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‘Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood’ (review)

Produced by Matt Tyrnauer,
Corey Reeser, Josh Braun

Based on the book Full Service by
Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg

Directed by Matt Tyrnauer
Starring Scotty Bowers, Lois Bowers, Peter Bart,
Tony Charmoli, Michael Childers, Stephen Fry,
Robert Hofler, Joack Kimberling, David Kuhn,
Paul “Al” Lamastra, William Mann, Lee Shook

 

Scotty and The Secret History of Hollywood is a multilayered documentary that is fascinating, bittersweet and sad.

One is a tale of Hollywood in the “Golden Age.”

One is a tale of sadness at the way the LGBTQIA community has been disenfranchised for all of American history.

And one is a tale of an old man who persevered through an impoverished childhood, unspeakable abuse, and WWII to become the epicenter of underground gay Hollywood.

Scotty Bowers wrote Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars.

In it, he details his wild and crazy times in Hollywood. From the day he started working at a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard he worked as a male escort to the rich and famous. He serviced both men and women and created a very lucrative business providing willing partners for sex with stars, dignitaries and government agents.

This part of the story is wildly sensational, almost to disbelief. The names he reveals are all famous, closeted and dead. If you are interested in famous people who were in the closet, you are going to love this documentary.

This is not a happy tale.

When you think about why a service likes Scotty’s was able to thrive and survive you come to inexorable conclusion that the LGBTQIA community in Hollywood and really anywhere was forced underground.

Living in a society that rejected them, Scotty’s gas station on Hollywood Boulevard became the one place they could be their authentic selves, freely, without threat of exposure. Scotty’s business of providing partners for the wealthy was born of a Hollywood and America that cloaked itself in manufactured morality and forced anyone different into hiding. As someone who loves the entertainment industry as much as I do it’s a harsh dose of reality when considering Hollywood’s past.

Scotty himself is a a fascinating character.

The documentary only scratches the surface of his life and how he became who he became. He was molested by his neighbor, turning tricks by age 11, passed around the Catholic priesthood of Chicago, and a marine in the South Pacific. He lived a life of trauma and pain but to listen to him you would never know his life had such a baseline of sadness. He would disagree there was much sadness at all. The people around him seem to really love him. The documentary shows him meeting up with friends and former “employees.” His former johns all lavish him with praise and the clear affection between the men is sweet.

There is so much to unpack in this film you can miss really important moments.

One of the most incredible things is Scotty’s wide ranging sexual experience brought him to the attention of Alfred Kinsey and Scotty became a key player in Kinsey’s study of sexuality. Scotty did everything and because he catered to a wide range of clientele he knew people who were into everything. That sexual omnipresence let him set Kinsey up with dozens of interviewees that deeply enriched the research.

If Kinsey were alive today he would probably still be interviewing Scotty, trying to glean that one last insight from a man who was at the apex of human sexuality.

This is an excellent piece of documentary filmmaking. It teases us with the sensational, draws us in with reality and makes us feel with moments of raw emotion. If you enjoy documentaries and are interested in old Hollywood this is definitely a film for you. If you want to believe that the biggest stars of the 40’s 50’s and 60’s were straight you should probably skip it, because the names that show up in this film will blow your mind.

4 out of 5 stars.

 

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is playing in limited release.
For screening information, click HERE.

 

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