The Freaky Fetishes of Golden Age Hollywood

A tolerant new tell-all from Tinseltown’s sexual fixer

In the grand, effluvia-soaked tradition of Hollywood Babylon, a new memoir from sexual networker Scotty Bowers lets it all hang out when it comes to exposing screen giants’ erotic excesses. Like MGM in its heyday, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars (Grove) 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, catalog of the ultra-decadent lifestyles of the rich and famous to something more interesting is Bowers’ bracingly nonjudgmental view of human sexuality. As long as sex is consensual, he says, let it rip. As he told The New York Times in December, “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. Bowers reports that 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.” 

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 prostitution 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. 

Bowers lived with a woman and his daughter at the time and, while he freely admits to a full slate of homosexual experiences, doesn’t consider himself gay, saying he “prefers” the company of women. Here’s his take on a love that back in the ’40s dared 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.”

Which isn’t to say that his book won’t cause even the most libertine readers to check their premises at various points. There is some weird, wild stuff in Full Service. At the very least, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? just got a whole lot more interesting.

Spencer Tracy, says Bowers, was  “a generous, good-hearted man” who liked to cuddle after drinking himself into a stupor. Just not with his most famous leading lady, Katharine Hepburn, whom Tracy despised. (He told Bowers she treated him “like dirt.”) Tracy’s P.R.-driven relationship with Hepburn, writes Bowers, was “a non-existent fairytale romance” whose fraudulence helped drive the actor’s actor toward becoming an alcoholic’s alcoholic. Bowers recalls many tender moments such as this one: “I turned off the lights, undressed him, then got undressed myself, climbed into bed with him, and held him tightly like a baby. He continued to slobber and curse and complain. By then he had had so much to drink that I hardly understood a word he was saying.”

But Tracy, ever the trouper, wasn’t done performing just yet. Indeed, he proved that his famous ethos of knowing his lines and hitting his marks extended to his off-stage life too. “This was the last guy on earth that I expected an overture like that from,” writes Bowers of Tracy’s drunken interest in his naughty bits, “but I was more than happy to oblige him and despite his inebriated state we had an hour or so of pretty good sex.”

Speaking of Hepburn, Bowers contends she was purely lesbian in her tendencies and that he set up the Bryn Mawr grad with more than 150 women. None was more bewitching than a young beauty named Barbara, with whom Hepburn maintained a 49-year relationship.

Which means rumors of a physical relationship between Hepburn and the germaphobic industrialist and movie mogul Howard Hughes are pure hooey. Bowers says he did a fair amount of setup work for Hughes, but the guy got off with the same success rate as the Spruce Goose. Hughes was “fanatically fussy about his own health as well as the cleanliness and pristine beauty of the young lady,” Bowers writes. “If, heaven forbid, she had even the tiniest blemish or a pimple he simply would not touch her.”

Books such as Full Service immediately raise questions of credibility: Is this stuff really true? Bowers juices that question even more by reminding the reader that his memory is fading. He’s in his late 80s, after all, having lived through the Depression, World War II, and a number of Carol Channing tantrums. Bowers swears by all he writes, but much of it falls into the “too good to check” category. Any mention of a personal encounter with a cross-dressing J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director long suspected of being gay, deserves to be greeted with a massive dose of skepticism.

But if Bowers is full of it about Hoover’s fondness for black cocktail dresses, does that mean he’s faking about Tyrone Power, Kate Hepburn, and all the rest? And if he’s wrong about them, is his easygoing take on sexuality equally mistaken? Are the kinks he describes in Full Service simply vivid examples of human variety or evidence of psychological problems? 

Howard Hughes’ aversions seem to be a textbook case of self-defeating Freudian neurosis. Bowers’ description of prodigious drinking and blackout behavior by Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, and Ramon Novarro likewise speaks to something other than mental health. 

Bowers is right: The state shouldn’t police what goes on between or among consenting adults. But Full Service forces readers to ask themselves: Is consensual sex, no matter how offbeat, the business of no one but the folks involved? 

Nick Gillespie is editor in chief of reason online.

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  • Eduard van Haalen||

    A minor, strictly technical question:

    Has anyone confirmed the allegations in this book? Or are we just assuming that the author is a man of honor who would never make anything up?

  • Pip from the forge||

    Furthermore, what does spreading gossip have to do with promoting libertarian values?

  • RBS||

    I'm guessing neither of you actually RTFA?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Still have nothing better to do, Mary?

  • fish||

    More importantly.....didn't we review this book about 7 months ago?

