I’ve been working out on a stationary bike lately, because of ongoing sports injuries. I find this dull. I also find that I can alleviate the boredom by listening to books on my iPod. I’m working my way through some of the books that are available for free from my local library.
When I listen to audiobooks while biking– heck, whenever I listen to books — I have to make certain that the book is simple in both substantive content and written style. Otherwise, if I get distracted, I lose track of where I am.
Sadly, I get distracted a lot. While I have almost unbreakable focus when reading a book, listening to books seems to go through a different part of my brain, one with a pretty short attention span. Because I can’t just page back in an audiobook to find what I missed, it can take me forever to retrace my steps. The end product of this issue is that I go for simplistic audiobooks.
Last week, I found a doozy of a simplistic book: Scotty Bowers’ Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars. The book’s basic outline is that Bowers was a simple Illinois farm boy who came to Hollywood after WWII and quickly became the town’s best-known bisexual prostitute, as well as an even better known procurer who would happily (and for no fee) bring people together for sexual hi-jinx. The lure of reading the book, of course, is to discover which classic Hollywood stars were gay or bisexual (and according to Bowers, that was just about everybody), and what kind of bizarre sexual practices some stars enjoyed (you really don’t want to know about Charles Laughton’s alleged fetish).
I found the book surprisingly interesting, although not for the obvious reasons. Bowers certainly isn’t shy about describing various sexual encounters (and he seems to have had thousands, with both women and men, famous and unknown), but he does so in such an upbeat, yet clinical, way that it has all the sexual thrills of listening to one of those loud, cheerful gym teachers we used to have in the 70s describing the facts of life to a room full of bored teenage girls. If you’re looking to be titillated, this book isn’t for you. (But if you’re under 18, or prefer to keep your mind out of the gutter, this book isn’t for you either. It’s too graphic.)
What made the book tolerable is that there were some very real, and often very sad, stories in there. Bowers presents himself as a happy-g0-lucky guy who just loves sex and has no hang-ups. No matter who or what, he’s good with it, and he’s willing to go along to get along. Indeed, if Bowers is indeed as easy-going as he describes himself, one can readily imagine him surrounding himself with all sorts of people, from young people after the war anxious for a few bucks and willing to sell their bodies, to Hollywood stars, who know that anything can be bought except for true friendship.
What made the book most fascinating for me, though, is the way it confirmed a lot of beliefs I have about the way the world works. The book begins with Scotty in post-WWII Hollywood working at a corner gas station, where Walter Pidgeon picks him up for some sex. (Per Bowers, Pidgeon was, like so many other famous actors, bisexual.) Scotty realizes that there’s easy money to be had selling his body, and learns that there’s also a high demand for other young, fresh bodies. Unbeknownst to his boss, Scotty quickly turns the gas station where he works into a sexual clearinghouse.
If you read only that far into the book, you’ll come away with the impression that Bowers just happened to be a sexually open former Marine in 1946 Hollywood. In fact, though, as Bowers himself reports, he was sexually molested by pedophiles for most of his childhood. As an 89-year-old looking back on a life dedicated to sex, Bowers describes these molestations as loving and pleasant experiences. That sounds like serious denial and retrofitting. Young children should never be sexualized ever. What happened to him was criminal, pure and simple. This childhood sexual abuse seems to have set Bowers on a lifelong path of hypersexuality. Moreover, it ties in closely with a point I’ve been making over the past few days, which is that early sexual activity, especially homosexual activity, leaves children more likely to grow up identifying as gay or bisexual.
Although originally molested down on the farm, when Bowers’ parents divorced and he moved with his mother, brother, and sister to Chicago, the molestation didn’t just continue, it increased. Bowers took up a paper route and, again, became a victim of pedophiles. From the people to whom he delivered papers, to the parish priests, to the guys at the local bar — everyone seems to have recognized that this boy was a born victim. Bowers felt that he was in driver’s seat, because he got paid for these sexual encounters, but I cringed when he described the scope of the sexual exploitation he was experiencing before he was even a teen. Moreover, his mother and stepfather seem to have been clueless about their child’s activity, because he describes them as being unperturbed by the fact that he was out at all hours and making sums of money that were ridiculous for a child his age.
Bowers’ WWII experiences were dreadful. He fought at both Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. He tells a terrible story about being in the heat of the fighting at Iwo Jima, only to be summoned to speak with another, terribly upset, Marine. The Marine told Scotty that he (the Marine), had just seen Scotty’s brother, who unbeknownst to Scotty was fighting only a few yards away, get cut in half by a shell. Scotty was shattered and, while he was trying to assimilate this information, the Marine to whom he was talking also got cut in half by a shell, dying at Scotty’s feet.
Unsurprisingly, when Scotty returned to civilian life, he was ready to embrace hedonism. Moreover, given his childhood experiences, he found it perfectly normal to sleep with anybody, in whatever configurations the human mind could conjure. Although Scotty claims to have preferred sex with women, the bulk of his escapades were on behalf of Hollywood’s homosexual crowd, whether open or closeted. In this regard, there’s a lot of salacious gossip to be had in the book [strong content warning], although many claim that Bowers is making things up (except for Gore Vidal, who says in the book’s intro that every word is true).
