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Back in the days when Esso promised to “put a tiger in your tank” and gas station attendants would grease a crankshaft on request, a handsome ex-Marine named Scotty Bowers worked at a Richfield station on Hollywood Blvd. where — as he later put it — he “learn[ed] to do more than just pump gas.”
In an era when queer Hollywood was as undercover as undercoating, Bowers helped prominent but closeted gay men and lesbians (as well as some heterosexuals) hook up with attractive friends and Bowers himself, while their cars hooked up with the shiny gas pumps out front.
Bowers told his story in a 2012 memoir titled, inevitably, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. Next came a documentary by Matt Tyrnauer and his WME-repped Altimeter Films shingle (Studio 54, Apple’s Home), called Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood.
The doc premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and subsequently played Palm Springs and L.A.’s Outfest. Now, the Greenwich Entertainment pickup opens July 27 in Los Angeles, a week later in New York and then expands to more than 50 markets, a substantial platform for a documentary.
Meanwhile, Bowers, who lives in the Hollywood Hills, is getting a citation from neighboring West Hollywood.
“It’s very nice to be honored by West Hollywood,” said Bowers. “I have lived in the area a long time and remember when West Hollywood wasn’t even gay. I may have had a part in inventing the rainbow in West Hollywood and if I did I’m proud of that.”
“It’s been said with a wink that Scotty Bowers helped put the ‘wood’ in Hollywood from the 1940s to the 1980s,” Mayor Pro Tempore John D’Amico, who will present the just-turned-95-year old with a proclamation Wednesday, July 25, said of Bowers’ role in local LGBTQ history. “What we know for sure is that an interesting piece of the fantasy and ecstasy of the movie industry’s LGBT past is present in Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary.”
The 5 p.m. presentation takes place at The Abbey Food & Bar and is open to the public.
“It’s very fitting for Scotty to be honored by the city of West Hollywood,” added Tyrnauer. “He helped build the city as a key figure in the LGBTQ community for decades, who was trusted and revered by many men and women who were, decades ago, victims of repression, marginalization and violence at the hands of the vice squad and other oppressive forces.”
As those bonds of tyranny began to dissolve, one of the first signals of the new social norms was Herb Ritts’s Fred With Tires, a 1984 photograph of a hunky young guy hoisting a pair of equally beefy treads — and standing at the back of what looks like a gas station (actually, an auto body shop). Even as Scotty’s era was fading, some things hadn’t changed.
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