All contemporary photos: Alan Mercer Lighitng: Eric V.
‘Full Service’ is the story of Scotty Bowers adventures during three decades of having sex with, or arranging others to have sex with, some of the biggest names of Hollywood's Golden Age, like Cary Grant, Vincent Price, Edith Piaf, Spencer Tracy and the Duke of Windsor.
Scotty started his career as a sexual ‘fixer,’ pumping gas at the Richfield station at 5777 Hollywood Blvd., where he began to connect former Marine Corps pals and other acquaintances with Hollywood elite looking for secretive sexual encounters, whether gay and straight in an era where the studio system and the mores of the day kept quiet about sexual activity and orientation.
Once he ‘tricked’ with Walter Pidgeon and the actor told all his gay friends about his new friend, Scotty. After sampling his services, they told their friends about the Marine working at the gas station complete with a two-bedroom trailer out back, who was happy to hook them up with his young friends, male or female. The standard fee garnered by the trick, not Scotty, was $20.
Some big names Scotty talks about include composer Cole Porter, director George Cukor, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, Raymond Burr, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and Vivien Leigh. It was legendary Director George Cukor who introduced Scotty to Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.
Joan Allemand, the former arts director of the Beverly Hills Unified School District, has known Scotty for more than 20 years. She introduced him to his co-writer, Lionel Friedberg, at a dinner party in 2003. At a series of Joan Allemand's parties over the years, Friedberg drew Scotty out, finally talking him into putting his life story on paper. He succeeded where Gore Vidal, Dominick Dunne and Tennessee Williams all failed. Scotty says he prefers women. He has been married to his wife for the last 28 years. Scotty says, “Tennessee's book made me look very gay, like I was the No. 1 gay person in Hollywood."
Ninety percent of Scottys' hook-ups were unknown people. The book's marketing and its critics have focused on the big names, that's what brings in the public. The 286-page memoir makes a larger sociological point. The book is telling readers that it's OK to be different, to be our true sexual selves, that we need to be more broad-minded about human sexuality.
Full Service, was released Feb. 14 and climbed to No. 8 on the L.A. Times bestseller list and No. 16 on the New York Times list. I met Scotty and his wife Lois at their Hollywood Hills home.
AM: Scotty are you tired of talking about your book yet?
SB: No, but a lot of people are talking about it. It’s amazing how well the book has done. That’s because of the massive advertising campaign they did on the book. It started with the big article in the New York Times. Did you see that?
AM: I did.
SC: That came out the Sunday before the book came out.
AM: The topic of sex is a natural pull for people.
SB: (laughing) Yeah that helped! It’s better if you read the whole book rather than just the excerpts.
AM: I am amazed by the attitudes in your book. These stories are from the middle 1940‘s and 50‘s and people seem more relaxed about sex. In 2012 we are more uptight. Have we gone backwards?
SB: You bet we have. I can’t believe the attitude some people have today. They think everything is awful. I can’t believe so many people pretend to be so square about these things.
AM: Scotty, the stories in your book seem to be more matter of fact and even light hearted. You have no malice do you?
SB: I absolutely have no malice. I didn’t feel that way ever. Everybody kept at me to write this book but I wanted to wait until the people were not around before I wrote it.
AM: I think the book says we should be more relaxed about sex.
SB: Right, that’s the way it should be. Some people get too uptight by minor things.
AM: You don’t seem like you were damaged by all the early sex in your life.
SB: It doesn’t damage anyone unless they are kooky to begin with. I compare it to someone getting a speeding ticket and then committing suicide.
AM: I think some people worry too much about what other people are doing with their lives.
SB: Think of the person who goes to a restaurant and they order a steak and it comes out too rare, so they send it back and it comes out too well done, but they do that every time. The wine is open and they taste it and it’s no good. They are that way with every bottle of wine no matter what it is. They are just that type of people, and who wants to be around those kind of people anyway?
AM: What do you think about what has been going on with John Travolta?
SB: I think they should leave him alone. You’d think he was a school teacher who had leprosy. The National Enquirer has had him on the cover about six times now with the same story. I don’t think it’s necessary to do that. They are riding poor John to death on this.
AM: What is your advice to John when he has to do an interview and is asked about it?
SB: I think he should say, “Look I’m not gay, but my lover is!” (much laughter)
AM: You didn’t have a lot of aspirations in life did you? Didn’t you just let life happen?
SB: You put it very well. It just happened. I never planned any of it. I never planned on the gas station, it just happened that way. When I was at the gas station I just passed the word around to other guys that were just getting out of the Marine Corps. They didn’t have a dime. They would hang around the gas station before they went back home to Pennsylvania or where ever they were going. About twenty guys would hang out and they had around fifteen girlfriends. Then someone would come by and see the guy or the girl and say, “Gee I wish I could take that person to dinner.” I’d then say, “Why take them to dinner. That will cost too much. Why not just have them for $20.00? Then if you find you really do like them...then take them to dinner!” (Laughter)
AM: Where did you get this infamous trailer?
SB: A guy I knew who worked at Warner Brothers, had this huge trailer where you entered in the center and it had two King-size beds. He gave me $50.00 a month to park it there and told me to use it whenever I wanted to. I ended up using it night and day continually. (more laughter) Just another one of those things that happened and was never planned!
AM: You have a birthday coming up don’t you?
SB: I’ll be 89 on July 1.
AM: You sure don’t seem that age.
