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: