you'll find Ford tried to get Tracy for other roles but Tracy became too busy and successful to take them.

I'm far from an apologist for celebrities, but the PI in me has a taste for getting the facts accurately. I've talked to other researchers who just throw up their hands when a Scotty Bowers gets mentioned, knowing it's futile to try to explain the boring details of uncovering the past. It's like a screenwriter trying to convince someone that actors don't just make up their dialogue as soon as the cameras start to role.

Luke said...

Ken you have already written a book on TV. It will be great if you can write about Hollywood as you have observed since you joined the industry. And also LA in general. A no holds barred book. You can publish a few rumors you heard too for spicing things up. I remember you saying that you knew Kevin Spacey was gay by the way of rumors when he was accused by many.

Peter said...

E. Yarber:
"Who's dying on the cover of the ENQUIRER this week?"

I know, right? Every time I see it on the magazine rack, it's claiming some celebrity is on the brink of death. I swear they've said Cher is days from death for the last decade.


High Concept is a very entertaining read. That guy's life was one long sex and drugs binge. I'm amazed he had time to produce movies. One of the more bizarre episodes from his life was chasing a call girl around his hotel room with an uzi.

"Books of insiders like Peter Bart, Lynda Obst, Julia Phillips, Joe Eszterhas. The insiders book always stays clear of saying anything."

I once flicked through Julia Phillips' book and I wouldn't describe it like that. She came across as a total bitch who kept making vicious comments about everyone she ever met. She described Ivan Reitman as having a weird ugly face. Nothing about him as a person or director, just a cheap shot. I also remember her saying she once woke up while ill with flu and saw a star, I can't remember who, in the corner "flagellating himself", so she was happy to dish the gossip.

Todd Everett said...

I haven't read his book, but saying that Chas fleming isn't an insider is somewhat off the mark. He was a trade reporter for years (where I knew him, though he was far more successful), and was brought up in the journalism business, as son of Karl ad Anne Taylor Fleming.

Matt said...

@ Peter,

"I'm amazed he had time to produce movies."

Actually these guys are basically just bosses. They have lunch with writers, directors, actors and then send them away to make the movie. They do nothing at all, but still get some points which makes them millions and billions like his partner Jerry Bruckheimer.

The people who really go on the set and work are line producers, production managers and many others, who just make peanuts.

If you read Joe Eszterhas's book, he clearly hints at many who just call the shots seated in AC rooms. Don must have been one of them. Don Simpson used to badger Joe over "Flashdance" day and night after he was kicked off the studio. Finally Joe wrote the script and the movie got done. But when it came to credits, so many names appear and they all became rich. All these people just had lunch to discuss the movie and so they got some points.

Finally Joe concedes that the movie made so much, that even after all these guys took their cut, he a lowly writer, made 2 million.

Imagine how much these parasites must have made.

Not all are like that though. Joe does mention that few producers really come to the set and work. One of them is Irwin Winkler.

Michael said...

Scotty Bowers paints everyone as gay. So he seems to be lying in all probability.

These lies look real because media in those days were corrupt and covered up many things. So whatever people say now seems true.

Some cover ups were due to pressure like Rock Hudson. James Dean. Marlon Brando were all gay, but to make the public in their macho persona, this was never revealed.

Paul Newman was a womanizer but always painted as a saint.

D McEwan said...

I read Scotty Bowers's book when it first came out. I'm unconcerned with its veracity. I just enjoyed a very fun book.

Matt said...

@ Todd Everett,

When I said outsider I meant people who are not working in Hollywood. The insiders are producers, writers I mentioned who still are working with one another so they cant say anything bad about others.

Charles Fleming is a journalist who doesn't have to depend on these people for his next paycheck.

Stephen Marks said...

Bill Cosby said....