  • ||

    Shit, I thought it was deja-vu!

  • Whiterun Guard||

    You know who else thought consensual sex, no matter how offbeat, is the business of no one but the folks involved...

  • o3||

    hef?

  • Loki||

    Caligula?

  • WWNGD?||

    The Whiterun Guard?

  • CockGobbla||

    It's probably just a rumor, but I've heard that Matthew Broderick supposedly likes to receive blowjobs while driving recklessly on Irish backroads.

  • rac3rx||

    Yeah, but how do you get that horse to not use all those teeth?

  • WWNGD?||

    Before he married Mr. Ed's daughter, he dated Mr. Peterson's daughter.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "But if Bowers is full of it about Hoover’s fondness for black cocktail dresses, does that mean he’s faking about Tyrone Power, Kate Hepburn, and all the rest?"

    Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus is a legal maxim which means false in one thing, false in everything. A Roman legal principle indicating that a witness who willfully falsifies one matter is not credible on any matter. The underlying motive for attorneys to impeach opposing witnesses in court: the principle discredits the rest of their testimony if it is without corroboration.

    http://definitions.uslegal.com.....n-omnibus/

  • John||

    The guy writes a book after every one dies and is no longer here to defend themselves. And he has every reason to lie. I used to suck the cock of some B movie actor is not the stuff book contracts are made. But I used to get drunk and cuddle with Spencer Tracy is.

    Is this guy lying? Who knows. But he certainly has every reason to lie and there is no way to tell if he is telling the truth. Therefore, there is no reason to believe a word of it.

  • o3||

    you leave palin alone!

  • John||

    That doesn't even make any sense you moron.

  • o3||

    that's *MORANS* to you bub

  • Loki||

    Lay off the bath salts dude.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Interesting how this guy is dishing about the sexual proclivities of the Golden Age Tinseltown set long after they're dead. This sounds like a much dumber version of Suetonius.

  • John||

    You leave Seutonius alone!!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, he was a bit of a gossip. No Tacitus, surely.

  • John||

    Like Tacitus wasn't gossipy.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Less gossipy. Tacitus' problem, if you want to call it that, was that he hated the imperial system and pined for the fjords republic. That bias made him tend to accept some pretty nasty rumors about the emperors.

  • John||

    And he was way too naive about the Republic.

  • John||

    And I am not buying his love of Germanicus. I am sure Germanicus was a great guy and all. But I doubt he was as above reproach as Tacitus makes him out to be.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, I always read Germanicus as the blank slate in which Tacitus and other republicans wrote their hopes and desires.

    The last chance the Republic had--and it was a poor chance at that--was if the assassins had defeated Antony and Octavian. Most likely, though, the civil wars would've continued, anyway, and another tyrant would've taken over.

    I've read some Roman constitutional analyses that make a pretty compelling argument that the rise of extraconstitutional figures like Marius and Sulla had a lot to do with some checks and balances going bye-bye beforehand.

  • John||

    I blame the Optimates. They were tyrants who were going to destroy the Republic and left Julius Ceasar with the choice of becoming dictator himself or dying under their dictatorship.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Things blew apart before then.

  • ChrisO||

    The Republic started dying a slow death many decades before Caesar. Basically, it became too large to be governed effectively by the old oligarchy with no standing army.

  • seguin||

    Yeah...after Marius and Sulla, it was really a matter of when, not if. Once you lead troops across the pomerium, you've pretty much rendered the whole social contract of the Republic moot.

  • ||

    "Is consensual sex, no matter how offbeat, the business of no one but the folks involved? " Yep, nobody's business. But how does full service force readers to ask this?

    As for authenticity...believing that hollywood is mostly gay is like believing that the sun comes up in the morning.

    Celebrity sex lives.....zzzzzzzzz.

  • John||

    To anyone who doubted that the worst was true about Fast and Furious, go fuck yourselves. The worst is true. Issa just put up the contents of wire tap applications that had been previously sealed.

    In the midst of a fiery floor debate over contempt proceedings for Attorney General Eric Holder, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) quietly dropped a bombshell letter into the Congressional Record.

    The May 24 letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the panel, quotes from and describes in detail a secret wiretap application that has become a point of debate in the GOP’s “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe.

  • John||

    The wiretap applications are under court seal, and releasing such information to the public would ordinarily be illegal. But Issa appears to be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which offers immunity for Congressional speech, especially on a chamber’s floor.

    According to the letter, the wiretap applications contained a startling amount of detail about the operation, which would have tipped off anyone who read them closely about what tactics were being used. [...]

