In the grand, effluvia-soaked tradition of Hollywood Babylon, Scotty Bowers' recent memoir, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, lets it all hang out when it comes to exposing screen giants' erotic excesses.
Like MGM in its heyday, the book has more stars than there are in heaven. From silent-screen royalty such as Gloria Swanson and Ramon Novarro to classy Brits such as Cary Grant and Elsa Lanchester to American legends such as Mae West and Rock Hudson, Bowers dishes long and hard on just who preferred what kind of sex, how often, and with what sort of partner(s).
What elevates Full Service from a simple - if riveting - catalogue of the ultra-decadent lifestyles of the rich and famous to something far more interesting is Bowers' bracingly non-judgmental view of human sexuality. As long as sex is consensual, he says, let it rip. As he told The New York Times, "So they like sex how they liked it. Who cares?"
A World War II vet who fought with distinction in the Pacific (his memories of Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima are terrifying), Bowers was born on a Midwestern farm and ended up pumping gas in Hollywood in 1946. Working at a service station on Van Ness Boulevard, he was picked up one day by Canadian actor Walter Pidgeon, an Oscar nominee known for star turns in films such as How Green Was My Valley and Mrs. Miniver. They drove back to Pidgeon's house and the two of them, joined by a male friend of the actor, engaged in "some really hot sex" for an hour or so.
Thus began Bowers' decades-long role as Hollywood's leading boy toy and procurer of sexual favors for the stars. Although he accepted "tips" for his amorous romps, he never engaged in prositution per se. And as he became the go-to guy to set up all manner of trysts for publicity-shy celebrities (many of whom were closeted gays and lesbians), he never became a pimp either. Rather, he was a fixer who delighted in bringing together stars and people who wanted to sleep with them. The tricks may or may not have been tipped, but Bowers says he never took a cut.
His reaction to his romp with Pidgeon set the tone not just for the next 40 years of his life but for the book he's produced. Bowers lived with a woman and his daughter at the time and, while he freely admits to early and often homosexual experiences, doesn't consider himself gay (he "prefers" the company of women). Here's his take on a love that back in the '40s dare not speak its name:
The only thing that made them a little different than straight men is the fact that they enjoyed having sex with other men as well as with women. And, quite frankly, I saw absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Elsewhere, Bowers writes of a leading set designer who "told me that he had found it very difficult being in the Marines and had cultivated a very masculine image to avoid harassment." Again and again, Bowers' comes back to a basic message of tolerance for anything that's peaceful.
I was simply providing a service to those who wanted it and, as recorded history has shown, throughout the ages there has always been a need for good, old-fashioned, high-quality sex. As I’ve said before, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I never thought so and I still don’t.
Which isn't to say that his book won't cause even the most libertine of readers to check their premises at various points. There's some weird, wild stuff in Full Service. At the very least, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? just got a whole lot more interesting.
Here are five of the freakier fetishes Bowers recounts from his adventures in Tinseltown.
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