Scotty Bowers, who claimed to have been one of Hollywood’s most infamous hustlers and procurers, arranging illicit liaisons with straight and gay film stars, often taking part in the sexual high jinks himself, died Oct. 13 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 96.
The death was confirmed by filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer, who made a 2017 documentary about Bowers, “Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.” He did not specify a cause.
From the time he arrived in Hollywood in 1946, fresh out of the Marine Corps, Bowers became an active and, by his own account, eager participant in the film world’s underground sex life.
His first encounter, he said, came when he was pumping gas on Hollywood Boulevard, and a well-dressed man drove up in a Lincoln.
“Can I help you, sir?” Bowers recalled in his 2012 memoir, “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars.”
“The man behind the wheel smiled, looked me up and down, and said, ‘Yes, I’m sure you can.’ ”
The distinguished-looking man paid for the gas, included a 0 tip and asked Bowers to climb into the front seat of the Lincoln.
“Name’s Walter,” he said, shaking hands.
Bowers said he spent the afternoon with Walter Pidgeon and the Oscar-nominated actor’s male lover, both of whom were married to women. Bowers was soon launched on a career as a prostitute and purveyor of sexual favors.
His services were an open secret in Hollywood, particularly among closeted gay men and lesbians, who were compelled by social mores and harsh publicity to keep their romantic lives under wraps. Using the gas station as a front for about five years – and later working as a handyman and bartender at private parties – Bowers coordinated countless trysts but said he never collected money for the arrangements.
Some called him a pimp, but Bowers chose to describe himself as a “gentleman hustler.”
“I didn’t believe in being an outright pimp,” he told CBS’ “Sunday Morning” in 2012. “Sort of a pimp, but not an outright pimp. There’s a difference, you know.”
His knowledge of Hollywood was far more intimate than most people’s, yet he remained discreetly in the shadows for decades. When he finally told his story in 2012, the revelations were shocking to a Hollywood that seemed to have no more secrets to tell. Skeptical critics questioned the veracity of his salacious accounts.
Bowers said his sexual adventures, which began long before Pidgeon picked him up in the Lincoln, included encounters with “Eddy and Wally,” the Duke and Duchess of Windsor: “Like her husband, she definitely preferred homosexual sex.”
Although Bowers said he “preferred the sexual company of women,” he was nothing if not open-minded. He said he took part in threesomes with actresses Lana Turner and Ava Gardner and, separately, with actors Cary Grant and Randolph Scott. (“The three of us got into a lot of sexual mischief together,” he wrote.)
At various times, he said was in bed with Vincent Price, Vivien Leigh, Édith Piaf, Tyrone Power, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward and George Cukor. He said Roy Scherer worked for him at the gas station before he became known as the movie star Rock Hudson.
“I was setting up an average of 15-20 tricks a day,” Bowers noted in his book, written with Lionel Friedberg. “This was a 24/7 operation, extending over a period of, say, 30 to 40 years. As for tricks that I performed personally, I was often seeing two or three people a day.”
One of his most startling but unverifiable claims was of meeting FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at a party of men dressed in drag. Bowers said the long romance of actors Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy was a sham dreamed up by Hollywood mythmakers. He personally had sex with Tracy, he said, and set up Hepburn with at least 150 women over several decades.
He also arranged for female companions for male actors Bob Hope, Desi Arnaz and William Holden, among others. Arnaz’s wife, Lucille Ball, once saw Bowers at a party and punched him in the face.
Detractors charged Bowers with exaggeration or outright fabrication, noting that everyone named in his book was safely in the grave.
“I’ve kept silent all these years because I didn’t want to hurt any of these people,” he told The New York Times in 2012.
His knowledge of sexual appetites was so vast that sex researcher Alfred Kinsey reportedly consulted Bowers.
“Not only did I do all the things I said I did in the book,” Bowers said, “I did even more.”
Tyrnauer, a former Vanity Fair journalist, said he was introduced to Bowers by writer Gore Vidal, who first met Bowers at the Hollywood gas station in 1948.
“He was the last link to an almost forgotten era of gay Hollywood and gay America,” said Tyrnauer, whose most recent documentary is “Where’s My Roy Cohn?”
While making the film, Tyrnauer said, he spent two years checking sources and interviewing men who had worked with Bowers as gay prostitutes.
“I understand the skepticism,” Tyrnauer said in an interview. “I’m a journalist, and I approached the story journalistically. I found anecdotal confirmation for almost everything he said.”
Descriptions of houses and backyard swimming pools were verified by photographs and satellite imagery. Bowers recalled, without prompting, the nickname of one of Grant’s male lovers. Columnist Liz Smith confirmed that Hepburn had an active lesbian love life. Others who were participants in one way or another told Tyrnauer and reporters that the sexual underworld facilitated by Bowers was, in fact, true.
“While it is at times circumstantial evidence,” Tyrnauer said in an interview, “some things were so particular, it was clear that they could not have been made up.”
Years later, Bowers recalled long-gone phone numbers and addresses of customers, all of which he memorized.
“Sometimes police would come around, sure,” he said. “But I think I never got caught partly because I kept everything in my head. There was no little black book.”
George Albert Bowers was born July 1, 1923, in Ottawa, Illinois, and grew up on a family farm. During the Depression, his parents divorced, and he moved to Chicago with his mother and two siblings. He got the nickname Scotty because he and a neighbor girl walked a Scottish terrier together and became known as “Scotties.”
In World War II, Bowers was a Marine Corps paratrooper in the Pacific. He settled in California after the war.
During his most active years as a prostitute and as a procurer, he had a long relationship with Betty Keller. (It is unclear whether they were married.) In his book, Bowers said their daughter, Donna Bowers, died in 1968 after undergoing a botched abortion.
In 1984, Bowers married singer Lois Broad, who died in 2018. Survivors include a sister.
Bowers’ life of arranging sexual referrals came to end in the 1980s, when AIDS became prevalent. For years, however, he continued to be privy to Hollywood gossip as a non-drinking bartender at parties and as a raconteur with an endless supply of stories.
“There always will be secret life happening,” Bowers told the Guardian newspaper in 2018. “People should do what pleases them and the other person – some people just please more than a few.”