    “The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border,” the letter says.

    The application included details such as how many guns specific suspects had purchased via straw purchasers and how many of those guns had been recovered in Mexico.

    It also described how ATF officials watched guns bought by suspected straw purchasers but then ended their surveillance without interdicting the guns.

  • ||

    Link?

  • John||

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....47986.html

    The spam filter blocked my original.

  • John||

    In at least one instance, the guns were recovered at a police stop at the U.S.-Mexico border the next day.

    The application included financial details for four suspected straw purchasers showing they had purchased $373,000 worth of guns in cash but reported almost no income for the previous year, the letter says.

    “Although ATF was aware of these facts, no one was arrested, and ATF failed to even approach the straw purchasers. Upon learning these details through its review of this wiretap affidavit, senior Justice Department officials had a duty to stop this operation. Further, failure to do so was a violation of Justice Department policy,” the letter says.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Lulz, good luck with that Racepublicans.

  • John||

    What the fuck?? Are you taking the same bath salts Orin is?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    No, I'm just saying you should get used to it, since that's the only part of this that's going to be reported.

  • John||

    The AG getting held in contempt means they have to report it. They aren't going to like doing it, but they will report it.

  • RBS||

    Maybe the media will get its ass in gear now that it's clearly not just some Republican witchhunt.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Are you talking about the same media that I'm talking about? He could have pulled the trigger on the border guards himself and he'd still be the victim.

    You guys are getting your hopes up way too high.

  • RBS||

    I said maybe, I'm not getting my hopes up. Seriously though, there has to be at least handful of guys out there who want to be the next Woodward and Bernstein, right?

  • Whiterun Guard||

    The next who and what now?

    /journalist

  • BakedPenguin||

    Obama is a Jedi to the MSM. Carney will just say "These are not the documents you've been searching for. The administration can go about it's business." - and they'll dutifully repeat it.

  • ||

    I have suspected from day one that the F+F scandal has the potential to bring obama down in a big way. It looks like my hopes may materialize.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    You're crazy. Obama is so bulletproof he makes Clinton look like a Star Trek red shirt.

  • John||

    Only to about 40% of the population who are brain dead fanatics. The bit apathetic as Tulpa calls them are about to be roused.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    I mean I hope so, but I doubt it.

  • Rasilio||

    No chance it brings Obama down, Holder on the other hand looks to be a goner, possibly even serving some jail time.

  • fish||

    Lets hope it's a Mexican prison!

  • T||

    Link?

  • John||

    See above. The spam filter keeps killing my original and the Roll Call site is down.

  • seguin||

    He should just wikileaks it. Screw the system, it's not going to work. Obviously.

  • Brett L||

    What, no Sugarfree slashfic yet?

  • Paul.||

    He continued to slobber and curse and complain. By then he had had so much to drink that I hardly understood a word he was saying.”

    Sounds like a normal Friday night at Paul's house.

  • albo||

    I'm hoping that a future scandal book will note that in late 2012 Emma Stone and Amber Heard were rumored to have multiple hot three-ways with an unnamed middle-aged bald guy who enjoyed posting on libertarian web sites.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    What the hell, I'm not bald?

  • Brandybuck||

    I am, and how the hell did Albo find out about this?

  • Slumbrew||

    and Olivia Wilde, right? Surely she's involved, somehow.

  • Rasilio||

    Wasn't this article posted in here like a month ago?

  • ||

    Yep

    Must be vacation time at Reason. They recycled the "Atheists are worse than rapists" from March a couple days ago.

  • Savaranola Hola||

    I'll wait for the sequel where our hero has a hot four way with Winnie,Franklin and Joe at Yalta.

  • T o n y||

    Speaking of gays in Hollywood, looks like the Tom Cruise marriage contract has run its usual course.

  • Kuwanki||

    Leave L. Ron Hubbard out of this. He's 135 billion years old, you know.

  • ||

    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 prostitution 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 http://www.lunettesporto.com/l.....c-3_8.html 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.

  • Nike air max womens||

    Books such as Full Service immediately raise questions of credibility: Is this stuff really true? Bowers juices that question even more by reminding the reader that his memory is fading. He’s in his late 80s, after all, having lived through the Depression, World War II, and a number of Carol Channing tantrums. Bowers swears by all he writes, but much of it falls into the “too good to check” category. Any mention of a personal encounter with a cross-dressing J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director long suspected of being gay, deserves to be greeted with a massive dose of skepticism.

  • tipuasher||

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