SCOTTY BOWERS ON HIS BOYHOOD
George Albert "Scotty" Bowers (born 1 July 1923 in Illinois) was a Hollywood petrol-pump attendant and bartender whose occupations were easily eclipsed by his role in the sex lives of the celebrities who frequented his adopted town.
In 2012, aged eighty-nine, in collaboration with Lionel Friedberg, he wrote his autobiography, Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, reviewed here, which has much to say about his involvement in Greek love as a boy, and from which the following extracts are taken.
The general veracity of his “Authors’ Note” that “This manuscript is based on my memory and, to the very best of my ability, reflects actual incidents and personalities as I recall them,” has been confirmed by Gore Vidal amongst other distinguished people who knew him.
Chapter 3: Awakenings [concerning his life as a farm-boy near Ottawa in Illinois down to 1932, when he was nine]
Like generations before us, we boys were eager to find out as much as we could about the female of the species. I vividly remember during a school picnic or a social outing when we crossed the boundary into forbidden territory according to the rules of church, school, and society’s norms. A couple of guys and girls would sneak behind the bushes and expose their private parts to one another, playing the “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” game. Lots of giggling would follow the briefest of glimpses. Of course, we hid such activities from parents and teachers but it was all in good fun and we never went as far as physically touching one another. We just looked. And every time I did so I would have to cover myself up because of my hard-on.
One warm September day [apparently in 1931, when he was eight] …, [after finishing homework] I sprinted over the fence and headed toward the Peterson’s house to find out what my friends next door were doing.
We managed to get up to some benign and forgettable mischief and then went racing across the folds of rich green grass that undulated around the farm. Toward late afternoon, satisfactorily exhausted, we returned to the house where Ma Peterson offered us refreshments. Just as I was about to return home to help with the evening milking her husband Joe walked in. He greeted me in his usual friendly manner.
Joe Peterson was a gentle, jovial sort of guy. Big and burly with bright eyes, he never talked down to the kids like so many adults did. We chatted for a few minutes and then I said I really had to go. Don would already be helping with the milking of the cows and would no doubt be wondering why I wasn’t home yet. Peterson got up from his chair and offered to see me part of the way home.
He came over, ruffled my hair, and, with his arm loosely slung over my shoulder, walked me outside. We went around the side of the house and continued to make small talk. I suddenly realized that I had an urgent need to urinate. I sheepishly told Peterson that I needed to pee and quickly slipped behind a tree to relieve myself. As I struggled with one of the buttons of my fly I looked up and was surprised to see him standing just a foot or two away from me. I hadn’t even heard him approach. He was staring at me with a look that I couldn’t quite figure out.
The next thing I knew Peterson came over and helped me unbutton my fly and then, to my surprise, thrust his hand inside my overalls. Before I could say anything he grabbed my penis, pulled it out, and then let go.
“There,” he said. “Go ahead and do what you have to do, son.”
I thanked him and began to urinate, but I couldn’t help noticing the intensity with which he was staring at me. He said that he thought I had a very nice penis. I didn’t know what to say so I merely shrugged my shoulders and smiled back. I’d never thought about it before. I finished, buttoned up, and excused myself by saying that I really had to run off right away or I would be in deep trouble not only with Don but also with Dad.
I thought no more about what had just happened. All I knew was that I was in for a solid hollering when I got to that cowshed.
A week or so later I was over at the Petersons again, cavorting around the property with their kids. At the end of the day we were sitting in the kitchen eating cookies and gulping down milk when Joe Peterson strode in and sat down. Once again he made small talk with me and then called my attention to the fact that darkness was falling outside. He said it was probably time I started out for home. I had been having such a good time that I hadn’t noticed how late it was getting. Once more I began to panic about not being at home to help Don, Dad, and the hired hand with the evening milking. Joe Peterson got up and in a very friendly manner said that he’d walk me across the road. Turning to his wife and kids he said he wouldn’t be gone long.
As his family started to prepare the table for dinner Peterson briefly looked at me and winked. I don’t know why but something clicked inside me. Was he trying to tell me something? I wasn’t sure, but the answer came as soon as we stepped outside.
