Boy for Sale

02.18.12

Confessions of a Sex Escort to the Stars: Scotty Bowers’s Memoir, ‘Full Service’

After Scotty Bowers returned as a Marine from World War II, he started to work as a pimp to the stars. With his new memoir, Full Service, out this week, he tells Ramin Setoodeh about his gay flings with Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, J. Edgar Hoover, and others.

Scotty Bowers says that Spencer Tracy, like many male celebrities of the '40s and '50s, used to pay him for sex. As Bowers remembers it, he would go over to Tracy’s house, and Tracy would start drowning himself for hours in scotch. Then Bowers would collapse into bed with the actor and the two would fool around. Sometimes Tracy got so trashed that he would get up in the middle of the night and urinate in the closet. “A couple times,” Bowers says, “he pee-peed on me, thinking it was the bathroom. That’s how drunk he’d be.”

Tracy had other vices, too. “He would not suck your cock,” Bowers says during a colorful interview at a Santa Monica hotel. “He would chew your cock. That’s not nice! It would hurt.”

He was a gas-station attendant in Hollywood after returning from World War II, but Bowers soon fell into another, more lucrative career. He ran an underground pimping service, setting up dozens of closeted celebrities (his list includes Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and the Duke of Windsor) with gay flings. When a hustler wasn’t available, Bowers would just go himself. And, of course, he also says he set up heterosexual men with women.

At the age of 88, Bowers has finally told his story in the new memoir Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Life of the Stars, which was released on Tuesday. As the title suggests, this is a juicy tell-all. (Out of respect to his former clients, however, Bowers spills the beans only on the sex lives of dead celebrities.)

According to Bowers, he set up Hepburn with 150 women. He “outs” (if you can call it that) dozens of men in Hollywood, including Rock Hudson, Cole Porter, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, James Dean, Anthony Perkins, and Raymond Burr, the star of Perry Mason. He admits to passionate affairs with women, too, like Vivien Leigh and Edith Piaf. At the height of I Love Lucy, Bowers says, he set up Desi Arnaz with two to three women a week. “His type was any nice-looking girl who was a quick lay,” Bowers says. One day at a party, Lucille Ball confronted him, wailing: “How dare you pimp for Desi!”

It’s easy to get bogged down with the minutiae of Bowers’s stories, because they are so colorful and shocking. He recalls the weekend he spent with J. Edgar Hoover. According to Bowers, Hoover came to dinner dressed in full drag. “He was no beauty,” Bowers says, “even when he was dressed like a woman.” Bowers then proceeded to have a foursome with the FBI director.

Needless to say, Full Service is already causing controversy. Even as Bowers insists that all his stories are fact, the critics have been skeptical. “This is offensive gibberish,” wrote The Daily Mail. “If you take it as a novel, however, rather than non-fiction, Full Service is weirdly impressive.”

But there’s another way to look at the book. It reads more like a historical document, the Kinsey report on the sex lives of the rich and famous. If Bowers is reporting on the truth (as his friend Gore Vidal insists on the book jacket), there’s also a sad irony in his story. Many of the actors mentioned in his book established the basis for what was for decades considered normal: cookie-cutter, heterosexual marriage. As a reader, it makes you cringe—if all these celebrities hadn’t pretended to be something they were not, would generations of gay teenagers have struggled as much with their identities? Would we even be debating gay marriage today?

What also becomes clear from Bowers’s memoir is that the definitions of sexuality weren’t so rigid back then. He recalls coming home from the war and innocently starting his job at the gas station on Hollywood Boulevard. When a guy in his 50s eyed one of Bowers’s heterosexual Army buddies, Bowers set the two up. The next day, the friend returned to the gas station glowing. As Bowers writes, the friend said: “Easiest fucking $20 I ever earned. You were right, Scotty. That old geezer only wanted to give me a blow job, and I wasn’t going to say no to that. He was good, too!”

Bowers has been drawn to sex ever since he was a young boy. He remembers growing up in Chicago and fishing used condoms out of the river. “I washed them out, dried them, hung them up, and resold them,” he says in our interview, adding that was one of the details edited out of the book. “Boom! Supply and demand.” By the time he was 11, he was having sex with multiple Catholic priests, but he doesn’t see it as abuse. “I let them do it, didn’t I? So therefore I wasn’t abused. They would be very nice. They would hold me, cuddle me, jack off with me, and give me a few bucks.”

In person, Bowers is still a flirt. His blue eyes are striking, and he’s fond of touching you while he tells his stories. He’s slept with so many men and women over the years, he can’t even offer an estimate. “Jesus Christ,” he says. “Back when I was busy, if you were to record everything I did in one week, no one would believe it. They would say that’s impossible to be with 35 different people in 35 different places.” Despite admitting that he still has sex with men (without taking Viagra), he says he doesn’t consider himself gay. “Everybody would consider me bisexual,” he says. “It’s quite obvious I must have been.”

“He would not suck your cock. He would chew your cock. That’s not nice!”

He’s been married to his second wife, Lois, for 27 years, and she doesn’t know much about his other life. (She’s told him that she won’t be reading the book.) “I’ve learned that people can be happier people when they have a little variety,” Bowers says. “I think that’s true for a lot of people.”

His memoir has already made it onto the extended New York Times bestseller list, and it will be adapted into a documentary by the director of Valentino: The Last Emperor, Matt Tyrnauer. When asked if he has any regrets, he doesn’t even hesitate. “A lot of people think about and dream about doing this and doing that,” he says. “I’ve done it all, repeatedly. I’ve done everybody already!”

Then, suddenly, a voice in the background pipes up. “Except me!” says the book publicist who drove Scotty to the interview.

Bowers flashes a grin. There’s always the car ride home.