22 Rumors, Orgies, And Relationships From The Golden Age Of Gay Hollywood

Culled from Scott Bowers’ infamous memoir Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Life of the Stars as well as other equally brilliant (and juicy) books about the celluloid closet.

1. Anthony Perkins

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Anthony Perkins is best known for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Friendly Persuasion.

Perkins was intense, sensitive, and complex, according to Scotty Bowers in Full Service. He was married with two kids but also gay. His longest gay relationship was with actor Tab Hunter, but he saw many men.

Bowers writes that Perkins always wanted someone different. Bowers writes, “He always wanted someone different. ‘Who’ve you got who’s different, Scott?’ ‘Who do you have for me for tomorrow night that will surprise me? Anything really new?”

“Of course, he was carrying on with Tab Hunter for a long time, we were told on good authority,” artist Don Bachardy told author Charles Winecoff in Split Image: The Life of Anthony Perkins. Only in mixed gatherings, such as a party at acting teacher Elaine Aiken’s, would Perkins allow himself to be seen with Hunter.

They would go on movie dates but buy tickets separately and sit apart. The Vista Theater, near the predominately gay neighborhood of Silver Lake, attracted a primarily male audience, and Perkins felt comfortable sitting with Hunter there.

“Tab was a known homosexual at the time,” camera operator Leonard Smith remembers. “I don’t think Tony was, he kept to himself. But he used to have Tab come on the set two or three times a week, and they’d have lunch or something. The crew made a lot of jokes about it; they were cruel. Of course, Tony was upset. He’d go off to his dressing room, and answer them in a way that said he didn’t want any more of it. If guys made cracks, he’d get upset and just walk away from them.”

2. Katharine Hepburn

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Katherine Hepburn, most known for her Academy Award-winning performances in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Lion in Winter, and On Golden Pond, knew that socialite and pimp Scotty Bowers set actors up to have sex with anyone they wanted. In Bowers’ Full Service, he recalls that Hepburn said, “I know about your reputation, Scotty. When you get a chance, do you think you can find a nice young dark-haired girl for me? Someone that’s not too heavily made-up.”

Over the next 50 years, Bowers became very close friends with Hepburn. He said, “In the course of time, I would fix her up with over 150 different women. Most of them she would only see once or twice, and then tire of them.”

Bowers said there was one exception. Bowers set Hepburn up with a 17-year-old trick named Barbara. Shortly after they started seeing each other, Hepburn bought her a brand-new two-toned Ford Fairlane as a gift. Hepburn saw Barbara on and off for 49 years. Three months before Hepburn passed away in June 2003, Barbara, who had married no less than three times during that period, received a letter from Hepburn’s attorneys. With the letter was a check for $100,000.

3. Spencer Tracy

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Spencer Tracy was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won two for Captains Courageous and Boys Town. He made nine movies with Katharine Hepburn, and studios concocted a phony romance between the actors that was so well-managed the public accepted it without question. Tracy and Hepburn were always given trailers, dressing rooms, and hotel suites next to each other to keep the myth alive.

In Full Service, Scotty Bowers recalls how Tracy called him to come look at his hot-water cylinder in his house. As Bowers fixed the hot-water heater, Tracy drank an entire bottle of Scotch. Bowers offered to cook for him and Tracy opened another bottle of Scotch. Then, Tracy came on to Bowers.

Bowers writes, “He began to undress and begged me not to leave him. I did not have the heart to say no.” Bowers got undressed and climbed into bed with Tracy, who was so drunk and difficult to understand. Bowers tried to calm him down, but Bowers said Tracy “lay his head down at my groin, took hold of my penis and began nibbling on my foreskin.”

A few hours later, Bowers woke up to the sound of Tracy stumbling around the bedroom trying to find the bathroom door to pee. Bowers said, “He fumbled for the light switch but couldn’t find it, so he just let loose. One moment he was urinating up against the drapes, the next into an open closet, then all over the carpet. Finally he fell back into bed and immediately lapsed into a deep sleep, snoring like an express train.”

Bowers continued to have sex with Tracy, which always included Tracy drinking himself into a stupor. Bowers said, “The great Spencer Tracy was another bisexual man, a fact totally concealed by the studio publicity department. That is, if they ever knew about it at all.”

4. George Cukor

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George Cukor was a legend in the movie industry. He had directed Camille, starring Greta Garbo, along with classics like Romeo and Juliet and The Philadelphia Story.

Cukor had sex with Scotty Bowers, author of Full Service. In their first encounter, Bowers writes that Cukor “moved over to me, began to fondle my balls, then rapidly stroked me to a full erection. In no time at all he started to suck on my erect penis. He was so good at what he was doing that before I knew it I was dizzy with ecstasy and simply lay back until I experienced an absolutely exquisite orgasm.” Then, Cukor quickly showered, asked Bowers to shower, and insisted on paying Bowers. Bowers realized that he always has blunt sexual encounters like this.

“There was never any foreplay or necking. There was no preamble, nor was there ever any form of penetration. Anal sex was out of the question. To put it crudely, just like my friend, Cole Porter, George just wanted to suck dick. And he would do it with a quick, cold efficiency.”

5. Cole Porter

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Cole Porter was a composer and songwriter, and he won the Tony Award for Best Musical for Kiss Me, Kate.

In Full Service, Scotty Bowers says Cole Porter asked Bowers to bring two or three Marines over to his house. When Bowers arrived, several young handsome men were there — and his wife, Linda, was not.

Bowers writes, “I soon learned that Cole’s passion was oral sex. He could easily suck off twenty guys, one after the other. And he always swallowed.”

On another evening, Bowers took nine of his best-looking young guys over to Porter’s house and Porter “sucked off every single one of them in no time. Boom, boom, boom and it was all over.”

Bowers slept with Porter also. Bowers said Porter “loved to suck me off and then have me fondle him until he reached his own orgasm.”

Porter was insecure and told Bowers to throw a dinner party and invite a group of 12 or 14 people who had all known Porter for a long time. Porter said he’d hide under the dinner table and eavesdrop as Bowers asked them questions about Porter. They covered the dinner table with three large bedsheets and Porter crawled underneath the table. He heard the entire dinner conversation and never once came out from under the table.

6. Greta Garbo & Mercedes de Acosta

Greta Garbo

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Mercedes de Acosta

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Greta Garbo was an Academy Award-nominated actress best known for Anna Karenina and Camille. Mercedes de Acosta was a poet, playwright, and novelist.

In William J. Mann’s Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, he writes, “For a time in the 1920s, [Garbo] lived openly with John Gilbert; later, she conducted her relationship with playwright and poet Mercedes de Acosta with similar directness and lack of pretense.”

Garbo was reportedly very controlling but photographer Cecil Beaton recorded in his 1958 memoir, “Mercedes is [Garbo’s] very best friend and for 30 years has stood by her, willing to devote her life to her.”

Mann writes that the public sensed that Garbo was not like most women, with photos of her and Dietrich, both wearing pants, running under the banner “Members of the Same Club.”

7. Charles Laughton

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Charles Laughton was an English actor best known for The Hunchback of Notre Dame and for his Academy Award-winning role as Henry VIII in The Private Life of Henry VIII. In Full Service, Scotty Bowers recalls a story about Laughton’s scat fetish.

Bowers brought over a young man to Laughton’s house, and Laughton proceeded to carefully wash crisp lettuce leaves and tomatoes and place them on two slices of bread while the young man was told to strip completely and perch up on a counter top.

He put the sandwich on a plate and grabbed a pot. He told the young man to follow him, and they were gone for 15 minutes. When they came back, Bowers could see that the lettuce and tomatoes had been smeared with a light brown substance. Bowers writes, “It looked like gravy or peanut butter or some sort of sandwich spread.”

The young man looked sheepish. He looked at Bowers and pointed at the bread slices on the plate and then lightly patted his backside. Laughton had asked the young man to defecate into the pot so he could smear his poop on his sandwich.

Laughton then sat down and ate the sandwich.

8. Rock Hudson

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Rock Hudson was best known for his Academy Award-nominated role in Giant with Elizabeth Taylor and Pillow Talk with Doris Day.

Rock Hudson’s homosexuality was carefully kept secret by his gay agent, Henry Willson, and the studio. They managed to conceal his sexuality right up until the time he died of AIDS in 1985.

He was married to Phyllis Gates, who was a lesbian. In Full Service, Scotty Bowers writes, “Over the year I arranged many tricks for [Gates]. She liked her female sex partners slim, dark-haired, and young.”

In William J. Mann’s Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, an 80-year-old man talks with Mann about the 1950s when it seemed everyone in Hollywood was gay. He said, “Don’t repeat all that crap about how tough Rock Hudson had it. You know how he had to pretend to be straight and live a lie and all that. That was just surface. Rock Hudson had it easy. You just have to ask any Joe from Peoria what life was like for him. Who didn’t have to lie? Who didn’t have to pretend? The difference was, in Hollywood, our bosses lied for us. They protected us. We had a whole community, for God’s sake. We had — dare I say it? — power. Where else in America did gays have such a thing?”