He told me to follow him to the woodshed, where he said he wanted to show me something. He gently laid his hand on the nape of my neck and steered me toward the shed. He took me inside and closed the wooden door behind us. Then, in the nicest of ways, he invited me to sit down next to him on a large flat chopping block that filled the middle of the floor. He laid his hand on my knee. Looking me straight in the eye he whispered in a low voice and told me that he had something to say. I wasn’t sure what would come next but because of Peterson’s tender, reassuring demeanor I didn’t feel frightened or threatened. His tone and composure made me feel completely relaxed. I listened carefully as he searched for words, telling me that he liked me in a very special way, a way that I was to keep a closely guarded secret between us. He told me things I had never heard anyone say before. Within a few minutes I became aware of the fact that he had opened my fly, button by button, softly confessing how attractive I was to him. The next thing I knew he was fondling me. Our eyes were locked together as I felt strange sensations in my loins and my body. After a few minutes, Peterson closed my fly, gave me a pinch on the cheek, and then demurely leaned over and laid a kiss on my forehead. He made me swear not to tell anyone what had happened and I nodded in agreement.
I guess you could call that my very first sexual encounter. I was far too young to fully comprehend the implications of what had happened but that little session was my first personal portal into the mysterious world of human sexual dynamics.
In the weeks and months that followed, unbeknownst to anyone, Peterson and I had innumerable secret meetings. In fact, he replaced my father as the dominant male figure in my life. Unlike with Dad, Peterson and I could talk to each other on many levels. He cared about how I felt, what I thought, what my views were. Dad never had time for stuff like that. Peterson kept reminding me never to mention anything to anyone, especially my parents.
As the seasons came and went our private encounters became a little more open, with any prevailing inhibitions now cast aside. We would both undress completely and he encouraged me to touch his genitals as he played with mine. One winter’s day as a small fire crackled in the little stove in the corner of the shed he touched himself as he fondled me. Then he began to masturbate. With his eyes squeezed tightly shut, his mouth wide open, and his head thrust backward he groaned as he reached his climax. Although I had watched animals do it over the years, it was the first occasion that I had witnessed what happens when a human male experiences an orgasm. When it was over he looked at me as if either he was unsure of what he had just done in front of me or felt guilty about it. But then he relaxed, smiled, wiped himself off, and lightly kissed me on my forehead. I wasn’t in the least bit shocked or disgusted by what I had seen. Quite the contrary, I was grateful to Joe Peterson for opening up a whole new chapter of learning for me.
SUMMER CAME, but it was a summer I would rather forget. It was 1932. I was nine years old and the Great Depression was at its height. One day Grandma Boltman was driven over to our farm by her attorney. [She revealed to the heart-stricken family that their farm must be sold]. …
When Joe Peterson heard about our plight a couple of days later he came over with Ma Peterson to express their sorrow and sympathies. But Peterson admitted that he, too, was on the verge of closing down his own farm. It was the first I’d heard of it. On his way out that evening he gave me a look that I will never forget. It was one of genuine love, of pity, of remorse, of affection for me. But he couldn’t say anything and neither could I. Deep down I knew I was going to miss him. He was a warm, tender man, and in a very special way I knew that he cared for me. But all that was soon to be over. [pp. 22-24]
Chapter 5: Big City [describing his subsequent life in Chicago, where the family moved in 1933]
ACROSS THE STREET from where we lived on Oakwood Boulevard stood the Holy Angels Catholic Church. The priest who ministered there began to appear outside the church to watch me as I set out on my shoe-shine and newspaper route every day. [Implicitly this was when Scotty was ten or eleven]. He had obviously taken an interest in me. Leaning against the jamb beneath the cornice of the doorway, casually attired in slacks and his clerical collar, he would stare at me as I passed by. He was a slim, plain-looking man, probably in his early forties. At first I tried to avoid his gaze but it didn’t take more than a few days before our eyes met, and then he smiled. Somehow I knew there was more behind that friendly gesture than a mere greeting. That hunch was borne out the next day as he motioned to me to come over.
