Blame Walter Pidgeon for sparking the fire in the loins of Scotty Bowers.
As Bowers remembers, it was Pidgeon, an established 1940s-era film star from Saint John, who first spotted the handsome young Marine working the pumps at a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard and extended the invitation for an afternoon swim at a friend’s nearby mansion.
According to Bowers, consensual three-way man sex ensued, for which Pidgeon gave him a $20 gratuity.
The next day, Bowers embarked on his self-appointed life mission of fulfilling the sexual needs of every big name in the movie business – male or female – either by personal service or by sending in his army buddies or various happy hookers of his acquaintance.
Of course, Walter Pidgeon is unavailable for comment, since he died in 1984, but therein lies the lurid conceit of Full Service: Virtually every celebrity named in the book is long deceased. “I’ve kept silent all these years,” Bowers writes, “because I didn’t want to hurt these people.”
In point of fact, the only living person referenced in the memoir is Gore Vidal, whom Bowers describes as “one of the nicest, brightest men I know.” Vidal reciprocates, and supposedly affixes some fleeting literary validation, with his glowing jacket blurb: “Scotty doesn’t lie – the stars sometimes do and he knows everybody.”
Having now outlived all his alleged sex partners, Bowers, who was 88 at the time of the book’s writing, depicts himself as the second coming of Priapus, so to speak.
Bowers’s earliest memories of growing up in rural Illinois are, naturally, sex-drenched and sordid. His initial sexual activity, he says, came courtesy of a much older farmhand. The fact that he does not acknowledge his first sexual experience as abuse is rather dismaying.
In his early teens, at the height of the Depression, his destitute family moved to Chicago, where Bowers engaged in countless sex acts with deviant priests, whom he claims paid him in coins. (Brother, can you spare a dime?)
Making no connection whatsoever between his sexual grounding to his later activities, Bowers races breakneck through his tour of duty in the Marines to dive into steamy stories of his postwar satyriasis.
As he recalls it, Pidgeon told a few friends, who told a few friends, and in the matter of a few weeks, Bowers was the busiest chap in town. On any given day, he claims to have turned two or three “tricks” himself, beside arranging 15 to 20 more for celebrities. Pre-cellphone, a pretty impressive feat.
And oh, such torrid tales.
Married, with a daughter, but never committing to a sexual predilection, Bowers claims to have had prolonged relations with male celebrities such as Cole Porter, Roddy McDowall, Somerset Maugham and the director George Cukor. He also enjoyed frequent physical liaisons, he says, with the likes of Vivien Leigh, Rita Hayworth and Edith Piaf.
In between his own exchanges of bodily fluids with the rich and famous, Bowers claims to have regularly arranged call girls for Errol Flynn, Desi Arnaz and Bob Hope, among others. He frequently sent young women to Katharine Hepburn – 150 by his count. Where was Kate’s soulmate, Spencer Tracy? Of course, he was busy having sex with Bowers.
Some of the revelations in the book are clearly included for shock value. When the former King Edward VIII and his wife, Wallis Simpson, visited Los Angeles after his abdication, they naturally made a beeline for Scotty, who immediately arranged a steady stream of rent boys for him and rent girls for her.
At every opportunity, Bowers insists that he never took one penny from the procurement of flesh for celebrities. Over and over, he claims to have derived immense personal satisfaction from making famous people happy in their sexual lives.
But he pushes the assertion far too many times to make it believable, and it’s the major flaw in a memoir at once repugnant and compelling. Like the worst possible kind of sex partner, Bowers just gets greedy.
Thanks to Pretty Woman and like Hollywood stereotypes, most people accept the notion of a good-natured hooker. But nobody’s going to believe a story about a pimp with a heart of gold.
Andrew Ryan writes about television for The Globe and Mail.