Inside The Shocking And Captivating New Documentary About Sex And Hollywood

As a sex worker, Scotty Bowers says he serviced the likes of Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. But Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is more than just a salacious tell-all.
Scotty Bowers (second from left in top row) with friends
You know you're in for a tantalizing story when it begins, "I was sitting in Gore Vidal's living room."
That's how filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer began explaining what led him to make Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, his feature documentary about Scotty Bowers, the now-95-year-old who has claimed to have set up hundreds — if not thousands — of hush-hush same-sex sexual liaisons for some of the biggest names in Hollywood's golden age, including Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cole Porter, and Rock Hudson. The film alternates between shadowing Bowers during the launch of his 2012 tell-all memoir Full Service and chronicling his one-of-a-kind journey from some of the harshest battlefields of World War II to the Los Angeles gas station that he single-handedly transformed into a clandestine brothel for Hollywood's burgeoning tribe of closeted gay and bisexual professionals.
"A lot of people in Los Angeles in that period who wanted to have sex lives that were authentic were simply unable to have them without someone they could trust to help facilitate that aspect of their sexuality," said Tyrnauer. "It turns out that Scotty was a key person in the town for that."
Bowers had spent decades as one of the entertainment industry's best-kept secrets — before the release of his memoir. But that didn't keep Tyrnauer — a journalist for Vanity Fair who also made the 2008 documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor — from catching whispers about him.
It all started with a profile Tyrnauer wrote on the closeted gay TV star and producer Merv Griffin. Rather than mention Bowers by name, Tyrnauer said Griffin told him, "'There's a gas station where you used to go to get in trouble' — which is exactly what someone of that era would've said." Tyrnauer continued to hear about this enigmatic gas station on Hollywood Boulevard from others, and he tucked it away in his brain as a good story to pursue someday.
Meanwhile, he had started a long and rewarding professional relationship with Vidal, the famed literary iconoclast whose 1948 novel The City and the Pillar was a landmark depiction of a gay man's coming of age — and included lengthy passages about the lives of gay men in Hollywood in the 1940s.
Which brings us back to the fateful day Tyrnauer was sitting in Vidal's living room. "Vidal said, apropos of nothing, 'I want you to find Scotty for me,'" Tyrnauer recalled. "And I was like, 'Who's Scotty?' He said, 'Scotty was my pimp! He had a gas station.'" A lightbulb went off. Tyrnauer pushed further, learning that not only was this "Scotty" the man behind the famed gas station Tyrnauer had heard so much about, but he was still alive, living in the Laurel Canyon neighborhood of LA. Vidal had simply misplaced Bowers' number.
Tyrnauer found it, and the next time he visited Vidal, Bowers was there, talking with Vidal about the manuscript that would become his memoir.
"[He was] much more spry and genial and magical than I ever could have expected," Tyrnauer said.
Right then, Tyrnauer asked Bowers if he would be interested in allowing Tyrnauer to follow him for a documentary.
The result, which opens in limited release today, is a fascinating and, at times, distressing cinematic portrait of the intersection of sex and Hollywood, and how even our concept of what makes up "Hollywood" is terribly skewed. Here's everything you need to know about it.

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