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Dishing the dirt on Hollywood 'royalty' (and ex-kings)
on 31 July 2015
A farmboy from Illinois, Scotty Bowers headed for Los Angeles after his demob from the Marines at the end of World War Two. Working the evening shift at a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard, he was soon running a lucrative sideline as a "call-boy" (he calls it "tricking") with well-heeled Angelinos, most of them in the movie business - both men and women (he claims to prefer straight sex). As well as turning tricks himself, he also set up many another hard-up young man (or woman) with movie people great and small. Then as now on Sunset Strip, straight guys willingly turned gay tricks for a few dollars of beer money.
It's all yesteryear tittle-tattle, mostly set during the Fifties and Sixties. Everybody mentioned is safely dead and unable to start libel proceedings. But there is some juicy stuff here: threesomes, bondage, pool-party orgies. Somehow we've always sensed that our stage and screen idols have feet of clay; Scotty Bowers wants us to know that a proportion of their off-screen time is spent wallowing in mud.
Many names here are familiar to the gay gossips: Noel Coward, Montgomery Clift, James Dean. I was only occasionally surprised by his revelations: moving on from deceased Hollywood 'royalty' to deposed royals, he says he fixed the Duke of Windsor up with call-boys and Wallis with girls. At a time when pornography was illegal in the US (hard to imagine, isn't it?) he arranged a private showing of ex-King Farouk's extensive personal collection for Dr Alfred Kinsey and his fellow researchers.
Not all the scandal is sexual: Rita Hayworth was too stingy to buy her out-of-work brother new tyres for his beat-up truck. And Scotty reminds us just how terrible was William Holden's decline (one of the non-gay clients) into the farther reaches of alcoholism.
FULL SERVICE is written (ghost-written) in a gushing Louella Parsons prose style straight out of the "fanzines"; gushing enough to read at times like Barbara Cartland (who would churn in her urn at the comparison, I'm sure). I feel slightly ashamed to have wasted a few hours reading this tawdry drivel, but - oh dear - it's an undeniably compelling read. That said, I did find myself wondering how much of it is the sleazy truth and how much is money-minting fantasy.
[Reviewer is the author of THE BEXHILL MISSILE CRISIS]