‘Full Service’: Fun With Fact-Checking, Part 2

"Full Service"

In case you just tuned in, I’m doing a little fact-checking as I go through Scotty Bowers’ “Full Service.” This will be fairly tedious except to a research drudge.

Pages XI to X of “Full Service” set the scene on Hollywood Boulevard as it appears today, starting with Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Kodak Theatre and the El Capitan, followed by a ruminations on the boulevard in the days when “bejeweled and fur-clad women  once strolled arm in arm with tall, handsome men in tuxedos” and how that has been replaced by tourists during the day and “drunks, drug pushers and the homeless” at night.

Next comes a key passage involving Hollywood Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue:

Hollywood and Van Nuess
Photo: Hollywood Boulevard and Van Ness Avenue via Google Street View.



A new fire station for the Los Angeles Fire Department was rising there. Like a floodgate suddenly opening, a million memories enveloped me. This very spot, this place where cranes, concrete mixers, and metal scaffolding now stand, is where it all began for me. A little gas station once occupied that corner. Shortly after I first got here I worked there as a young pump attendant. But it didn’t take me long to learn to do more than just pump gas. Through a series of extraordinary incidents I became enmeshed in a wild world of sexual intrigue the likes of which few people can even begin to imagine.

Over the years more Hollywood personalities secretly congregated at that little gas station than anywhere else in town. It was a scene that saw as much furious action as the busiest studio back lot. The place became a magnet for those in quest of carnal thrills and escapism of every kind. A cavalcade of movie stars and others were attracted to the station like the proverbial moth to a flame. I became the go-to guy in town for arranging whatever people desired. And everybody’s needs were met. Whatever folks wanted, I had it. I could make all their fantasies come true. No matter how outrageous or offbeat people’s tastes, I was the one who knew how to get them exactly what they were after. Straight, gay, or bi; male or female; young or old-I had something for everyone. The vice squad and the press were constantly lurking on the periphery, eagerly waiting to pounce. But I always managed to elude them.

The gas station was the portal that eventually took me into an exclusive world where high-class sex was everything. I’ve had many occupations during my life but, to be honest, what really drove me was a desire to keep people happy. And the way I did that was through sex. Arranging sexual liaisons for folks from all walks of life became my raison d’etre. When I first arrived here the stars were owned by the studios, which were heavily invested in them. Naturally, they needed to protect their investments. But people still wanted to have…

So our first quest is to identify the gas station where all of Hollywood supposedly filled their tanks – with ethyl.

Hollywood Richfield Service
Here’s what we find in the 1956 Los Angeles city directory, which has been placed online by the Los Angeles Public Library.

Hollywood Richfield Service, 5777 Hollywood Blvd. HO 4-9538.

Let’s see what else we can find.

We have a name associated with the station at 5777 Hollywood Blvd. in the 1942 city directory:

1942 City Directory

Aha. W.A. Wright is:

Wallace A. Wright

Wallace A. Wright.

Let’s see what else we can find.

1938 City Directory
The 1938 city directory lists a Wallace Wright as a gas station attendant living at 139 N. Oxford. Is this the same Wallace Wright? Perhaps. But there doesn’t seem to be a station at 5777 Hollywood Blvd. yet.

Let’s jump to the newest directory and work backward:

1987 Directory

Nothing in the 1987 directory.

In 1973 it was the Hollywood Arco station:

1973 City Directory
And in 1965 it was Christie’s Richfield:

image

Tedious, isn’t it?

About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Another Good Story Ruined, Books and Authors, Film, Hollywood, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Libraries and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to ‘Full Service’: Fun With Fact-Checking, Part 2

  1. brian says:

    Tedious perhaps, but critical fact checking is so very, very important.

  2. Eve says:

    . . . and we all thought the HO phone exchange had been for HOllywood . . .

  3. sherry smith says:

    Love this. You go Larry!

  4. Jon Ponder says:

    I read an advance copy that I borrowed from a client who has known Scotty Bowers since the 1940s, and my take is that the material here does not warrant deep scrutiny. It is being promoted as an expose, but it is really just a sex-drenched memoir based entirely on Bowers’ recollection of long ago events, nearly all of which can neither be proved or disproved. If you have not done so already, I’d recommend skimming through to the end. There really is not a lot of “there” there.

    For myself, at least, I didn’t find a lot that was new or surprising — although some of it was decidedly TMI. Most of what he says just adds to rumors about celebrities from the Golden Age that have been circulating for decades, and his claims that he “tricked” with George Cukor, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Charles Laughton, Cecil Beaton, etc. etc., prove nothing. That said, I didn’t get the sense that Scotty is trying to put one over on his readers. The attitude he projects is “This is what happened to me, take it or leave it.” He is pushing 90 after all.

    And. for what it’s worth, there are reputable people who vouch for Scotty, generally, at least. On page 337 of “Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn,” for example, author William Mann says Scotty was identified by former Herald-Examiner and Times writer David Ehrenstein, the author of “Open Secrets,” as Hollywood’s “famous male madam.” (Mann does not really say where the quote appeared, and I could not find the quote from Ehrenstein in the book or in the Times archives.) Mann also got quotes attesting to Scotty’s veracity from two friends of George Cukor, Michael Childers, whom Mann also describes the longtime partner of John Schlesinger, and Gavin Lambert. Gore Vidal, who has known Scotty for 60 years or so, and who helped him find a publisher for the book, has also endorsed Scotty’s truthfulness, stating on the book flap that “Scotty doesn’t lie — the stars sometimes do — and he knows everybody.”

    About the gas station: I no longer have a copy of the book but, if memory serves, Scotty said the owner of the Richfield station was Bill Booth. (He also said that the boss and the mechanic had no idea that he was running an escort service from the station.) Via ProQuest, Booth’s Richfield Service at 5777 Hollywood is listed in display ads for Goodyear Tires that ran about once a week in the Times from mid-April through September of 1949, which is when Scotty says he worked there. In a similar Goodyear ad that ran intermittently from May 22 to September 4, 1952, the station is listed as Bill Booth’s Richfield Service. I’m not sure when the station was torn down to make way for the freeway ramp, but in an ad for spark plugs that ran in the August 12, 1956, Times, Bill Booth Service is shown with an address in Bell — 3901 E. Florence Ave.

    Similarly, Scotty later claims he worked as a bartender at a nightclub on La Cienega owned by Johnny Walsh and the Baroness Catherine D’Erlanger, who also owned Cafe Gala, the gay friendly celebrity night spot on Horn above the Strip (future site of Spago’s). I looked up the La Cienega address (which I believe was 881) when I read the book. Proquest found a club there but there was nothing in either the ads or a few news items about the club that proved or disproved it was owned by Walsh and the Baroness, or that Scotty worked there.

    Perhaps because I know a friend of Scotty’s who vouches for him 100 percent, I found that Scotty’s story had the ring of verisimilitude. And there is a rational basis for what he claims he did. There have always been closeted movie stars and moguls in this town — it was true in the silent era and in the Golden Age, and is still true in some quarters today — and they have always relied on the discretion of hirelings to help them satisfy their needs in secret. Someone helped those famous men fulfill their needs back in the day. It is as likely that it was Scotty Bowers as it was anyone else.

  5. Wikipedia would be faster.

  6. Gregory Moore says:

    Great research, Larry! And Jon, too! Pedantic, perhaps…but I LOVE minutiae such as this. I want to know exactly where things happened…and what they are today. Why? Who knows? But great job, nonetheless. There have been enough excerpts leaked to know that “À la recherche du temps perdu” it ain’t! But it seems there are enough kernels of verisimilitude to convince me that he certainly couldn’t have made ALL of these stories up. The “cast of characters” are, for the most part, “the usual suspects” as far as known-gay celebrities of that era go…with a few major shockers (most notably, of course, Spencer Tracy….and Walter Pidgeon?? Who knew?). Still and all, I do want to put on my dark glasses and buy a copy, chop-chop!

  7. Danyale says:

    This book seems so similar to Hollywood’s Silent Closet by Darwin Porter. Again, TMI in this book; I couldn’t finish it.

  8. Richard Wegescheide says:

    By the way, in the 1973 directory, the R in ARCO stands for Richfield, or Atlantic Richfield Company, which was a merger of the two oil companies. Therefore, Richfield to ARCO was only a name change and not a new supplier.

  9. Frako Loden says:

    This is so interesting, including all the minutiae–it’s Los Angeles history and equally fascinating. I’m loving your fact-checking, Larry and Jon. I read the William J. Mann book on KATE and was shocked by the revelations about Spencer Tracy.

  10. Sally says:

    It doesn’t ring true to me, a threesome with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor? I have met a few pathological liars and this author sets off those bells. He puts in just enough that goes along with years of rumors but the rest , to me, is BS. By the way, you can be a liar at any age, even 90.

  11. Bart Lewis says:

    Read the book got to say that its just the guys take on what he did back then and adding to the already huge stories on the people in his book.. most facts chan and are checked but everyone will agree Scotty added his own take to every page in his book. I worked in a hotel and could tell you stories of huge stars and how they acted or what they did.. so lets take it with a grain of salt.

  12. Dim says:

    Although there’s lots of unbelievable stuff in this book, what clinched the lack of truth for me was the bit about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. There is absolutely no way that the Duke of Windsor would have been introduced to a service person, let alone say to that person, “Call me Edward” (especially given that his family and friends all called him “David’). And to allow Bowers to call him “Eddy” is absolutely ridiculous. The British royal family are sticklers for protocol (especially Edward’s generation) and this is just laughable. The other telltale sign that Bowers is a blowhard is his reference to all these people becoming his “good friends”. Ummmm… he was a bartender, waiter, handyman, prostitute and pimp. And are we actually supposed to believe that he arranged all these liaisons, spent gas driving all these people around at all hours of the day and night, had Betty being a veritable answering service and he didn’t charge for any of this? Was just doing it out of the goodness of his heart? I don’t, for one minute, believe that. Mr. Bowers has hit on a way to become comfortable in his old age by slagging people who can’t respond or hit back and I find that to be offensive.

    • lmharnisch says:

      One of the things that clinched it for me is the lack of a single personal photograph from any of his supposed “friends.” Or a photo of them together. Not a one.

  13. Cheryl says:

    Why bring this up when not one can rebuke his claims. Poor taste.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s