RETRO REVIEW: Get Scandalous as the Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema Screens Matt Tyrnauer’s Expose on Legendary Procurer, Scotty Bowers, SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD, Opening August 31

Posted on: Aug 31st, 2018 By:

by Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD (2017); Dir. Matt Tyrnauer; Opens Friday, August 31 at the Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema; Trailer here.

Director Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary, SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD (2017) is many things. It is a romp through the most sordid tales of Hollywood’s past; it is an in-depth observation of LGBTQ culture during the repressive studio era; and it is the curious and complex story of one Scotty Bowers, Hollywood’s most notable pimp. It is important to mention that both Scotty and his former employees do not consider him to be a pimp, insisting that he never took money from those working for him. Regardless of the terminology used to describe him, the fact is that Scotty Bowers spent the postwar years in Hollywood setting up Tinseltown’s best and brightest with one of a gaggle of young men that hung around Scotty’s gas station on Hollywood Boulevard. In an era when being outed as gay would at the very least cost you your career and reputation, and in some cases put you in a mental institution or behind bars, the secretive services provided by Scotty proved to be an invaluable outlet for many stars to pursue their lifestyle behind closed doors, away from the paparazzi and the adoring fans that would be devastated to learn that their idols were anything less than the ideal straight laced, heterosexual figureheads of the Postwar era.

At 91 years old, one would assume that Scotty Bowers would choose to slow down in his twilight years, long withdrawn from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. This assumption could not be farther from the truth, as we see in film. Bright-eyed and talkative, Bowers has the enthusiasm of a man decades younger than his ninety-plus years. He and his wife Louise putter about their Los Angeles home and maintain active social lives that transcend their age (Scotty goes to publishing parties and meets up with his old employees; Louise sings at various nightclubs in full black-tie regalia).

The film captures Scotty’s most recent endeavor: the publication of his 2012 book FULL SERVICE, wherein he recounts his dealings with the stars. The book claims that countless celebrities thought to be heterosexual were in fact bisexual and gay, as evidenced by Scotty hooking them up with one of the many young men (and even a few women) under his employ. Scotty rattles names off like it’s nobody’s business (Cary Grant, George Cukor, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Vivien Leigh among others). Many readers are concerned whether outing celebrities that presented as straight while alive is disrespectful, considering the fact that they had no chance to consent to being outed. Bowers vehemently denies any disrespect on his part, claiming that because he chose to wait until every star mentioned in the book had passed away, he is abstaining from causing damage that could have destroyed their reputation in life. Whether or not this is a morally-sound decision is up to the viewer, but Scotty brushes any accusations of libel off his shoulder.

As the film progresses, another less ribald and optimistic side of Scotty begins to be unearthed. He and his wife live in a hoarding hellscape. Scotty unwilling or unable to part with the trinkets he’s collected over the decades filling both his home, a second home, and multiple garages. He does not seem to consider this to be much of an issue, but his wife mentions in passing that his refusal to see a therapist plays a large part in his dysfunction. Scotty slowly begins to open up about his past and it is befallen with personal tragedies, from the deaths of his brother in WWII and his daughter when she was only 23. The onset of the AIDS crisis took the lives of many of his friends and colleagues and led to Scotty’s decision to retire from his career as a pimp. His unwavering work ethic and commitment to “show up and get the job done” left him emotionally disconnected, unable to cope with the scale of his heartbreak. The years spent bottling up the pain came to a head when Scotty began to come apart at the seams on camera, finally acknowledging and coming to terms with his pain in the most emotionally intimate moment in the film.

While it is true that SCOTTY AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOD takes a more serious turn when delving into Scotty’s past, it is by and large a fun and witty film, chock full of off the wall stories about celebrity sexcapades straight from the source itself. While Scotty’s story is not one that is well-known by the general movie-going audience, it is a story worthy of being told, warts and all. Be sure to catch Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary exclusively at Landmark’s Midtown Art Cinema opening Friday, August 31.

