All About The Real Celebrity "Male Madame" Who Inspired Ernie From 'Hollywood'

Dylan McDermott as Ernie West in 'Hollywood'
Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Ryan Murphy has referred to his 1940s-set Netflix series Hollywood as "faction," and Dylan McDermott's character, Ernie West, is an embodiment of this approach. Though much of his storyline is fictionalized, he's also partially based on real-life figures — and yes, there really was a brothel gas station that supposedly catered to the stars.

"I made up my character based on various muses: Scotty Bowers, Clark Gable, people I’d grown up with," McDermott explained in a recent interview with Town & Country. "You never know what goes into the concoction required to create a character. I stole a little bit of information from each of those people, so eventually I could get out of the way and the character could just take over."

Ernie is most similar to Bowers, who director Matt Tyrnauer described as "the premier male madame and sex worker of Hollywood's postwar period" in his 2017 documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood. (McDermott confirmed to Town & Country that he watched the film while preparing for his role).

Similar to how Ernie operated Hollywood's fictional Golden Tip gas station, Bowers ran an underground brothel of sorts out of Hollywood Boulevard's Richfield Oil station along with actor Walter Pidgeon, where they claimed to have secretly serviced some of the film industry's biggest names.

Saeed Adyani/Netflix

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bowers claimed in his 2012 memoir Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars that he "once hooked up closeted actors [Cary] Grant and Hudson at the gas station for $20; arranged more than 100 get-togethers for [Katherine] Hepburn over five decades; personally slept with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover while the latter was dressed in drag; organized orgies for composer Cole Porter; and participated in numerous studies with sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, who was keen to learn more about Bowers' pansexuality."

Although critics have questioned the validity of Bowers' claims over the years, McDermott believes the show would get the approval of Bowers, who died in October 2019. As he told O magazine: "I know if Scotty were alive, he would absolutely love this show. I think he would just marvel at it and get a good laugh."