Happy Times

I’ve heard all the tales about certain old-time Hollywood stars preferring same-sex encounters that everyone else has. Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Cole Porter, Montgomery Clift, Randolph Scott, George Cukor, etc. But I’d never heard, frankly, that Walter Pidgeon and Spencer Tracy played in this pool, and I never knew that Vivien Leigh may have been somewhat lezzy.


(l. to r.) Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Walter Pidgeon, Spencer Tracy.

There are many such stories, in any case, in a new Old Hollywood tell-all book called “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars,” which was profiled in a 1.29 N.Y. Times story by Brooks Barnes. (It was also described in a 5.20.11 Entertainment Weekly piece by Adam Markovitz.)

Based on the recollections of 88 year-old Scott Bowers, a one-time arranger of sexual services (some straight but mostly gay) from the late ’40s to the early ’80s, and written by Lionel Friedberg, the memoir is being published by Grove Press and is set for release on 2.14.

The last book to explicitly spill in this fashion, to my recollection at least, was Kenneth Anger‘s “Hollywood Babylon,” which was published in 1981.

“A lot of what Mr. Bowers has to say is pretty shocking,” Barnes writes. “He claims, for instance, to have set Hepburn up with ‘over 150 different women.'”

The book sounds like it might be credible. Barnes quotes Vanity Fair writer and documentarian Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) saying the following: “If you believe him, and I do, he’s like the Kinsey Reports live and in living color.” Barnes himself writes that “perhaps it’s hard to look at Mr. Bowers today — an elderly man with sloped shoulders and a shock of unruly white hair — and believe that a half-century ago he was sought out by some of the most handsome men to have ever strutted through Hollywood. But after some time with him, the still-sparkling blues and the impish smile help convince you that he could have definitely had seductive powers.”

Bowers’ story “has floated through moviedom’s clubby senior ranks for years,” Barnes writes. “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.


(l) 21 year-old Scott Bowers in 1944, and (r.) the 88 year-old 2012 version.

“A $20 bill, given as a tip, according to Mr. Bowers, bought his services in the beginning. That was 1946, and he was 23. As Mr. Bowers tells it, he stumbled into his profession by accident. Newly discharged from the Marines after fighting in the Pacific during World War II, Mr. Bowers got a job pumping gas at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard, not far from Paramount Pictures.

”’One day Walter Pidgeon (Mrs. Miniver) drove up in a Lincoln two-door coupe, according to the book, and propositioned Mr. Bowers, who accepted.

“Soon, word got around among Pidgeon’s friends, and Mr. Bowers, from his base at the station, started ‘arranging similar stuff’ for some of Bowers’s more adventurous friends.

“Mr. Bowers writes that, in addition to his gay clients, he also gained a following among heterosexual actors like Desi Arnaz, who used him as a type of matchmaking service. Mr. Bowers, who says he personally ‘prefers the sexual company of women,’ says he never took payment for connecting people like Arnaz with bedroom partners.”

Here are some Amazon-provided excerpts from the opening pages:

  • berg

    check out Hedy Lamarr’s ECSTASY AND ME and David Niven’s BRING ON THE EMPTY HORSES.

  • Ryan Stewart

    In the book he also apparently claims to have had threesomes with members of the British royal family. Why would anyone believe this? He seems like that guy who went around claiming to be Billy the Kid in the 50s. Sometimes old people just lose their marbles and start making stuff up.

  • berg

    I once saw an old person …. they were drooling spittle and mummuring nonsense until their kin showed up and calmed them down

  • Chicago48

    I wouldn’t put too much into his fables. Some of the stars have been outed already, but Kate Hepburn? Don’t you know somebody would have come forward by now and said something….and Spencer Tracy? So was she the beard? Hard to imagine.

    And Ryan Stewart’s claim that he wrote about a threesome with British royalty — nonsense. I think the man’s imagination just ran a bit overtime.

  • Floyd Thursby

    Blackmail didn’t exist in the olden days?

  • Josh Massey

    My dad was a Universal tour guide in the early ’60s. He still very clearly remembers John Forsythe’s advice to him: “Stay away from that Rock Hudson. He’s light in his loafers.”