“How’s it going, son?” he asked.
“Oh, fine, Father, thank you,” I replied, setting down my load of shoe-shine box and newspapers.
Approaching me, he said that he thought I worked too hard. We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and then made small talk for a couple of minutes. As I picked up my things to leave he invited me to come over that evening for some soup.
I told him that I might be too late for that as I usually only got back around midnight. This didn’t deter him at all. He told me that he would be up, working on next Sunday’s sermon. He said I should come in through the side door of the rectory. He’d leave it unlocked for me.
That invitation opened up a whole new world for me. Young and healthy enough to be driven crazy by his oath of abstinence, the Father ached for release. I mean, just think about it. What’s a poor celibate priest going to do? Bark at the moon and jack off in the backyard? No, the guy yearned for company, for some kind of sexual partner. And so it was that night after night when I came back from my newspaper delivery rounds and my shoe-shine gigs I would slip in through the back door of the rectory of the Holy Angels Church. In the privacy of his quarters the priest would fondle me and then have me stroke him to orgasm. He also liked to have me lie naked in front of him and slowly caress my own stiff cock while he masturbated. Eventually he plucked up enough courage to introduce me to a form of sensual pleasure that I had not been aware of until then. Even Jim Peterson never went as far as that with me on the farm. I speak of fellatio or, to dispense with formalities, cock sucking. I was still not sexually mature so I could not reach orgasm when he tried it on me, but he still loved nothing better than to suck on my penis.
Just as I had felt about my experiences with Joe Peterson on the farm I found none of the priest’s likes or preferences in any way abhorrent. I never questioned them. They seemed perfectly normal to me. I figured that if it felt good and provided pleasure, why not enjoy it? That only seemed logical. Do you get what I mean?
At the end of the evening the sweaty, satisfied priest would saunter over to his trousers, which he had carefully hung up on a rack at the foot of his bed, dig into his pockets, and, smiling, hand me a few coins as a token of his gratitude. The change came in very handy. Very handy, indeed. In fact, it always amounted to a lot more than I had earned selling newspapers and shining shoes that evening.
I felt no shame, no guilt, no remorse for what I had done. In fact, I derived an undeniable sense of satisfaction knowing that I had brought a little joy into someone’s life. I saw nothing wrong in that. As far as I could see, our bodies were designed in a certain way and there was no doubt in my mind that sex was essential for one’s emotional, psychological, and physical health. Hell, even priests needed it.
News traveled fast, especially in a tightly knit community of sexually starved young and middle-aged men who had sworn themselves to celibacy. Within weeks of my first session at Holy Angels Church, nearly every Catholic man of the cloth in town knew about me. It wasn’t long before I was seeing more than twenty of them, each and every one in desperate need of sexual gratification. They all willingly handed over small piles of loose change just so that they could spend a little time with me. As my reputation within the archdiocese of Chicago spread, the range of activities in which I became involved diversified. Other than fellatio the most popular sex act that I engaged in was what I can only refer to as “mock penetration.” A lot of male homosexual sex invariably involves anal penetration. I was far too young to anally accommodate an erect adult penis at that time so I resorted to the next best thing. If the priest was very excited I simply pinched my legs tightly together and he would thrust his dick backward and forward between them. If there was time I would try to increase his pleasure by smearing Vaseline, cold cream, or baby oil on the insides of my thighs. This always ended in the desired result.
Though hiding it from their congregations and the outside world as best they could, those inventive clergymen engaged in a wide range of erotic behavior. I learned a lot and I enjoyed keeping everybody happy, myself included, since I was making really good money. I came away from every session with an eagerly anticipated handful of coins and even the occasional dollar bill or two.
Momma never questioned where the cash came from. As far as she knew I was earning all of it by shining shoes and delivering and selling newspapers. My brother, Donald, never once suspected what I was up to, either. Each night I would creep into our tiny bedroom where he had already been asleep for hours, silently undress, and fall into bed, utterly exhausted, catching just enough shut-eye to be up in time for school in the morning. I had my private little world, and my family was none the wiser.
