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Many have not heard of Scotty Bowers. Who is this man and why is it that important for a whole documentary be devoted to him?
Director Matt Tyrnauer’s (VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR) begins his doc with a grand introduction of Scotty Bowers. He is celebrating his 90th birthday. His rise to fame is attributed to the gas station he operated that served escorts to a host of Hollywood stars. Everyone loves a scandal. Stephen Fry interviewed admits: “Scotty only made these Hollywood stars real by giving them what they want.” But then a more valid argument is whether Scotty had the right to out anyone gay in Hollywood. The doc then flashes dozens of gay stars on the screen to whet audiences appetite on the secret history of Hollywood. Randolph Scott had an affair with Cary Grant and the list goes on….
It is fortunate that Scotty Bowers is till alive at the time of making the doc as he appears in most of the film, talking about himself and about what he has done as well as life in the old days. The film contains a lot of black and white archive footage, especially of the area whee the infamous gas station stood. When footage is unavailable, re-enactments are done, often without faces but with the images of bodies. For instance, when an escort is ivied from the gas station to bathe his beautiful body in the star’s swimming pool, the audience sees a nude body (no face) swimming in the pool. In a way, the image looks even more erotic.
The goings-on, the audience are told are well planned and orchestrated. In the business world, Scotty could have been the C.E.O.of General Motors, says a close friend. The goings-on are indeed shocking, like a hill drilled in a wall in the nearby motel so that voyeurs can peep at the sex happening in the next room. It all feels like a dirty red-light district given a make-over for the Hollywood stars.
Just when you think that the film will run out of material, something saucier comes around. More famous star names are revealed, more intimate details of the sex parties revealed or secrets in the closet uncovered. The restricted era of 1950’s is also highlighted in the film – a time where cops witched hunted gays in parks and bars. And there is Scotty’s life that in itself is quite interesting. Returning home from WWII as a pretty boy, he was gay before settling down into marriage with Lois, who hereof is interviewed in the film. Their family home is also on display. Scotty is revealed as a hoarder. His house contains piles and piles of junk, such as every issue of Playboy Magazine
Scott claims to be the perfect host. He says he provided an introduction service not a pimp service, emphasizing the fact that he never took any money for the introductions. The only money he made was at the parties as a bartender.
The film emphasizes that Scott’s philosophy on life was to make people happy as there is already so much unhappiness in the world. But director Tyrnauer includes some sadness in Scotty’s life – the lost of his daughter, his friend Beach, his pet dog and the arrival of A.I.D.s.
Tyrnauer always inserts enough of the details to keep his film interesting – like the truth on Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. His film ends up a good mix of the life of Scotty, his contribution to the secret History of Hollywood and revealing ‘Enquirer’ type material.