Back in 1980, when I was living in Arkansas, I met then-governor Bill Clinton. To make a long story short, a company in the town where I lived had filed for bankruptcy protection, which was a big deal because 400 people or so from Blytheville worked at the company. I was a newspaper reporter and as such was invited with the rest of the area press to the county courthouse, where Governor Clinton was scheduled to appear to talk about the situation. Mr. Clinton arrived, shook hands with each member of the press, then told us and the gathered audience about what he would do to solve the problem of a large business potentially departing this small town. I took photos of the governor and wrote a story about the event, both of which were run in the paper the next day. Oh yes, after he spoke, Bill Clinton and I went to the Ramada Inn and had a wild night of sex that included toys, kangaroos, and a good portion of the hotel staff.
Uhhh...hang on a second. That last sentence isn't the truth.
Some guy, some ex-gas station attendant, ex-Marine, ex-Hollywood hanger-on, has written a tell-all book about old Hollywood. Apparently he provides lurid specifics about how he had sex with lots of A-list stars -- both men and women -- and also how he was responsible for running a prostitution ring for the movies' biggest legends, all accomplished by way of his gas station job. This person, 88-year-old Scotty Bowers, told The New York Times: "I've kept silent all these years because I didn't want to hurt any of these people" and claims he's "always been reticent to reveal details about what I have done, mainly to respect the privacy of those whose lives have intersected with mine." He further claims that he's written this book not because he needs the money, but because "I'm not getting any younger and all my famous tricks are dead by now. The truth can't hurt them anymore." The "them" to whom he refers includes people like Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, George Kukor, Rita Hayworth, Vivien Leigh, Desi Arnaz, Walter Pidgeon, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
I haven't read (and will never read) Bowers' missive, nor do I have much interest in reading his interview with the Times in its entirety. I do wonder, though, what his real motivation was to "open up his little black book" if not to stuff his pockets full of cash. To make fans feel...good about these stars? To make stars' family members still living feel...proud of their parents and grandparents? I'm thinking...not.
Bowers has his supporters, one of whom is his publisher, Morgan Entrekin. About his client, Entrekin said: "You don't get the sense that this guy is trying to exploit his experiences" in spite of the fact that the tome is described as ribald, bawdy, juicy and, on the book jacket, jaw-dropping. Another supporter, a Mr. Tyrnauer, says he "believes" Bowers. Of course, Mr. Tyrnauer also recently cut a deal to make a documentary about the guy. Not surprisingly, Scotty Bowers also has detractors. James Curtis, who wrote "Spencer Tracy: A Biography," summed it up nicely: "Bowers is full of glib stories and revelations, all cheerfully unverifiable."
That would be the key, wouldn't it? That Bowers' accounts are unverifiable. Like Scotty, I could take my own story of meeting Bill Clinton and fill it up with lots of true (and verifiable) statements like I met him at the Blytheville county courthouse in 1980 when he came to speak about a local company going belly-up. Then I could spin out a manuscript of 90 percent truth and 10 percent kangaroos, send the titillating pages to a publisher with an ailing bottom line and, after some vetting by lawyers who could prove all of the story but the behind-closed-doors particulars, get a big book contract. In these days when you can say anything about anybody and get it published in about five seconds on the Internet, we've entered a world of disgusting he said/she said. Even more distasteful is that publishers print this stuff and slap it on bookshelves with no other motivation than to make a blessed buck. I suspect Bowers' accounts do not, as his book proposal to Grove/Atlantic claimed, reveal a tale about "the complex and conflicted psychosexual history of America's soul." Instead, the accounts more likely reveal the true character of a Tinseltown-fascinated bi-sexual gas station pimp looking for his 15 minutes of fame in order to fatten his bank account.
Some say Bowers' tell-all does not seem mean-spirited. Well I'm feeling a little mean-spirited this morning, so let me say this: I hope the book tanks. I hope nobody reads it, and I further hope the publisher loses its shirt on this deal. That way, maybe other publishers will start thinking outside the box and come up with ways to stay in business that are less despicable than spreading stories that may or may not be true about people who can no longer defend themselves. Sadly, one veteran entertainment lawyer pointed out the facts when asked what recourse family members have about such writings: "They might be in tears, but there's nothing they can do about it." Then again, there's something we the readers can do about it: we can say we're mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore by boycotting books and publishers who seemed to have been absent from school the day teachers offered definitions of good taste, ethics, and privacy.
Finally, Bowers said this about his "tricks": "So they liked sex how they liked it. Who cares?" Indeed, Scotty. Who cares? If that's how you really feel, why'd you write the book in the first place?