A keeper of Hollywood's secrets now spills them

Scotty Bowers says for decades he helped procure "companionship" for many of Hollywood's leading lights.

(CBS News) The off-screen behavior of some of our biggest stars diverges somewhat from their on-screen personas. Here's Anthony Mason with a Hollywood Confidential:

At a poolside party in Los Angeles, an 88-year-old bartender serves up cocktails and conversation. His name is Scotty Bowers, and for half a century he had another occupation, which made him intimately acquainted with some of Hollywood's best-kept secrets.

He did not keep a little black book, he told Mason, but kept it all in his head.

In the Golden Era of Hollywood - the 1940s and '50s - the studios carefully manicured the images of their stars, and fiercely guarded their private lives.

But Bowers knew there was another side to the city, a sort of subterranean Hollywood.

Off the set, many stars had wild appetites they could not acknowledge.

Bowers says he discreetly arranged "companionship" for Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Tyrone Power, William Holden, even FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and the Duke & Duchess of Windsor.

"Somebody said to George Cukor, the director, 'You know, Scotty's a hustler,'" Bowers recalled. "He said, 'Yes, but he's a gentleman hustler!'"

"That meant something to you?" asked Mason.

"Yes," he replied. "The way he said it meant something."

And for nearly 70 years, like a gentleman he did not speak of his liaisons.

"Why did everybody trust him? "Because I could be trusted, because I was that type of person," Bowers said. "I still am today."

But now, Scotty Bowers is talking.

"Frankly," he writes in his memoir, "Full Service," "I knew Hollywood like no one else knew it."

The book, which has spent a dozen weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list, has only Bowers to back it up. You can choose not to believe it.

But his friend, Gore Vidal, testifies on the dust jacket: "Scotty doesn't lie - and he knows everybody."

Was he concerned in writing the book that people who might be fans of these stars would think that he was trying to tear them down? "I thought of that," Bowers said, "And whatever you do, you can't please everyone."

Scotty Bowers, after leaving the Marine Corps, worked at a Los Angeles gas station and got to befriend many Hollywood stars. CBS News

Bowers, who grew up in rural Illinois, landed in L.A. when he came out of the Marine Corps at the end of World War II. Hollywood "was like a smaller town then," he said.

He was working at a gas station, when he says he was picked up by actor Walter Pidgeon. Soon he was getting calls. He charged for his own services. But Bowers refused to be paid for referrals:

"Why didn't you take the money?" Mason asked.

"I didn't believe in being an outright pimp - sort of a pimp, but not an outright pimp," Bowers said. "There's a difference, you know."

"You say you were just trying to help people out?"

"Yes, I was."

But the risks - particularly for gay or bisexual actors - were serious. The vice squad and the tabloids were always lurking. For the magazine Confidential, which dealt in Hollywood dirt - it was TMZ before TV and the Internet - the more salacious the story, the better.

Bowers said the magazine would come to him with a completed article, "and all you had to do was sign that story."

Bowers said he was brought three different stories that he knew to be true, and each time was offered $1,000 if he'd sign. He said he wasn't tempted. "Because I knew that eventually that's gonna be trouble."

"One thousand dollars then was a lot of money," Mason said.

"You bet it was a lot of money!"