You might think that all that same-sex activity would have suggested that I was gay, but I was much more interested in females. …
THOUGH THE PRIESTS proved to be a great source of additional cash, I could not entirely rely on their payments as a primary source of income. Once the novelty wore off for them they didn’t see me as regularly as they once did. My shoe-shine service and newspaper route remained active, …
One day [when Scotty was implicitly 12 or 13], I was on my way to drop off a Tribune at the apartment of a guy called Frank Risnick. I usually got to his place at around five thirty every afternoon. Mr. Risnick was a friendly, stocky, middle-aged guy in his fifties with jet-black hair and a babyish face. He was originally from Europe and spoke with a thick accent. He lived alone, had few friends, and verged on what we would nowadays refer to as a “nerd.” He worked for the Buell Horn Company, a local small-industrial plant that made loud horns for trucks, trains, boats, and buses.
Mr. Risnick was always very kind to me. Knowing that by the time I got to him I had already been doing my rounds for a couple of hours he always used to await my arrival and then invite me in for a glass of milk and a cookie or a sandwich. He could hear me coming as I plodded up the stairs to his apartment. The door would be left open and I would go in, drop my pile of papers and shoe-shine equipment in the hall, then spend six or seven minutes seated with him at his small kitchen table gulping down the refreshments on offer while he scanned the day’s headlines. One day, out of the blue, he suddenly put down his newspaper as I slurped some milk and ate the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he had prepared for me. He just sat there, an elbow on the table, his chin resting in the palm of his hand, staring at me.
Then he got up, came around to where I was sitting, dropped down on all fours, unbuttoned my fly, and took out my cock. It took me completely by surprise. Because of my priestly liaisons I was familiar with this kind of thing but certainly not with Frank Risnick. With peanut butter and jelly smeared all over my face I stared down at him as he took my penis in his mouth and then, as gently as he could, began sucking on it. I was speechless. The guy was good, belying anything that I might ever have expected of him. I became awash in the most incredible sensations as his soft, warm tongue worked its magic. I spread my legs wider, then gripped the seat of the chair with both hands and leaned backward. Waves of unbelievable pleasure that I had never felt before surged through my body. Those recently awakened seminal vesicles were pulsing with energy. Elsewhere within me, muscles were contracting, glands were pumping. With his other hand Risnick had unbuttoned his own fly and began masturbating. Within a couple of minutes I could not hold back any more and reached a state of overwhelming ecstasy. The session ended in a cataclysmic mutual climax. My heart was pounding like a sledgehammer as I looked down at Risnick. He smiled up at me, kissed my penis, and handed me a napkin. It was the first time I had experienced an ejaculation. It was a defining moment in my life, signifying that I had finally reached sexual maturity. In retrospect I’m glad it happened in the company of Frank Risnick. He was such a decent, gentle, unthreatening man. Nothing would ever be the same again. Regular masturbation would now result in a couple of very satisfying ejaculations every day, something that I had been looking forward to ever since my buddies and I talked about it in the school playground back in Ottawa. [pp. 32-34]
Chapter 7: Turning Tricks [continuing Scotty’s life in Chicago from 1936, when he was thirteen]
As I reached my teens in Chicago I had become quite a little businessman. My shoe-shine service and newspaper beat were doing well. I had built up a large, steady clientele and people were recommending me to their friends. But admittedly it was not all about shining shoes and selling newspapers. I often went into bars and pool parlors with other objectives in mind. In some of the fancier places a guy would have me buff his shoes until they were gleaming, toss me a two-bit gratuity, and then invite me to come back to his place with him. I never refused and, of course, I always knew that the sole purpose of those little excursions was sex—which meant money. To use the slang term for it, I had begun “turning tricks.” … I was learning fast. … the tips I was making from tricks served our family well … Amazingly, despite the late nights and other distractions, I never once missed a day of school and I still managed to get pretty good grades. I kid you not. I’ve always been diligent about everything I do. Sex, science, and shoe-shining all received equal attention. …
[Implicitly in 1936, when Scotty was 13] Many a time a guy would take me home and invite a few friends over to join in the fun. I didn’t mind that at all. It was good for business. I would remain in the bedroom and the men would come in to see me one at a time. The sex consisted of a variety of activities. Most of the guys would get their rocks off by thrusting their penis between my lubed-up legs; others would jack off on me, while others would simply want oral sex. On a few occasions when I was invited to someone’s home I would see as many as fifteen people in the space of two or three hours. As each of them finished, got dressed, and filed out of the bedroom they would leave me a few coins or as much as a dollar bill. By the time the evening was finished I was substantially better off than when I arrived.
