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The story of Scotty's, the infamous gas station brothel of 1940s Hollywood

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Scotty is quite the character

Editor's note: This story was originally published in August 2010. It has been updated throughout to reflect the latest information.

In the late 1940s, a former Marine with a “free-wheeling outlook on sexuality” made a name for himself among Hollywood’s most glamorous stars by running an inconspicuous brothel out of a gas station on Hollywood Boulevard and Van Ness (now a fire station). At least, those are the claims made by a new documentary out from documentarian and Vanity Fair special correspondent Matt Tyrnauer.

The documentary, titled Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, shines a light on a character who’s popped up in many Old Hollywood celebrity biographies—a pimp known only as Scotty.

Tyrnauer tells Vanity Fair that Scotty’s brothel was frequented by stars who were secretly gay or bisexual. By operating his sexy gas station, Scotty helped closeted Hollywood stars “live authentic lives” and experience sexual freedom, Tyrnauer says. Sharing their stories “corrects a persistent myth” about the sexualities of some of the period’s most famous names, he says.

A fire station stands today at the site of Scotty’s old gas station.
Via Google Maps

Scotty—full name Scotty Bowers—appears in the documentary. He’s now in his 90s and living in a house in the Hollywood Hills. He claims that during his time as a gas station pimp he hooked Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn up with men and women, respectively, and swam with Cary Grant and his lover, Randolph Scott.

(Grant’s daughter has refuted claims that Grant had a relationship with Scott, and Hepburn and Tracy never publicly “affirmed” rumors that their relationship, often held up as a great romantic love, was a front.)

Mentions of Scotty have cropped up in biographies about Hollywood’s glitziest stars. 2011’s Damn You, Scarlett O'Hara goes into the various bedroom shenanigans of Vivien Leigh and her husband Laurence Olivier, and mentions the “bad boys” Leigh would “pick up at Scotty's, a notorious LA brothel that masqueraded as a gas station with one pump and 22 attendants."

William J. Mann’s 2006 book Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, paints a pictures of Scotty’s spot on Hollywood Boulevard, describing a place where “on any given night, fifteen to twenty cars might have been lined up outside Scotty's gas station, but their drivers were nowhere to be seen.”

Former Curbed LA editor Adrian Glick Kudler contributed to this story.