Whoooooo are youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu to make light of the sex in the old Hollywood when I'm sitting in the jail owned by the county. NOW! You make the joke about the man having the sex with the head of the FBI and with the stars from the Guess Who's Coming To Dinner movie and the pigeon in the Jayco behind the Chevron in Tennessee. NOW! I'm sitting in the cell with the orange pants and the orange shirt and the guy comes and says Camille's on the phone so I get taken to the phone and Camille's crying and I'm saying "what's wrong" and shes's saying that the Ken Levine from the MASH show and the Crane show and the bar in Philadelphia show is making the jokes about something that is much worse then what I was convicted of doing. NOW! YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU thinking that the Bowers guy putting his thing in the exit part of Rock Hudson and the Cole Porter and the Truman Capote and the Marvin Hamlisch and the Barrymore brothers and Walt Disney is funny, and something to joke about in your electronic diary. Your jokes about the sex ruined what was a great night out for Camille and me and my wife's sister not long ago when we all went to see your "Going, Going, Gone" play with the tickets we got for the anniversary present. When we got home all we talked about was the play by the MASH guy until Camille's sister all of a sudden got drowsy and I had to take her to the guest room. Camille and I will not be watching anymore of your movies and plays and I will tell the cell block guys not to rent the reboot of the Wave That Belongs To Dave. Bill Cosby.

Janet Ybarra said...

Rock Hudson was a sad story as his Hollywood friends the Reagans ignored him in the '80s due to the perceived stigma against AIDS at the time.

Janet Ybarra said...

I would hope Hollywood today would be more open and welcoming but perhaps that's not actually the case?

It was said often that on the set of MASH, David Ogden Stiers was off-camera painfully shy. It was only later we learned he was so intensely closeted lest leak he was gay and work would dry up.

It is good in the last years of his life, he felt he could come out and live openly.

Charles said...

It might be just me, and the size and clarity of the picture, but (the guy at the top that I'm assuming is) Bowers looks like Diedrich Bader in the picture atop the article.

I'm Outraged! said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Janet Ybarra said...

I wonder with all this promiscuity, he managed to avoid all manner of STDs and outlive all of his customers.

Andy Rose said...

@E. Yarber: Legit research is also impeded by the stars themselves, who often tidy up stories about milestones in their careers into talk show-friendly yarns that they repeat over and over again and people take as fact. Often harmless fables, like Mel Blanc claiming he went to a farm and studied pigs to come up with Porky's voice, which is more interesting than saying, "Some other guy did the voice, and then they fired him and I copied it." But ALWAYS be skeptical of any story where the teller is depicted as a lonely hero, fighting the system and single-handedly saving a soon-to-be masterpiece from all the other fools in town.

I was just listening to the Jay Leno episode of Marc Maron's podcast. It was interesting to hear him tell well-worn stories and then have Marc ask something like, "Wait, that club was still around in 1973?" or "I thought that guy didn't move to LA until years later." You can almost hear the tone in Jay's voice change as he realizes, Oh... Marc wants the *real* story, not just a funny anecdote.

@Mike McCann: The dead aren't protected by libel laws, so it's also easier to find a publisher for scandal stories about dead people. Far less legal risk.

Todd Everett said...

Charles Fleming is a journalist who doesn't have to depend on these people for his next paycheck.

Fair enough; that's why I said "somewhat off the mark." But he's no stranger to the mechanics, offstage and on, of show business. And if Scotty Bowers isn't an "insider" (at least if you take him at his word), who is?

Tom from Vegas said...

Seen this ?

VP81955 said...

During my more than 11 years of administering Carole & Co., the classic Hollywood site named for the lady in my avatar, I've run across these types of authors, who conveniently wait until their subjects are dead before writing about them. Some take the relative high road, such as the late George Baxt with his series of Golden Age "murder case" stories ( Others, well...

Darwin Porter wrote a biography of Howard Hughes claiming he was bisexual, but added details (with absurd dialogue he could never have heard) about his affair with Carole Lombard. (In Larry Swindell's fine 1975 Lombard bio "Screwball," he hinted as such, but didn't mention Hughes by name since Howard wouldn't die until the spring of '76. Porter has ridiculous references to "intermammary intercourse" and such, as he claims Carole was briefly hired to replace Greta Nissen when he revamped "Hell's Angels" as a talkie (

Arguably the most notorious of these writers is a British author named David Bret, whose subjects have included Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford. I did an entry on his upcoming Harlow book in December 2008, and the vitriol Bret dished out -- not to mention some sent back at him -- sickened someone like me who tries to keep discussion civil (

E. Yarber said...

BTW, the picture used here as a header misspells Katharine Hepburn's first name. Kind of sums up the accuracy of the project.