9. Cary Grant & Randolph Scott

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Cary Grant was an English actor and considered one of classic Hollywood’s definitive leading men. He was nominated twice for an Academy Award for his roles in Penny Serenade and None But the Lonely Heart. Randolph Scott was an actor best known for Heritage of the Desert, a film that established him as a Western hero.

Cary Grant was married to Barbara Hutton, but he was sharing his house with actor Randolph Scott when Full Services’s Scotty Bowers met him. Scott was also married.

When Bowers was with Grant and Scott, he writes, “The three of us got into a lot of sexual mischief together. Aside from the usual sucking — neither of them were into fucking, at least not fucking guys, or at least not me — what I remember most about the first encounter was that Scott really liked to cuddle, and talk, and was very gentle.”

Grant and Scott’s relationship lasted for years. They eventually ended up sharing a home together behind the famed Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood as well as their Malibu beach house.

10. Tyrone Power

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Tyrone Power was an actor most known for The Mask of Zorro and Blood and Sand.

In Full Service, Scotty Bowers writes, “Women swooned over him and he bedded quite a few of them, but he much preferred men.”

He preferred young men in particular, and “some of his sexual tastes were rather odd and offbeat, but none of the guys seemed to mind. He was always meticulously careful about who he saw. He fiercely guarded his reputation at the studio and his position as a highly visible actor, so few outside of a very tight circle could point a finger at him and accuse him of indiscreet behavior.”

Bowers had a ménage à trois with Power and a random girl, even though Power was married. Bowers writes, “As we romped around that rather grimy hotel room that night it was patently clear to me that Ty had a healthy and inventive sexual appetite, but one that was infinitely more focused on me than it was on my girlfriend. I felt truly sorry for the poor guy. It must have been very tough for him to have to perpetually hide who he really was.”

11. William Haines & Jimmy Shields

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William Haines was the No. 1 box-office silent film star in the country for just one year — 1930 — but he was in the top 10 for another five, from 1926 to 1931. He was most known for The Midnight Express and Brown of Harvard, but he gave up acting in his thirties when MGM didn’t approve of his sexuality.

Haines was rumored to have stormed out of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer’s office when he insisted that Haines give up his relationship with his lover, Jimmy Shields.

“My happiness with Jimmy is more important than my career in your lousy motion pictures, Mr. Mayer,” Haines is reputed to have said.

In William J. Mann’s Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star, Mann writes that Haines met Shields in early 1926. “I think Billy picked him up on the street,” said Arch Case, who became a friend in the 1950s.

Jimmy was a sailor and had been born James Shields Fickeisen and didn’t have money, so Haines found him a job at MGM as an extra and stand-in. Haines indulged him, and Mann writes, “As the steady boyfriend of movie-star William Haines, Jimmy took himself quite seriously — ironically affecting the kind of attitude Billy loathed in others.”

“Jimmy’s real name was Fickeisen,” said longtime friend Michael Pearman. “I’d always tease him, calling him Chicken Fricasee. He didn’t think it was funny. He didn’t really have any sense of humor.”

Jimmy realized how well-off they were, and his nephew, Charlie Conrad, said, “Jimmy was quite bountiful throughout his life. He loved very good things, and I received many beautiful items from him.”

Mann describes how Haines and Shields’ relationship was the first openly gay relationship in Hollywood. Reporter Samuel Richard Mook described the house they shared together as very “uncommon” and a blend of colonial New Orleans and 18th century England. They had lavish dinner parties, and at one party, Haines provided necklaces made of gardenias for all the female guests. Mann writes, “In 1927, he had the town eating out of his hand.”

12. Vincent Price & Coral Browne

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Vincent Price was best known for his career in horror films, most notably for House of Wax and The Fly, but he received the only award nomination of his career for his performance as Mr. Maranov in The Whales of August. Coral Browne was an Australian-born actress most known for Auntie Mame and The Killing of Sister George.

In Full Service, Scotty Bowers writes that Browne “worked primarily in England and although she was a dyke — I know because I would fix her up with many tricks with young women in future years — the couple were devoted to one another.”

Bowers writes that they didn’t have a sex life for years, and Bowers was sleeping with Price. He writes, “Sex with him was pleasant, unhurried, gentle. There was what I can only refer to as a kind of refinement about it. It was erotic, tantalizing, fulfilling. High class stuff all the way.”

