Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood follows Scotty Bowers, a World War II veteran (now 95) who, after he was discharged, became a sex worker and pimp. Cary Grant, Walter Pidgeon, Randolph Scott, and Tom Ewell were among the famous clients Scotty calls “tricks” in the same charmingly anachronistic way he calls everyone “baby.” Describing how he made money both from pimping out young, underemployed men and from the voyeurs who watched them, he exclaims, “That’s what you call business, baby!”
After his clients died, Scotty wrote a tell-all book, but unlike some dishy works about long-gone Hollywood sex lives, this film boasts photos and accounts from well-known queer men, like Gore Vidal, to back up its stories. The items Scotty inherited from former clients, including a house and an Oscar (!), provide further corroboration.
But Scotty offers more than just salaciousness. We see evidence of Scotty’s hoarding (he has one small house that is stuffed to the brim with old papers and memorabilia). We also come to understand that the childhood sexual abuse he survived — like many queer men of his generation, including Allen Ginsberg, he doesn’t acknowledge sexual contact he had with adult men when he was a child as abuse — and PTSD from his time in the Marines have helped shape his life and thinking. The film could use more interviews with women, like Lois, Scotty’s wife of several decades who had no idea about his past when they married. She says, “I didn’t know him as that person. Not sure I’d want to.”
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood
Directed by Matt Tyrnauer
Opens August 3, IFC Center
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 1, 2018