17 June 2012

Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood (Scotty Bowers)

Disclaimer: I have developed, recently, quite a passion for salacious non-fiction; among them, the memoirs of porn stars, pick-up artists, weirdo rock stars and dysfunctional politicians. This review refers to the book that started it all.

This is the juicy, filthy memoir of a Hollywood ‘fixer’. Scotty Bowers, now 88, was a Marine paratrooper, petrol pump attendant and bartender who carved a bizarre niche for himself during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

For six decades he claims to have arranged or participated in the sordid trysts of some of the biggest names: Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Edith Piaf, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Tennessee Williams, Rita Hayworth, Bob Hope, J Edgar Hoover and even the Duke of Windsor and ‘Wally’.

Although fascinating, Full Service isn’t an easy book to read, for several reasons.

Chief among them is the reader’s growing skepticism about the book's veracity, especially because almost so many of the celebs Bowers mentions are long dead and unable to refute his accounts of their peccadilloes. (Interestingly, Gore Vidal, who is apparently an old friend, vouches for Bowers’ authenticity on the cover.)

The prose is also what we call ‘purple’: so extravagant or flowery as to draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sexually suggestive beyond the requirements of its context.

This could be why critics have been skeptical. “This is offensive gibberish,” said The Daily Mail. “If you take it as a novel, however, rather than non-fiction, it is weirdly impressive.” Yes, there’s another way to look at the book, which reads like a historical document – the Kinsey report, if you will, on the sex lives of the rich and famous. (Bowers claims to have helped Alfred Kinsey research his famous book.)

The only endearing aspect of Full Service is the author’s astonishing tolerance for the weirdness of human passions. Nothing shocks him. He will describe some outrageous preference; then say how charming the person was who held it.

If you're looking for a morality tale where Bowers eventually realises the error of his ways, this isn’t it (Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love like a Porn Star is – read that instead). But if you're looking for an unvarnished account of the shenanigans of 1950s Hollywood – and you like a good trashy read – Full Service will enthrall you.

No comments: