‘Full Service’: Fun With Fact-Checking, Part 9

"Full Service" cover

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.

After digging through The Times, old phone directories and other resources looking for information on gas stations in 1940s Los Angeles, we are finally ready for a nice, juicy Hollywood encounter – on Page 2 (I warned you this would be slow and tedious).

Our first prominent name is Walter Pidgeon (d. 1984), a Conveniently Dead Person Who Can’t Sue, just like “Kate, Spence, Judy, Tyrone, George, Cary, Rita, Charles, Randolph, Edith, Vivien.”

Fact-Checking “Full Service”: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

Here we go:

It was a lovely, clear sunny day and I wasn’t expecting much traffic. In that kind of weather folks usually headed for the beach; they weren’t going to spend much time riding around in hot, stifling automobiles. I resigned myself to a potential day of boredom.

When Russ returned at about noon I spent a while chatting with him. Then, just as I was about to leave, a shiny Lincoln twodoor coupe drove up. It was a big, swanky, expensive car. Only someone rich and famous drove something like that. Russ was busy in the office so I said I’d take care of the customer. When I approached the car the driver’s side window slid down revealing a very handsome middle-aged male face that I was certain I had seen before.

Now wait a minute. Let me get this straight:

“In that kind of weather folks usually headed for the beach; they weren’t going to spend much time riding around in hot, stifling automobiles.”


“When I approached the car the driver’s side window slid down revealing a very handsome middle-aged male face that I was certain I had seen before.”

Do you see what’s wrong here? It’s warm weather  — so hot that “people weren’t going to spend much time riding around in hot, stifling automobiles” and yet the individual in question (soon to be revealed as Walter Pidgeon) was motoring about Los Angeles with the windows rolled up.

i.e. “the driver’s side window slid down”

The only way this would be possible is if the car had air conditioning.

Do you think the average car had air conditioning in 1946?

It seems unlikely, but let’s check.

Photos of Lincolns in the 1940-1948 model years are available on the Lincoln-Zephyr Owners Club (thanks folks! Beautiful cars), although there’s nothing about air conditioning. In fact, I can’t find any reference to air conditioning in the Lincoln models earlier than the 1950s. If any car enthusiasts care to shed light on the question, please do.

But this story already sounds suspicious.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1946, Another Good Story Ruined, Books and Authors, Film, Hollywood, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to ‘Full Service’: Fun With Fact-Checking, Part 9

  1. Sam Flowers says:

    I have a 48 Lincoln Continental MK1. No air was available factory installed till 1955 I believe. That is not to say that a person of wealth could not have an after market air unit installed.


  2. Eve says:

    My “eyebrow-raise” comes not from the car, but that a big, recognizable, blackmailable star like Walter Pidgeon would pick up a strange grease monkey on the street, rather than rely on the thousands of fans, studio workers and paid hookers who would more safely service him.


  3. Barry OB says:

    Oh dear, I see where this is going…none of the accused is here to defend themselves. Against what? That they had an active sex life? Homosexuality is no longer a crime nor is it anything of which to be ashamed. And how is presenting a more complete portrait of these individuals going to damage their reputations? We’ve learned the truth about many prominent political leaders, surely we can handle the truth about movie actors. I know it is a great shock to learn that so many in the creative arts are gay but I think America can learn to live with that fact.


    • Eve says:

      . . . and what makes you assume I am straight? I am an historian and a researcher and a biographer, and what I object to is people making shit up to sell books. I resent your accusing me of homophobia.


      • Barry OB says:

        Sorry Eve, my comment was not intended for you–not sure why you think it was. This comment IS for you and will appear under YOUR post. I enjoy reading your posts no matter what your persuasion!


    • lmharnisch says:

      @Barry: If you can see where this is going you are ahead of me. I’m blogging this in real time. In other words, I have read no further than Page 3. People have alluded to what’s in it. But beyond that I have no idea.

      I do find it troubling when books, such as Steve Hodel’s “Black Dahlia Avenger,” make allegations of murder or conspiracy about Conveniently Dead People Who Can’t Sue. Being LGBT? Not so much.


      • Barry OB says:

        I’m just thinking this sounds as though if one places in column “A” all the factual errors regarding time/place then the “encounters” in column “B” must all be false. I hope that is not the case. I don’t really care what “team” someone plays on, just find it interesting how many had to hide the fact that they were gay in order to survive. Let’s hope that era is gone forever.


  4. CraigDeco says:

    Auto A/C first available in 1941 in Cadillac and Packard by ‘Special’ Special Order. Not available again until 1953 on Oldsmobile, Buick and Cadillac(made by GM’s Frigidaire Division). It was a
    nearly $700 option at that time(half the price of a new Chevrolet)so few GM cars had it. It was available on some Chrysler models in 1954; Lincoln first had it in 1955. Keep up the good work-
    I love your fact-checking!


    • Well, now Craig, “We won’t keep books,” as Norma said to Joe… but I believe Packard offered a/c in late1939 on the 1940 models… I’ve read that DeSoto offered it in 1942 (there is printed lit for both the Packard and DeSoto systems, with some cars so equipped apparently still extant…). Chrysler and DeSoto, if not Dodge, had it again in 1953; as did Lincoln (I have a ’53 Lincoln a/c shop manual).


  5. eve says:

    Oh, no hard feelings, I hope, Barry–it is hard when disputing completely wild unprovable claims not to sound as if one is coming down in the claims rather than the dubious claimant.


  6. So these people who were NOT riding around town and going to the beach instead–would they not have need gas to GET to the beach? Please, on to part 10


  7. Kerrie says:

    Barry OB,

    I don’t find that books like this account by Scotty Bowers or Darwin Porter add anything to my understanding of gay people – in fact they diminish the complexity and difficulties that gay people face both in an historical cohtext as well as today . My name is in the credits for a book on Hepburn and a recent book on Spencer Tracy – that doesn’t make me an expert but I can tell you that just about every single fact written about Hepburn and Spencer in this book is incorrect and I haven’t even got to the other major stars. In fact Scotty Bowers reduces people in the book to a series of sexual acts – these peope were complex , they had families , they had talent and yes many of them probably had uncoventional sexual lives . But you don’t get any appreciation of them as people from this poorly written exploitative book . There are well written books on gay people in Hollywood – – this is not one of those books Kerrie


  8. I’m new to this series but do have one comment. There seems to be, in some quarters, a knee jerk defense of this book because a lot of it is about people having homosexual encounters. Excuse me but I’m pretty sure nobody of any sexual persuasion wants things either made up about them even if the stories stay within their public image sexually. It has nothing to do with homosexuality.

    In fact, I would even say that such defenses of the book are a result of outdated ideas of homosexuality and how it is perceived in society.


  9. Sally Stark says:

    There is something that no one has yet mentioned about the supposed encounter.. Walter Pidgeon was an extremely intelligent man with a great deal of taste. To put is bluntly, I don’t think he would be stupid enough to pick up a gas station rent boy in broad daylight….especially in a company town where he would be instantly recognized.


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