Roy Harold Scherer Jr., better known to the world as “Rock Hudson,” was an American actor who was considered a prominent figure in the Golden Age of Hollywood. He was born on November 17, 1925, in Winnetka, Illinois, as the only child of Harold and Katherine Scherer. When Hudson was four years old, his parents divorced with his mother remarrying a marine officer whom he despised. His mother’s second marriage ended in a bitter divorce and Hudson went on to live with his father in Los Angeles.
Hudson was determined to start his acting career and signed up with Universal-International under a long-term contract. He was given the stage name “Rock Hudson” and received training in acting, singing, dancing, and other talents. Hudson’s handsome looks and incredible charisma landed him on magazine covers and snagged him leading roles in films. However, it wasn’t until his role in “Magnificent Obsession” in 1954 that the actor was launched into stardom.
The actor’s subsequent roles in “All That Heaven Allows” (1955) and “Giant” (1956) received critical and commercial successes, with the latter earning him his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Hudson also found success in romantic comedies such as “Pillow Talk” (1959), “Lover Come Back” (1961), and “Send Me No Flowers” (1964). During the 1960s, the actor strayed away from films and focused his career on television. Hudson starred in many shows including “McMillan & Wife” and “Dynasty.”
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when Hudson died from complications caused by AIDS on October 2, 1985. At the time, the actor was the first celebrity to have died from the illness. His sudden passing caused fans to speculate and ask: was Rock Hudson gay? Let’s get to know the late actor’s double life and secret sexuality.
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Rock Hudson’s Secret Life
It was an open secret in Hollywood that Hudson was gay. To protect his career and reputation, the actor opted to stay in the closet. After his passing, his co-stars and friends such as Julie Andrews, Doris Day, and Audrey Hepburn, revealed that they knew he was gay but kept his true sexuality a secret. The actor’s long-time manager, Henry Willson, was also aware of the actor’s homosexual activities. In fact, Willson had protected Hudson several times from figures wanting to expose his sexuality.
Around 1955, Hudson married his manager’s secretary, Phyllis Gates. According to sources, the actor only wedded Gates in order to cover up the rumors of his alleged homosexuality. Gates denied these claims and shared that the couple married for love. Sadly, the pairing wasn’t meant to be and they eventually divorced three years later. Gates received alimony from Hudson but never remarried.
Over the years, Hudson was linked to many male friends but no allegations were ever confirmed. Some memoirs claimed that the actor had a brief affair with novelist Armistead Maupin. Other books stated that Hudson had a string of lovers which included Jack Coates, Tom Clark, Lee Garlington, and Marc Christian.
During the 1970s, an urban legend emerged claiming that Hudson was secretly married to fellow actor Jim Nabors. Seemingly, the legend originated from a group of gay friends who sent out joke invitations for their annual party. Unfortunately, the rumors hurt Hudson’s friendship with Nabors and the two never spoke again.
Rock Hudson’s Battle With AIDS
On June 5, 1984, Hudson was diagnosed with HIV but kept his diagnosis a secret. At the time, not much was known about the disease and those who caught it were often ostracized by the community. Not wanting to lose his career and ruin his reputation, Hudson continued working despite his illness.
Unfortunately, the actor’s health deteriorated almost immediately. In 1985, Hudson developed liver cancer and travelled to France to treat the complications of his underlying condition. His situation couldn’t be kept secret anymore so his publicist was forced to disclose that the actor had contracted AIDS. At this point, Hudson was the first celebrity to reveal his diagnosis.
Hudson’s revelation caused quite a stir in the celebrity world. On one hand, his openness helped reduce the stigma around HIV and AIDS. Since his announcement, millions of donations poured in to help find a cure for the disease. However, the actor’s condition also raised questions about a specific scene he filmed for the television show “Dynasty.”
Before Hudson shared his diagnosis with the world, he had to film a kissing scene with co-star, Linda Evans. Looking back at it now, Evans admitted that she felt terrible for the actor and understood why he was extremely careful during the shooting process. Many people argued that Hudson should have told Evans about his condition. During the 1980s, it was still believed that HIV or AIDS could be passed through saliva or tears though this has been disproven.
After Hudson’s statement, Evans was also outcasted by society. According to the actress, nobody wanted to work with her, fearing that she carried the disease. All over Hollywood, scripts were being rewritten to remove kissing scenes. Rules were also passed that required actors to be notified about “open-mouth” kissing and granted anyone the right of refusal. Fortunately, Evans wasn’t upset that Hudson didn’t tell her about his condition. She was more upset with the community and criticized the public’s negative views on AIDS and its victims.
Was Rock Hudson Gay?
Yes, Rock Hudson was gay. It was an open secret in Hollywood that the actor was gay but he never had a public coming out. He had many alleged relationships with both men and women. At one point, Hudson was married to Phyllis Gates but they never had any children. He was also the first major celebrity to disclose his AIDS diagnosis shortly before his passing in October 1985.