In some dive bars in these parts of town there were poker games going on, usually in a smoke-filled back room. The players were usually fat, middle-aged men, who smoked imported cigars and cussed incessantly. Just about every single one of them wore a wedding ring. When I walked into the room with my newspapers and my shoe-shine box I was always amazed at how quickly the ambience changed. The atmosphere and mood softened. The cussing stopped. The joke that someone was telling suddenly hung suspended in midair.
“Ah, here’s Scotty,” one would say, and then they would turn to look at me. There would be a nod here, a wink there, a little wave over there. [Scotty goes on to describe how one or more of the men there would in turn invite him into the anteroom, where they would reach orgasm simply through rubbing against him after some emotional cuddling]
Even though they clearly had wives at home, they no doubt all saw hookers regularly for sex, but I guess I brought something else, something indefinable—perhaps a reminder of their own youth—back into their lives. The Depression was like that. It exposed the best and the worst in people, but it also had the effect of tearing out the deepest and most secret recesses of the soul, bringing them out for all to see.
I was totally open-minded and happy to participate in gay sex but I most welcomed those occasions when a guy arranged a ménage à trois with a wife or a girlfriend he wanted me to service or share. Although most of the men I saw were gay, many were bisexual or straight, and quite a few were married. Some of them derived pleasure by simply watching me have sex with their wives. They would sit in a chair in a shadowed corner of the bedroom quietly smoking or sipping a beer, eagerly watching the performance. It was during one of these heterosexual encounters with a man’s wife that I experienced my very first vaginal ejaculation … it was a life-altering experience; from that moment on I knew what my preference was. I had nothing against gay sex. Far from it. I had no compunction about doing whatever a guy paid me to do, but for me, sex with a woman was always more satisfying.
Even though I was blessed with a very healthy libido and sex drive, and despite all my sexual activity, if the truth be told I had not yet reached full physical maturity. I was still in my midteens. My package was still growing and if my natural equipment was not yet sufficient to satisfy the ladies I would resort to other methods to please them. …
It had long become obvious to me that sex played an enormous role in human affairs. Speaking for myself, I wasn’t infatuated with it simply because of money or raging hormones. This wasn’t just some passing physical phase that I was going through. To some extent everyone had sex on their minds a great deal of the time. It was blatantly clear that it was an integral and essential part of human nature. Sex defines much of who we are and what we do. It exerts immeasurable force on our thoughts and actions. I always wondered why the conventional attitude toward sex was so ridiculously uptight and conservative. I know the Victorians had a lot to do with it, but the ancient Hindus, Greeks, and Romans had dispensed with sexual taboos thousands of years ago. Why couldn’t we take a lesson from them? The rigid contemporary attitude toward sex made no sense to me at all. All it did was stifle people’s natural drives, causing untold suffering and unnecessary guilt. …
Sex was a major industry during those lean and troubled years. It not only provided a welcome relief from the harsh reality of everyday life but was also a lifesaver for many young people who simply could not find legitimate work elsewhere. I wasn’t the only kid in town turning tricks. [pp. 42-44]
[On p. 45, Scotty describes how when a young man was giving him a blow job, they were walked in on by the man’s sister, who was his teacher at the school he attended until he was fifteen. She was as unphased as her brother and simply asked Scotty if he could bring a girl for her the next time he came. These are all the references to Scotty’s sexual activity before the age of eighteen]