SB: Not in my attitude I don’t. Some people are old. Have you ever run across somebody who is younger, but they act like a little old man? It’s the way they think. No, I am very hip and on the ball. I have a good memory.
AM: You mention in your book that Lucille Ball slugged you. Where did she hit you?
SB: She punched me right in the face. She said, “How dare you pimp for Desi.” I told her I didn’t even know Desi. She said, “I listen in on the extention phone in the bedroom. I know your name and phone number and you are the one who is pimping for Desi.” She was right so I said nothing else.
AM: Was that ever uncomfortable for you to have someone like Lucy mad at you?
SB: Not really, it never bothered me.
AM: Some people think you were star struck, but I don’t think you were.
SB: I know so many people that will be at a party and if a celebrity comes in everyone wants their picture taken with them and they don’t even know them. I knew all these people and I never had a picture taken with anybody. I never asked for an autograph or a picture of anyone and yet I knew them very well. I know people who if you go to their house the walls are loaded with 8x10 autographed photos. I never had one picture.
AM: So Katherine Hepburn was no different to you than say the lady next door?
SB: We were friends because of what I did for her. She was not a sweet lady by any means. I told in the book what George Cukor said about her. She told him, “I’ve been here since 1934 and I really don’t have many friends.” He told her, “Katherine, you never will have many friends because you’re a real bitch.”
AM: Did you have a lot in common with George Cukor and really like him?
SB: I liked George very well. George picked me up himself. He came to the gas station in a brand new 1947 Dodge he just bought. He’d come to the gas station every day and buy a dollars worth of gas, that was four gallons. When someone bought a dollars worth of gas I put it in and washed their windows and checked the oil, the tires and the battery.
AM: Scotty, you are so charming and witty. You must have been this way in your twenties as well.
SB: Oh yeah, I was always easy going. It was impossible to get me pissed off while some people have such short fuses.
AM: I respect your attitude about sex because you keep it fun.
SB: That’s right, that’s the way it should be.
AM: You have a very different view than the average American.
SB: I think people should have that view. People make big issues out of nothing.
AM: And you come from the heartland of America, Illinois, correct?
SB: I was born on a farm in Illinois. When I was a little kid we were milking 80 cows a day by hand. That’s 40 cows twice a day. By the time I was five I was milking three cows. We did it by hand, no milking machines. I was on a 280 acre farm that belonged to my father’s mother.
AM: I read that you observed the animals having sex from a very young age so it seemed natural to you.
SB: Oh yes, everything came natural for me. That’s the way it should be with everyone.
AM: So I gather you think most of us over react to sex.
SB: Definitely, without a doubt, certainly a lot of people over react. Some don’t. I was tricking when I moved to Chicago.
AM: Is “tricking” the word you used back then?
SB: I always used that term. You turn a trick or you are a trick.
AM: You don’t hear that term so much anymore.
SB: Everything was a trick. They have different expressions these days. Back in Chicago I would see cigar smoking straight guys and they would come see me in the bedroom and leave a quarter of a half dollar. I’d see 30 to 40 straight guys in one evening.
AM: Oh gosh!
Scotty Bowers in 1944
SB: They’d come in a roll me, squeeze me, hug me, whatever, and that was good money in those days. I’d also go to downtown Chicago with my shoeshine box and shine shoes for a nickel and sell the Saturday Evening Post for a nickel. The street car fare was three cents to get there. I was eleven years old and was in and out of all the bars. Guys would meet a hooker and ask me if I had any rubbers so I immediately got into the rubber business.
AM: How did you get them?
SB: I’d go to the Chicago River with a big net and hook out rubbers and go wash them out and dry them off and then go sell them on Lover’s Lane. That story was originally in the book but they took it out and I don’t know why. I remember one early Sunday morning I had about 150 rubbers hanging out on the clothes line. Some lady with a bible asked me what they were. I told her it was my brothers birthday and I had a bunch of balloons. (much laughter) I would dry them out and slightly powder them to re-use.
AM: What were they made out of back then?
SB: They were a very good grade of rubber. You could take a rubber and fill it up big with water and drop it out of a building and it would be fine. They were very well made. There’s nothing wrong with a used rubber. (Laughter)
AM: How much did you charge for them?
SB: I’d get a quarter for each of them.
AM: Do you remember what they went for new and unused at the time?
SB: I think a little box of three sold for fifty cents.
AM: So you made a nice profit.
SB: I took what ever they gave me. I got into it strictly because everyone was asking for them.
AM: So the bottom line is you’re a business man!
SB: There you go! (laughter) Bottom line...I did very well selling rubbers. On Sunday morning you could get a 100 of them.
AM: Life was simpler back then for sure.
SB: There’s nothing wrong with a used rubber because they were well made.
AM: Did you sterilize them?
SB: Are you kidding? I just washed them. What do you mean sterilize them?
AM: What do you think your purpose in life has been?
SB: To please people and why not? A lot of people don’t have a good life and you might as well have at least a little time when you’re happy. I made people happy and they were all nice people. A lot of people told me the nicest time of their life was at that gas station on Hollywood Blvd. They could come there and be with someone rather than pick up someone on the street who could end up being bad news. Everything was twenty bucks and it worked out very well and very nice. A lot of people came in every single day.
AM: I’m glad you chose to share your story now. It doesn’t seem like it can hurt anyone.
SB: I think the whole thing was pleasant. What I said about people in my book, many people knew about at the time. It’s not like I talked about John Wayne! He was too big a square anyway. Some people are just too square!
Scotty and his wife Lois