Of course they may have used the same spellcheck that could turn "roll" into "role."

Truman said...

Like Wilt's claim, over 10,000 served?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! You always come up with interesting topics; I also most recently really loved the Apple Pan post and the comments. I read “Full Service” a couple of years ago. Bowers did have all of the ingredients for a book people want to read and I couldn’t put it down. As for veracity … his attitude struck me as really strange, saying that he never asked for money, because his attitude was that gee, he just really liked to make people happy. The timing is really odd too. Waiting until he’s in his 80s? 90s? to write the book? Did he have to wait until every last subject is dead to skirt potential lawsuits? His narrative regarding Barbara Payton and Bob Hope doesn’t jibe at all with the very well researched Payton biography “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” and I am sure there are a lot of other claims that don’t correspond with actual records. It’s like he tried to come up with the dirtiest details he could dream up — how about a sh*t sandwich! A human ashtray! I’ll have to read Devlin Thompson’s link. It’s fun to read stuff like that, and then fun again following people who do the heavy lifting as far as ripping it apart and checking claims against verifiable facts. I am guessing there are kernels of truth here and there, but that is about it. I watched a YouTube video of a book reading Bowers did, followed by a time for questions, and a man in the audience introduced himself as Walter Pigeon’s grandson. Scotty looked like he was about ready to crap his pants. Julie, Burlington, Iowa

Mike Doran said...

One of the above commenters mentioned Darwin Porter in passing.
Mr. Porter has his own publishing imprint, under which he has put out quite a number of "biographies", which maintain that everyone in show business is either gay or lying about being gay.
Mr. Porter's latest subject/target is Rock Hudson, somewhat belatedly.
I don't buy Mr. Porter's books (I admit to browsing them to distraction on the B&N shelves), and they do appeal to morbid curiosity, as does the volume under study in this post.

This might be a Friday Question:
In the new Hudson book, Mr. Porter alleges that Susan Saint James got the female lead in McMillan And Wife only after Hudson vetoed two other actresses for being "more talented" than he was.
Mr. Porter IDs the other actresses as Diane Keaton and Jill Clayburgh, both then at the entry level of their respective careers.
Since this book is the first I've ever heard of this story, I'm wondering if any of the more knowledgeable commenters who come here knew anything about this.
Just askin', is all …

Dixon Steele said...

OK, I ordered the book.

E. Yarber said...

Thanks to my misspent time in the history game, I could write a tell-all book about tell-all books. There are a lot of ways film biographies are written, and the results can be variable.

Some historians depend on interviews with surviving performers and crew members. Of course these folks are often EXTREMELY elderly by the time these scribes get around to asking them about Broncho Billy Anderson as a child, so the subjects may have selective memories if they're not unconsciously passing on rumors or malicious gossip about events they didn't witness. Not every primary source is equal.

I once worked for a fellow who had been connected to the estate of a famous star. When a biography of this figure appeared justifying the behavior of various executives who had undercut the subject's career, my employer told me that the author had sided with the studio in order to gain access to their archives.

Another time I managed to surprise a writer who had spent years working with a now-deceased director on what appeared to be a definitive study of the fellow's career. Though this writer had assumed he'd heard everything, I was able to produce a contemporary newspaper clipping revealing an unexpected scandal the filmmaker had simply never spoken about to anyone. I'd stumbled across the story virtually by accident while following a completely different thread, and his biographer had never even imagined it.

So yeah, there are flaws in the process and not everything that comes out has equal weight. It only makes me even more tiresomely idealistic about trying to do better.

cadavra said...

Didn't read the book, but I saw the film. Bowers really comes across as a self-righteous dick. He certainly didn't seem like the genial guy he paints himself as, unless he just became bitter as he got older. I felt sorry for that put-upon wife of his.

DannyJ said...

Apparently most of you haven't watched the film, which includes interviews with others WHO WERE THERE and attest to the accuracy of Bower's claims.

Also worth noting is the article about the book in the LA Weekly where others, including Raymond Burr's partner, and Walter Pidgeon's grandson, say Bowers was telling the truth.

Now, was it 100% true? Probably not. But I'm with Levine on this one. It's likely, especially with other confirming his stories, that at least 75% of what he said is the truth.