If you have ever read Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet or have seen the 1995 documentary based on the book, you would know quite well that Hollywood was full of closeted queer individuals working as actors, directors, producers and everything else; trying their hardest to live their truest lives, while also keeping the truth hidden. Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood tells another side of that story.
Scotty Bowers was the pimp to the stars of classic Hollywood, finding temporary lovers for Hollywood’s best and brightest. Much more recently, long after his job became obsolete and the closet became a little less cramped, Bowers wrote a book about his exploits. This documentary follows him around that time as he hangs around at home, visits friends, and goes to book signings.
Therein lies the main problem. This is indeed a fascinating story, but not one that can hold an audience’s interest for 96 minutes. The story has been simplified to be about an author who was once a pimp in a Hollywood that was incredibly queer. Sure, Hollywood’s queerness is fascinating but, again, The Celluloid Closet did a better job covering this. And Bowers is a very charming and charismatic individual but, again, a man who loves his wife and wrote a book and tells stories is just not enough for a feature-length documentary; especially when the stories are so reminiscent of Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon.
The saving grace of this doc was the one thing that was not explored nearly enough, even though it was constantly flirted with: the ethics of outing. On several occasions, people brought up just how ethical it is to out dead individuals; people who perhaps did not wish to be outed or had no plans to out themselves, especially through such a seedy medium as the tell-all and, each time, the conversation was quashed and the topic was changed. That is the documentary that the world needs. What director Matt Tyrnauer presents in Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is decent, but not particularly special.
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam