Carnal Knowledge

A new documentary explores the secret sex lives of Hollywood stars

When you hear what this movie is about, you'll want to see it and take in all the crazy sex stuff celebrities were doing a half century ago.

What you won't be expecting (well, maybe a little since I'm sort of telling you here) is an incisive and compelling look into the long, strange life at the center of many of those crazy sex stories, an ex-Marine named Scotty Bowers.

Bowers, after serving in WWII, ran a "Hey, Let's Go Fuck Over There!" place out of a gas station. I'd call it an escort service but, nah, Bowers and his buddies cut right to the chase with straight-up sex for 20 bucks with many well-known personalities. According to Bowers in this film, and his autobiography (Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars), Bowers happened upon actor Walter Pidgeon one day, went skinny dipping in his pool, then wound up in his bed.

One thing led to another, and Bowers eventually found himself hooking up the likes of the closeted Pidgeon with his buddies at the gas station. Pidgeon told two friends, then his buddies told two friends, and so on, and so on...

The Pidgeon encounter led to many more with movie stars and public figures. Among the stars (many of them closeted gay) Bowers and friends allegedly "escorted" were Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Rock Hudson, Cary Grant and many more. There were three ways with Ava Gardner and Lana Turner, bedtimes with J. Edgar Hoover and sex games with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (!).

Do I believe all of Scotty's stories? He's in his mid-'90s now, and most of the folks he's talking about are long dead. So he feels safer making all of these revelations, content that Cary Grant and Randolph Scott won't kick his ass for kissing and telling. Listen, I think the guy is full of shit with some of his sex fables, but all of them? Nope...much of this seems convincingly true.

As a documentary subject, Bowers is a quite the interesting kook. He's been married to a woman since the '80s, a woman he failed to tell about his pimp days when they met (Bowers quit hooking up celebs with the onset of AIDS in the early '80s.) He's a big-time hoarder, with multiple houses and garages full of seemingly everything he's ever owned. (He claims to have every published issue of Playboy magazine in one of his basements, and I believe him wholeheartedly.) He also gets some pretty crazy, sexually suggestive birthday cakes. In one sequence, he dumps a loved one's ashes through the dry rot on his deck, then blasts the remnants away with a garden hose.

While a lot of revelations in this movie made me stop and think "Well, you don't say?," the one that surprised me the most was that Hepburn and Tracy never lived or slept together. Those words are said in the movie. According to Bowers and friends, their relationship was a public cover up for both being bisexual, much like Rock Hudson's arranged marriage to quell celebrity gossip. I've got to think Hepburn and Tracy at least made out a few times. This is one of the stories that seems a bit farfetched.

So, according to this movie, Bowers screwed near everybody in Tinseltown, along with a few public figures. Whether you believe him or not, Matt Tyrnauer's film is an entertaining character study. It's also painfully awkward at times, so know going into it that it's not all bright lights and blow jobs. While the film doesn't dig too deep into his psyche, Bowers makes a few eyebrow raising revelations about his difficult younger life that aren't funny at all.

OK, I'm finished with the review and I still don't believe that Hepburn and Tracy never had sex. Come on...Kate and Spencer? They did it, didn't they?

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