  • Glenn Kenny

    “Lezzy,” nice. What is this, third grade?

    Also nice to hear from Ryan Stewart, whose very life depends on his belief that any person who lets slip that they’ve had sex with any other person ever is “making stuff up.”

  • Movie Watcher

    Back then you could cover up things in a way you can’t now. Think of it: No internet or cell phones. The studios owned the actors, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some cash changed hands and they kept things quiet. I don’t know if what he wrote is true, but at least I think some of it was possible. Also, if you believe him. there must have been other people working at the gas station who know what was going on .

  • George Prager

    Does Chicago48 live in a monastery? Vanity Fair was writing about Spencer Tracy’s bisexuality years ago.

    http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,102459,00.html

    And as for Hepburn:

    Despite devoting fully 50 pages to the subject, Mann still pussyfoots around Hepburn’s sexual orientation. Was she straight or bi? Butch or femme? Mann can’t make up his mind, although from all his evidence it seems obvious: Hepburn wore pants, liked being affectionate with slim, boyish girls, socialised with gay men because they were’t sexually threatening, and lived with women all her life. One of Hepburn’s favoured calls to the press was, “Catch me if you can,” and Mann wants to catch his subject in flagrante, but the nearest he comes is to note that Hepburn disliked “skin-to-skin contact”. By contrast, Mann exposes Hepburn’s famous long-term affair with the actor Spencer Tracy as a public relations scam, a convenience for both – particularly for the homosexual Tracy, who consoled himself for his apparent affliction with repeated returns to the bottle. But does this sort of detail matter? Yes, because again Hepburn’s personal life would impact on her professional life.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/kate-the-woman-who-was-hepburn-by-william-j-mann-421189.html

  • MrTribeca

    It should be about the art – not the artist.

  • Rashad

    The script for My Week with Hepburn and Tracy just got a lot more interesting.

  • scooterzz

    last year i was sent for review ‘merv griffin: a life in the closet’ by darwin porter…hands down THE most salacious and ludicrous hollywood ‘expose’ ever…i still can’t figure out how it got published since griffin still has surviving family….

    with that, i discovered that porter’s been cranking out these books for years with titles like ‘brando unzipped’, ‘jacko: the social & sexual history’, ‘steve mcqueen: tales of a lurid life’, ‘paul newman: his secret life exposed’…the list seems endless…. i sincerely doubt that bowers’ book could be as graphic as the ‘merv griffin’ bio but it does just sound like more of the same-ol’-same-ol’…….

    (btw – the griffin book refers to spencer tracy’s pursuit of young actor robert francis on the set of ‘tribute to a bad man’ and tracy taking advantage of aldo ray’s legendary cock on the set of ‘pat and mike’ as told by roddy mcdowell…. )

  • http://moviebob.blogspot.com THE MovieBob

    Y’know, at this point even the “famous beautiful women fucking other women” part of this dance is getting tired – and I say that as a guy who was graduation high-school when Jolie wave her hand and turned every woman under 30 bisexual.

    “Everyone’s a little bit gay,” after all, and if you’ve got enough money/power/fame/whatever that the challenge/repercussions ratio vis-a-vi getting laid drops to statistical-zero; you’re probably more apt to “act” on sexual whims that would be a huge emotional/logistical commitment to an average person.

    That’s not to “lessen” anyone’s sincerely-felt romantic leanings, just to sort of dump some icewater on this whole “Oooooh! Such-and-such uber-wealthy celebrity MIGHT have had a same-sex encounter of some kind! Are they keeping a HUUUUUUUGE secret!??” thing.

  • Ryan Stewart

    To further illustrate my point, imagine if you will a very near future in which an old, decrepit ex-Premiere editor, leaning on his walker in the hallways of some Brooklyn community college where he teaches anger management classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, regales a handful of bright-eyed students with fanciful tales of his tried and true friendship with David Foster Wallace.

  • Jack Lechner

    Actually, the bit about threesomes with a member of the British royal family suggests to me that Bowers may be telling the truth. I once encountered an old Cockney gangster who told me, rather convincingly, about encountering photographic evidence of that exact same thing.

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