This is my Throwback Thursday review. Wrote this months ago and just failed to publish it. Thank you for reading.
Directed by Matt Tyrnauer, Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (2017) tells the story of (then) 95-year old Scott Bowers, a man who procured sex for some of the greatest stars of the 1930s/40s/50s/60s/70s and 80s. Upon his return home from the war in 1945, Scottie settled in California and began working at a gas station near Hollywood. This is when and where his business began. It ended somewhere around the time Rock Hudson’s HIV/AIDS status was made public. The true Hollywood Madam, Scotty, makes Heidi Fleiss’s story look like a children’s book!
Scotty allowed (mostly) homosexual and bisexual actors a means by which to live their sexual lives freely, without having to lose their livelihood for doing so. He is considered a Hollywood legend in his own right. He is not a pimp, because he never took any money from anyone (his words); just a man who saw a need and an opportunity, and created a space for himself.
Scotty chronicled his escapades in his 2012 memoir entitled Full Service. In the book he names names of the mostly dead, extremely popular and famous celebrities who utilized his services. These were men whose reputations relied on them being “ladies’ men,” and “sex symbols,” even some of Hollywood’s “bombshells” indulged.
Scotty was a businessman and peddler of flesh who is portrayed as some sort of a “savior” to men and women with no other way to support themselves (the prostitutes) and these stars who sought someone to engage in sexual activities with who would be discreet and keep their secrets secret (the customers or johns – does one capitalize john when used this way? I don’t think so, but I could most certainly be wrong.).
One thing about this story that struck me and was more interesting to me than the sex, is the capability of human beings to perform what I call aerobics of the mind, which helps them process information (most times unpleasant or tragic information) in a way that makes it bearable for them to live with. More than just compartmentalizing information and locking it away somewhere, the information is dealt with in a way to put a positive spin on it or put a positive light upon those whom a positive light should not necessarily be shone. It is a means of psychological protection; a way of skewing the blunt truth and cushion reality so we can sleep at night or at least function day to day without going mad. It is a way to avoid your own bullshit and act as though one has let things go without ever having to deal with them.
At the beginning and through the middle of this documentary I was feeling positive, like, “Good on Scotty for allowing adults to be their sexual selves at a time when they weren’t able to do so without being scandalized and shamed!” I was smiling. I was nearly ready to cheer! But then things took this turn and shit got hella-creepy. Scotty went very dark and started talking about his childhood in a way that was shocking to me because I’d never heard anyone say what he said who had been through what he’d been through. Scotty was/is a survivalist who learned early on in life to accept what is and deal with it accordingly even if it involves working those aerobics of the mind mentioned earlier. He seems to be somewhat of a sweet man when he had to be, but something was definitely missing inside. He always seemed to be “on” and when he wasn’t “on” he wasn’t as cheerful or pleasant, showing glimmers of anger and disagreeability, even the potential for nastiness. Instead of admitting there may be a void in him and that sex filled the void (he wasn’t just pedaling sex, he kept plenty for himself), he chooses to believe making others happy was filling the void.
I don’t know Scotty. We’ve never met, but I do hold a master’s degree in psychology and it’s pretty obvious if you watch, that he has worked quite hard to believe his own bullshit, and the spin he has crafted that bullshit around is extremely delicate and mustn’t be disturbed under any circumstances. He becomes defensive and short about the subjects he doesn’t care to get into too deeply. He comes up with pat, short answers and speaks authoritatively to signal that this answer is the final one and there is no need to have any further discussion on the subject. His life partner does the same when it comes to why she is with Scotty and why she stays. The narrator/producer of this documentary does the same as he glibly goes along with Scotty’s contention that he ran what amounts to a prostitution ring he claims to never have gotten a dime for running for decades to make other people happy. Okay Scotty… If you say so. If you say so.
One question asked throughout Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is, does he feel he is betraying the trust of the people to whom he provided services? Scotty states all of them are dead (and then goes on to mention one who is still living which may or may not surprise you). But here’s my feeling about this, whether they were dead or not; Scotty is telling his own story. Like anyone’s story, there are other people involved. His stories just happen to be about people who were and/or are famous. So what? In their time they didn’t have the option to come out of any closets or tell their story unless they never wanted to work again, so there is no way to say whether or not approval would be given. As long as what he is saying is true, or rather, his version of the truth, and he has plenty of people who are still living to back up his story, I don’t see the problem.
Scotty was ahead of his time as a sexually free spirit who always accepted himself for whatever he was/is. He was never embarrassed by sex or his preferences, which is very powerful. While the stigma of being anything other than heterosexual hasn’t completely gone away it has certainly lost some power in some places. (I’m just glad I live in a time where Billy Porter can shut it down at the Oscars wearing a flowy, black velvet skirt! Did you see him?! I loved every minute of it!) I, personally, couldn’t care less who someone else sleeps with (as long as everybody is a consenting participant and there are no children involved). If they’re not sleeping with me. It’s none of my business. Period.
Unfortunately, this documentary wanders off in too many different directions and loses focus at times. I would have liked to hear more about the celebrities and less (as in, absolutely nothing) about Scotty’s hoarding issues.
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood earned 7.5 out of 10 bloops. If you are a student of psychology, a member or supporter of the LGBTQIA community (I hope I included everyone. If not, apologies. Things change so quickly I can hardly keep up.), or just interested in Old Hollywood, you will enjoy watching. Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is unrated because it is a documentary, but keep in mind there is some nudity and sexual situations depicted, so, if you don’t care to see penises, don’t bother.
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
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