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RETRO REVIEW: TAB HUNTER: CONFIDENTIAL Traces a Star’s Journey from Teen Idol to Cult Icon

Posted on: Nov 18th, 2015 By:

tabhunterconfidential-posterTAB HUNTER: CONFIDENTIAL (2015); Dir. Jeffrey Schwarz; Starring ; Tab Hunter, Debbie Reynolds, John Waters; Opens Friday, Nov. 20Landmark Midtown Art Cinema; Trailer here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

TAB HUNTER: CONFIDENTIAL opens Friday Nov. 20 at the Landmark Midtown Arts Cinema. This enlightening and wonderfully fun documentary  chronicles the long career of actor Tab Hunter and the struggles he dealt with as a gay man in a time marked by intolerance.

In this day and age, people love to insist that celebrity culture has reached ludicrous levels of influence on our daily lives. They say that Kardashians rule the world around us, and this bastion of scandal- mongering and celebrity worship would never have been seen in “the good old days” before Twitter and TMZ. But as TAB HUNTER: CONFIDENTIAL shows us, that presumption could not be further from the truth. This compelling and charming documentary follows film, television, and recording star Tab Hunter from his highs as a teen heartthrob to the lows of family tragedy and a career crisis, all while being closeted for the majority of his working years. Now in his 80s, Tab gets to look back on his tumultuous experience in Hollywood and remind audiences that the cult of Hollywood was just as prevalent in the past as it is today.

tabhunterconfidential_002_Tab_ShowerBased on his memoir of the same name, the film showcases Hunter’s life from his childhood as the son of a German immigrant and an abusive, absent father, to his early (illegal) entry into the Coast Guard at age 15. After being discharged, Tab spent his time horseback riding, which led to him meeting Hollywood agent Henry Wilson and kickstarting his career in film. He served to be little more than eye candy in his first few roles in movies like ISLAND OF DESIRE (1952), which was lambasted by critics (Hunter himself acknowledges his lackluster performance in the film). He nonetheless continued to work, and eventually found success with BATTLE CRY (1955), a war drama based on a bestselling novel. As he went under contract with MGM, Tab quickly became a household name, and teenage girls became infatuated with him. MGM fueled this obsession by pairing him off with Natalie Wood, another MGM star. The two went along with the charade for their sake of their careers, but as Hunter playfully notes in the film, the “couple” had each other’s backs when it came to secrets: Wood was secretly dating bad boy Dennis Hopper while Hunter pursued his first long-term relationship with PSYCHO (1960) star Anthony Perkins.

Tab Hunter and Allan Glaser.

Tab Hunter and Allan Glaser.

The segment in the film that touches upon Hunter and Perkins’ relationship is both touching and heartbreaking. It’s clear from the way that Hunter reminisces that the two really did share a special connection, but the combined strain of homophobia and competing careers sadly prohibited any possibility of a successful romance. After he was nearly outed by a gossip rag in the height of his stardom, Hunter was put under immense pressure to keep his sexuality under wraps and continued to star in typecast roles for MGM. When these conditions proved to be too stressful for Hunter, he made the costly decision to break his contract with MGM, and his subsequent failure to establish himself in non studio productions led to his departure from mainstream Hollywood. He spent a number of years performing in dinner theatre shows and pursuing his love of horseback riding. He appeared in John Waters’ Odorama classic POLYESTER (1981) opposite the fabulous Divine (who he would later reunite with in LUST IN THE DUST [1985]), a move that brought about a resurgence in his popularity. Hunter met his long-term partner Allan Glaser (who produced CONFIDENTIAL) during the production of LUST IN THE DUST, and the two continue to share their lives together in California to this day.

tabhunterconfidential_006_Tab_SwimsuitThe beauty of Tab Hunter: Confidential lies within its refreshing optimism and the endearing nature of its subject. Even when discussing the struggles of his career, Hunter is joking and cheerful, and the portions of the documentary that touch upon his mother’s struggles with mental illness are laced with love and compassion. Hunter, unlike many of his peers who were in a similar situation of dealing with a homophobic Hollywood, ended up with a happy ending. It’s a real treat to be able to watch him express his love for life and remembrance of the past. And if you still believe that Hollywood is at its most scandalous today, be sure to check out this film to see how little has really changed since Tab Hunter’s heyday.

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