I don’t expect much from trashy biographies. I don’t buy them for artistic merit; I want dirt. I’m also not easily shocked. I have a filthy mouth (in appropriate circumstances, granted), I love John Waters movies, and in my college days I even tolerated a Borders coworker playing entire Frank Zappa albums overnight while we stocked shelves. I am certainly no prude. When I pick up a book like this, I want the sordid, salacious, shocking details.
This book delivers on the sordid and salacious front; the reader need only turn a half dozen pages before being greeted by sexual descriptions that make a Jackie Collins novel look like Jane Austen by comparison. However, there’s nothing really shocking or new here. If you’ve ever picked up a Hollywood biography, watched E True Hollywood Story, read internet gossip, or engaged in any gossip yourself, this book hardly adds much to the rumor mills.
It’s a lot of the same old, same old. Cary Grant and Rock Hudson were gay. Kate Hepburn was a dyke. Spencer Tracy and Errol Flynn were drunks. Stop the presses! I won’t spend much time on spoilers, but I wasn’t shocked by any of the gay revelations. And the average reader may be disappointed that a lot of the dirt is on executives and behind the scenes folk, and not on the big stars themselves.
There are tidbits on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor which did intrigue me, and bits on actors Tyrone Power and Charles Laughton I honestly wish I didn’t know about. Other than that, not a lot is shocking or new, unless you’re a sheltered, pearl-clutching schoolmarm.
I find it suspicious that all of the subjects of the naughty stories are long dead. Give me a brave trashy biographer like Kitty Kelley (who isn’t afraid of a lawsuit or the likes of Nancy Reagan) over Bowers. He doesn’t seem to offer much motivation or explanation for why he is writing this book now, or indeed at all. I realize of course that he wrote it for the money, as do most trashy biographers. But usually there is at least some explanation behind it. I didn’t see that here.
The most frustrating thing about the book is that Bowers is unable to decide if he wants it to be a tell-all biography on old Hollywood or a memoir about himself. There might have been a semi-interesting memoir here, had Bowers focused on his own life. He was sexually exploited as a child (though he doesn’t really own up to this), his brother was blown to bits alongside him while fighting in WW2, he struggled to make ends meet by prostituting himself and acting as a pimp in the middle of Golden Age Hollywood, he balanced two mistresses on top of his wife, and his daughter died from a back alley abortion. Now there’s some drama, folks!
I realize that the name Scotty Bowers is familiar to almost no one, so it is unlikely any book he’d written about himself would have seen the light of day without the name-dropping. But in an unexpected turn of events, the factor in this book used to attract the masses is the same factor that ruins it. He adds almost no new info about well-known celebrities, what he does add is not verifiable (and many have already dismissed the book as a pack of lies), and the celebrity dishing actually distracts from the truly fascinating part of the book: the author’s own life.
So it wasn’t a complete waste of time, but it could have been much, much better.