Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
Directed by Matt Tymauer
Starring Scotty Bowers
You might not have heard the name Scotty Bowers, but he has secrets. No, not classified, government grade secrets. He has Hollywood secrets. The kind of secrets that, now, most people know. See, he was a pimp in Hollywood from the 1940’s to 1980’s and he was responsible for getting things and for making connections with Hollywood’s elite.
The documentary, by Vanity Fair special correspondent Matt Tymauer opens the books on four plus decades of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes as we are invited into his myriad of storage places, chock full of material. So much so, that one might be inclined to think that Scotty is a pack rat. But, even at 95, he is still one of the most influential and recognized connections in the Hollywood gay community.
The film, which screened last fall at TIFF and this spring at the Phoenix Film Festival, exudes happiness, both from Scotty and as Scotty spoke of his subjects; he genuinely wanted to make people happy. The documentary, based on his memoirs, paints a picture of skepticism: did he really connect all the people he said he had?
Tymauer starts us in modern LA as Bowers recounts his beginnings at the Richfield Oil gas station on Hollywood Blvd. It was a hopping place and Scotty, a man who was and is interested in the human connection, was able to help people connect sexually.
More importantly, he secretly connected a lot of Hollywood’s leading men into gay relationships. Of course, we’ve suspected for a number years on some of the relationships, but the level of information provided leaves no doubt. Tymauer efficiently weaves a rather dramatic tale of posh encounters as a party bartender who really wanted everyone to be happy.
The most interesting aspect of the man? Every secret is in Bowers’ head and to hear him recount his incredulous experiences throughout the documentary is amazing. The wealth of details within his recounting opened up four decades worth of Hollywood history that many assumed was too good to be true. Yet, within three houses willed to Scotty by actor Beach Dickerson can attest to the voracity of his own mind.
As a matter of fact, in a moment of sadness, one of the homes was sold and we see him start the process of decluttering one location. His wife, a conservative cabaret singer reluctantly talks about what little she knew about his excursions: she didn’t know about them until recently and that’s what makes this documentary so much more tantalizing. Even as you believe the content, there is still a nagging question about it all.
Buried within the secrets was the morality code the studios put in to place in Scotty’s heyday, protecting subjects that were taboo to the conservative Christian sensibilities of the time, which included the thought that homosexuality was a mental disorder that could be treated. Scotty even connected Alfred Kinsey, the pioneering sex researcher with female subjects, so Scotty’s connections swung both ways.
At the end of the day, this richly told documentary sheds light on a man, a myth and the closely held secrets of Hollywood’s elite. It furthers the discussion of sexuality at a time where that notion is starting to go out the window. A must see!
3.5 out of 4