Scotty Bowers said his first encounter with Hollywood's secret, seedier side came while he was working as a petrol station attendant one day in 1946.

A well-dressed man in a smart car drove to the pumps Bowers manned on Hollywood Boulevard, paid for his petrol and gave the strapping former US Marine a hefty US$20 tip. Then he asked: "What are you doing for the rest of the day?"

Bowers, 23 at the time, said he spent the afternoon with the man, who turned out to be Walter Pidgeon, an Oscar-nominated actor. Pidgeon was married, but he spread the word about the obliging Bowers.

This 2018 photo provided by David Kuhn shows Scotty Bowers. Photo / AP
This 2018 photo provided by David Kuhn shows Scotty Bowers. Photo / AP

Other closeted gay and bisexual actors — and, according to Bowers, Hollywood was heaving with them — were soon stopping by for trysts. But he didn't stop there: Bowers was also able to provide girls for heterosexual stars.

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Before long, he had set up a network of prostitutes. The petrol station was handily near the big studios and he invited clients to use a trailer parked near by.

Bowers went on to work as a handyman and as a barman at private parties, but he continued to provide the same service.

The "male madame to the stars" died last week, aged 96, in his Los Angeles home, having revealed a lifetime of jaw-dropping debauchery unmatched even in Tinseltown.

The self-described Hollywood "fixer" said he arranged and even took part in sexual liaisons involving Laurence Olivier, Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Spencer Tracy and Errol Flynn.

Other stars associated with him included Charles Laughton, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, James Dean and Rock Hudson.

In a 2012 memoir, Full Service, Bowers described his threesomes with actresses Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, and with Cary Grant and another man, as well as actor Randolph Scott and his lover.

Canadian actor Walter Pidgeon was one of the first Hollywood actors to liaise with Bowers. Photo / Getty Images
Canadian actor Walter Pidgeon was one of the first Hollywood actors to liaise with Bowers. Photo / Getty Images

"The three of us got into a lot of sexual mischief together," he wrote of the two matinee idols.

Orgies with the insatiable Cole Porter, giving Vivien Leigh "orgasm after orgasm", supplying Katharine Hepburn with scores of female lovers — the inexhaustible Bowers claimed to have done it all.

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Although he claimed he 'preferred the sexual company of women', he wasn't picky. He said he'd shared a bed at various times with Vincent Price, Bette Davis, Tyrone Power, Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams.

Bowers may have been discreet when his famous clients were alive, but he didn't hold back once they were gone.

Olivier "secretly harboured a liking for boys", Bowers claimed, while James Dean was a "prissy little queen".

The British writer W. Somerset Maugham liked to watch others having sex "from an armchair, fully dressed in jacket and tie".

Portrait of actress Katharine Hepburn. Photo / Getty Images
Portrait of actress Katharine Hepburn. Photo / Getty Images

Elegant Cecil Beaton would "carefully draw back the bedsheets then neatly and tightly fold the overhang under the mattress, tuck in all loose ends, then straighten out any creases" before having sex, Bowers said.

He said Roy Scherer — later known as Rock Hudson — worked for him at the petrol station, but also became his lover.

LA's army of impecunious barmen and waitresses, many of them aspiring actors, meant he had little problem finding willing sex workers.

"I was setting up an average of 15 to 20 tricks a day," Bowers claimed in his memoir. "This was a 24/7 operation, extending over 30 to 40 years.

"As for tricks I performed personally, I was often seeing two or three people a day."

In detailing homosexual liaisons with the likes of the closeted Rock Hudson, Anthony Perkins and the British film-maker Tony Richardson (the secretly bisexual late husband of Vanessa Redgrave), Bowers may not have surprised Hollywood insiders.

Shockingly, however, he "outed" stars everyone assumed were straight. Spencer Tracy's famous 26-year romance with Katharine Hepburn was a sham, said Bowers, as both were gay.

Away from the cameras, he claimed, Hepburn dressed as a man and once asked him: "Do you think you could find a nice, young, dark-haired girl for me?"

He says he found her 150 women over the decades.

He set up women for Bob Hope, Fifties star William Holden and Desi Arnaz, the Cuban-American actor husband of Lucille Ball. When Ball found out, she punched Bowers in the face at a party, he said.

Although Bowers's services were an open secret in Hollywood, they could be career-killing for the stars, who in those days were bound by studio "morality clauses".

Lana Turner in 1955. Photo / Getty Images
Lana Turner in 1955. Photo / Getty Images

"There was a big level of secrecy," said Bowers, who memorised his clients' phone numbers rather than risk writing them down.

A question mark still hangs over some of his more shocking claims — biographers of Spencer Tracy, for instance, never dug up any sexual unorthodoxy.

However, others have been able to corroborate some of his assertions (such as Hepburn's lesbian love life), while a 2018 documentary found Hollywood insiders and former prostitutes who confirmed he certainly had run a male escort service for stars and studio executives.

That doesn't mean, however, that he never gilded the lily.

He certainly had his detractors — some dismissed him as a pimp, although he thought of himself as a 'gentleman hustler' and never charged for his services.

Born George Bowers in 1923 on a farm in Illinois, he was raised by his mother in Chicago after his parents divorced during the Depression. He got the nickname Scotty from a Scottish terrier he liked to take for walks as a boy.

His licentiousness was rooted in his disturbed childhood. Bowers revealed, apparently with no regret, that he was sexually abused as a child by a male neighbour and willingly sold himself to gay priests in Chicago as a boy.

Paramount film actors Cary Grant and Randolph Scott in front of their new home which looks out over Santa Monica sea front. Photo / Getty Images
Paramount film actors Cary Grant and Randolph Scott in front of their new home which looks out over Santa Monica sea front. Photo / Getty Images

He served as a Marine Corps paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II, later moving to California for the sunshine.

He had a 63-year relationship with a woman, Betty Keller, and married a singer, Lois Broad, in 1984, but she died last year.

His career as a lover and procurer ended in the mid-Eighties, rendered almost impossible by the Aids epidemic. In later life he became an icon for the gay community, with fans — among them Stephen Fry — praising him for connecting lonely gay men in Hollywood.
Bowers encouraged this rose-tinted view, insisting he only ever accepted a $20 'tip' and simply wanted to make people happy.

Bowers was horrified when Tennessee Williams turned his life into a short story, complaining: "He made me sound like a mad queen flying over Hollywood Boulevard on a broomstick, directing all the queens in town. It was way over the top."

Coming from Scotty Bowers, that's saying something.