13. Peter Bull

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Peter Bull was a British actor most known for Oliver Twist, Contraband, and the classic, The African Queen.

He also had a teddy bear fetish.

In Full Service, Scotty Bowers says his teddy bear collection was huge and, “Whenever we had sex together, we would first have to clear his large double bed of soft, cuddly bears and carefully stash them on shelves and along the skirting board on the floor.”

He would ultimately write the definitive book on the subject, Bear with Me.

14. Marlene Dietrich

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Marlene Dietrich was a well-known actress who was best known for The Blue Angel, Shanghai Express, and Desire.

In William J. Mann’s Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, Mann writes that Dietrich had come of age in postwar Berlin, where the LGBT culture thrived, so she came to the US with a more open viewpoint on her sexuality. At the German premiere of Der Blaue Engel, she walked out on the stage with a bunch of violets pinned to the crotch of her gown. Violets were the symbol of lesbianism — sure to be understood by her friends in Berlin.

Dietrich also formed a passionate partnership with Mercedes de Acosta and other women while married to Rudolph Sieber. (If you’ll recall, Acosta also had a fling with Greta Garbo.)

“I haven’t a strong sense of possession toward a man,” Dietrich told a reporter. “Maybe that’s because I am not particularly feminine in my reactions. I never have been.”

15. Ramon Novarro

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Ramon Novarro was a Mexican film, stage, and television actor who is best known for Ben-Hur and Across to Singapore with Joan Crawford.

Novarro was fairly open about his sexuality among industry insiders. In William J. Mann’s book Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, Mann writes that Novarro was Haines’ polar opposite: quiet, reserved, a devout Roman Catholic…yet at the same time, he was as much involved in the gay subculture as Billy Haines — although he usually prayed for absolution the next day.”

He and Haines were scolded by MGM’s producer, Louis B. Mayer, for patronizing a male brothel on Wilshire Boulevard.

In Full Service, Scotty Bowers writes that Novarro loved oral sex so much he referred to semen as “honey.”

Bowers writes, “He would call me up and say, ‘I need some honey. Urgently. Tonight. Help me out and find me a few guys. Please.’”

Bowers would bring five or six young guys over to his house, and Novarro, who had a drinking problem, would summon each young man in one by one while Bowers sat in the living room with the other men. Bowers writes, “Within the space of half an hour he would go through them all and then stumble out and call the first one in again.” But the first man could not ejaculate again since he already ejaculated, so Novarro would get mad at Bowers, but he was so drunk, he quickly forgot.

His alcoholism got out of control. On the morning of Oct. 30, 1968, his body was discovered by his servant in his North Hollywood home. He had been beaten to death by two young male hustlers who thought he had thousands of dollars in cash stashed away in his house. He didn’t.

16. Tennessee Williams

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Playwright Tennessee Williams was most known for The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire.

In Full Service, Scotty Bowers says Williams was still grieving over his longtime companion, Frank Merlo, a sailor he had met who died of cancer in 1963, when Bowers met him. Bowers started sleeping with Williams, who Bowers said “proved himself to be a horny devil once we got to know one another.”

Bowers remembers him as a very insecure man. Merlo’s death, his unhappy childhood, his sister Rose’s mental illness and institutionalization, his fractured relationship with his younger brother Dakin, his depression, and his addition to prescription drugs all took a heavy toll on him.

17. Marie Dressler & Claire Du Brey

Marie Dressler

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Claire Du Brey

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Marie Dressler was the heavyset mother figure of the movies who won an Academy Award for Min and Bill. Her life partner was her secretary, Claire Du Brey.

Du Brey, who died at age 100 in 1993, left behind a frank, unpublished memoir of her relationship with Dressler, according to William J. Mann in Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood. She didn’t mention sex, but she didn’t shy away from their intimacy either, whether in shared hotel rooms or in quiet domestic evenings at home.

When Dressler was younger (she was 61 in 1930), she consorted with many in the lesbian subculture of New York, including Elisabeth Marbury, Elsie de Wolfe, and Anne Morgan, but when Dressler died in 1934, it was Du Brey who sat in the front pew.

18. Lilyan Tashman

Lilyan Tashman was a husky-voiced vaudeville, Broadway, and film actress, best known for her supporting roles as the bitchy other woman.

She married openly gay actor Edmund Lowe in 1925, but her lesbian affairs were not a secret.

In Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, William J. Mann writes that she was the “biggest dyke Tinseltown had ever seen.”

“When Lilyan had some drinks, it was best not to go in the powder room with her,” said Irene Mayer Selznick, daughter of Louis B. and wife David O. “I did once and was never so startled in my life. I’d known Lil from way back, but nothing like that had ever happened to me in my life. So overt. I’d never seen anything like it — couldn’t believe it was happening. Didn’t know it ever happened.”

Actress Lina Basquette is also on record as being cornered in a ladies’ room by Tashman.

Columnist Jimmy Starr said Tashman seduced actress Estelle Taylor, the vampy star who’d played Lucrezia Borgia in Don Juan. “Ever since she was a girl,” Silver Screen told its readers, “Tash’ has been lugging the ‘different’ label, but has never been bothered by it.”

19. Claudette Colbert

Claudette Colbert

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Helen O’Hagan, Liz Smith, and Claudette Colbert

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Claudette Colbert was a French-born American actress who won an Academy Award for It Happened One Night.

She said, “No man ought ever to marry an actress. A man can be ideally happy only if he is married to a woman who is completely interested in him. An actress never is.”

“We used to call her ‘Uncle Claude,’” Don Bachardy told William J. Mann in Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, the lover of the writer Christopher Isherwood. “Actually, I think she’s really a good example of a very closeted situation. Only well within her own circle did they know the truth.”

When Robert Shaw first met Claudette in the late 1950s, she was very close with a painter, Verna Hull. They broke up and Helen O’Hagan became her constant companion. “I don’t know if she ever used the word (lesbian) or not,” Shaw said, “and I know she cared about Jack Pressman (her husband) a great deal. But after he was gone, she told all her friends they should treat Helen the way they had treated Jack — as her spouse.”

She was rumored to have also had an affair with Marlene Dietrich.

20. Janet Gaynor

Janet Gaynor was the first person ever to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. She won in 1928 for her performances in three films: Seventh Heaven, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, and Street Angel. This was the only occasion ever where an actress has won one Oscar for multiple roles.

She married three times, and all of her husbands were reportedly gay. She was romantically linked to at least two actresses, Margaret Lindsay and Mary Martin, according to William J. Mann in Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood.

Reporter Ben Maddox, himself gay, writes, “Janet doesn’t have to pretend and play the Hollywood game. Naturally this annoys those who envy her for clicking without sacrificing her ideals.”

21. Kay Francis

Kay Francis (L) and Lilyan Tashman (R) in George Cukor’s Girls About Town. / Via 11east14thstreet.com

Kay Francis was the highest-paid actress from 1930 to 1936 and the No. 1 star at the Warner Brothers studio.

Costume designer Miles White told William J. Mann in Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood about an “all-gay” pool party at Francis’ house in the 1930s; that Francis was a lesbian was something he and the others simply presumed. She had been married four times without any children and she turned up in gossip columns frequently often linked to gay men, who were really just friends.

Anderson Lawler was reportedly paid $10,000 by Warner Brothers to accompany her to Europe in 1934. Lawler told the writer George Eells that while they were in London, “Kay — roaring drunk and totally nude — walked into his hotel room and declared, “I’m not a star, I’m a woman, and I want to get fucked.” Lawler then said he earned his $10,000.

Eells, gay himself, tried to hide that Francis was gay by quoting her diaries that revealed long-term feelings for her husbands. He said there might be affairs with women, but, he said, “That wasn’t where her head was. There was never the slightest doubt that she was man-oriented.”

22. Noel Coward

Noel Coward was an English playwright, composer, actor, and singer known for his wit and flamboyance.

Coward had many lovers in his day, including Prince George, the Duke of Kent; actors Alan Webb and Louis Hayward; and playwright Keith Winter, according to Scotty Bowers in Full Service. His longest relationship was with the South African actor Graham Payn.

He slept with Bowers and never had penetrative sex. Bowers writes, “It was strictly oral, with lots of bodily touching, caressing, and kneading in between.”

Bowers writes that on one occasion, Coward bought Bowers a first-class return steamer ticket to come to his home in the Caribbean with him. Another time, Coward asked Bowers to spend a vacation in Tahiti with him, but both times, Bowers declined.

Coward would attend parties where Bowers would do his infamous “Swizzle Stick Trick,” where he’d stir drinks with it. Bowers writes, “People loved to order cocktails and watch me stir them with my flaccid penis. Needless to say, I would always add ice to the drink only after I’d stirred it!”

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