To my mind, the most fascinating story Bowers has to tell is about Alfred Kinsey — and, if true, it once again shows that Kinsey, rather than recording societal mores was, through skewed information, shaping those mores. Bowers’ story about Kinsey picks up when Kinsey was working on Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Although it’s hard to imagine today, most women in the 1940s and early 1950s weren’t about to talk about their sexual practices. To get information, Kinsey and his cohorts (many of whom were bisexual or homosexual) either interviewed their own friends, or tapped into a sub-culture of criminals and prostitutes. Wikipedia does a good job summing up all the problems with Kinsey’s “research” (hyperlinks omitted):
Kinsey’s research went beyond theory and interview to include observation of and participation in sexual activity, sometimes involving co-workers. Some of the data published in the two Kinsey Reports books is controversial in the scientific and psychiatric communities, due to the low amount of research that was done and Kinsey’s decision to interview and sexually experiment with volunteers who may not have been representative of the general population. Kinsey justified this sexual experimentation as being necessary to gain the confidence of his research subjects. He encouraged his staff to do likewise, and to engage in a wide range of sexual activity, to the extent that they felt comfortable; he argued that this would help his interviewers understand the participant’s responses. Kinsey filmed sexual acts which included co-workers in the attic of his home as part of his research; Biographer Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy explains that this was done to ensure the films’ secrecy, which would have caused a scandal had it become public knowledge. James H. Jones, author of Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life, and British psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, amongst others, have speculated that Kinsey was driven by his own sexual needs.
Kinsey collected sexual material from around the world, which brought him to the attention of U.S. Customs when they seized some pornographic films in 1956; he died before this matter was resolved legally.
Kinsey wrote about pre-adolescent orgasms using data in tables 30 to 34 of the male volume, which report observations of orgasms in over three-hundred children between the ages of five months and fourteen years. This information was said to have come from adults’ childhood memories, or from parent or teacher observation. Kinsey said he also interviewed nine men who had sexual experiences with children, and who told him about the children’s responses and reactions. Little attention was paid to this part of Kinsey’s research at the time, but where Kinsey had gained this information began to be questioned nearly 40 years later. It was later revealed that Kinsey used data from a single pedophile and presented it as being from various sources. Kinsey had seen the need for participant confidentiality and anonymity as necessary to gain “honest answers on such taboo subjects”. The Kinsey Institute wrote that the data on children in tables 31–34 came from one man’s journal (started in 1917) and that the events concerned predated the Kinsey Reports.
Jones wrote that Kinsey’s sexual activity influenced his work, that he over-represented prisoners and prostitutes, classified some single people as “married”, and that he included a disproportionate number of homosexual men, which may have distorted his studies. While he has been criticized for omitting African-Americans from his research, his report on the human male includes numerous references to African American participants. Historian Vern Bullough writes that the data was later reinterpreted, excluding prisoners and data derived from an exclusively gay sample, and the results indicate that it does not appear to have skewed the data. Kinsey may have over-represented homosexuals, but Bullough considers that this may have been because homosexual behavior was stigmatized and needed to be better understood. Paul Gebhard, who was Kinsey’s colleague from 1946 to 1956 and who also succeeded Kinsey as Director of the Kinsey Institute following his death, attempted to justify Kinsey’s work in the 1970s by removing some of the suspect data he alleged showed a bias towards homosexuality. After he recalculated the findings in Kinsey’s work, he found only slight differences between the original and updated figures.
Bowers claims to have had a role in some of the movies Kinsey made to illustrate the sexual smorgasbord allegedly taking place on American college campuses. According to Bowers, he brought a cohort of prostitutes to Bloomington who then pretended to be college co-eds. These pretend co-eds would romp around campus, then return to rooms that were allegedly in dorms and sororities. Once in those rooms, they’d engage in all sorts of lesbian sexual activity that supposedly support the results of Kinsey’s interviews. This footage — which was straight out pornography — was then presented in academic circles as actual footage of actual co-eds engaged in actual lesbian sex.
The Kinsey reports, when combined in 1960 with The Pill, led to the explosion in non-martial American sexual conduct. What finally slowed, but didn’t stop, this bacchanal was AIDS. The Alfred Kinsey legacy still resonates on American college campuses with their endless hook-ups and Sex Weeks. Bowers’ autobiography provides one more bit of background information show that Kinsey’s report did not reflect the norms amongst ordinary Americans but, instead, created them. And to the extent that these new “norms” are antithetical to the nuclear family, which is the human relationship most suited for a stable, wealthy society, Kinsey and his enablers have a lot to answer for when it comes to the rise of the single parent home, which is a strong indicator of poverty.
Another thought I had about Bowers’ book is about the way in which gays first played the Hollywood game, but eventually began to shape the Hollywood agenda — which, in turn, shaped American culture. From the 1940s through to the 1970s or 1980s, gays kept their sex lives fairly secret and participated in making movies supporting traditional societal norms: Romantic relations are between men and women, and sexual relations are for men and women after they marry. Starting in the 1970s, Hollywood’s gay culture and Hollywood’s Leftist culture came together to use Hollywood’s product — movies and television — to change those societal norms. The fact that — culturally, politically, and judicially — the last few years can be called “The Fruition of the Gay Revolution” is a direct product of the world Scotty Bowers describes, one that used to live on the fringes and that has now moved front and center.
Finally, my last takeaway from the book is that, when people have no boundaries, they do crazy things. While the Hollywood system worked overtime to keep the stars looking straight and pristine in the public eye, the reality is that, behind the scenes, many of them had no constraints whatsoever on their behavior. Reading about endless orgies and all the different ways in which the stars and prostitutes exchanged bodily fluids, it’s actually quite surprising that Nature, which is hostile to excess, didn’t rear her ugly head until the early 1980s.