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LGBT People of History 75 - Rock Hudson

Updated on April 20, 2012
Rock Hudson
Rock Hudson | Source
Rock Hudson and Doris Day
Rock Hudson and Doris Day | Source
Rock Hudson
Rock Hudson | Source

Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson (1925 – 1985) was the epitome of the male movie star- tall, smouldering good looks, masculine – a star all the girls – and boys - would fall for – and GAY.

Born Roy Harold Scherer Junior on November 17th 1925 in Winnetka, Illinois. His mother was Katherine Wood and his father was Roy Harold Scherer Senior. He later abandoned his family and Katherine remarried Wallace Fitzgerald who adopted young Roy. Roy later changed his name to Roy Harold Fitzgerald.

He attended the New Trier High School and was remembered as being a shy boy, delivering newspapers and working as a golf caddy.

After graduating from school, Rock served in the Philippines with the United States Navy as an Aircraft Mechanic during the Second World War.

After the war, Rock moved to Los Angeles in 1946 in search of an acting career. He was rejected by the University of Southern California dramatics programme because he had very poor grades.

He later worked as a truck driver, but in 1948 a chance meeting with a talent scout got Rock in to the business.

That same year Rock made his first debut with a small part in the movie ‘Fighter Squadron.’

He was later coached in acting, singing, dancing, fencing and horseback riding and also featured in many film magazines.

His success and recognition came in 1954 for his role as a bad boy in the film ‘Magnificent Obsession’. It had many reviews and Rock was cited ‘the most popular actor of the year.’

His ‘trade mark’ movies were romantic comedies especially several made with his friend Doris Day. ‘Pillow talk’ is perhaps the best example. He starred with other famous actors in movies such as ‘Seconds’ (1966), ‘Ice Station Zebra’ (1968) and ‘The Undefeated’ (1969).

After the 1960s his movie career waned but he starred on the TV in the likes of ‘McMillan and Wife’ in the 1970s. In the 1980s his health began to deteriorate as he had abused cigarettes and alcohol and he had heart bypass surgery. Later he landed a role in ‘Dynasty’ but couldn’t even speak properly – his character was promptly written out. He looked very gaunt prompting speculation of liver cancer.

Rock kept his homosexuality a secret until very late in life due, in part, to pressure from the movie studios. In 1955 a magazine threatened to out him after an indiscretion but his manager gave the magazine ‘dirt’ on other clients to forestall them. Rock’s homosexuality in movie circles was well known. Elizabeth Taylor and Carol Burnett, for example, knew and didn’t care. He married Phyllis Gates soon after this magazine incident and divorced three years later. There was speculation that Phyllis was in fact lesbian.

Hudson’s lovers included Jack Coates, Tom Clark and Marc Christian. He was very close friends with novelist Armistead Maupin.

He was diagnosed with HIV in mid-1984 in the early days of the epidemic, when understanding of the condition was limited. He kept this a secret and underwent treatment in France and in LA. In mid-1985 he appeared with his old friend Doris Day on a TV show and looked incredibly unwell and shocked the nation. He revealed that he was suffering from AIDS. As his treatment was not being successful he moved back to his home and died there in October 1985. He was cremated and his ashes scattered over the sea.

The revelation that a major celebrity had died of AIDS caused a sea change in attitudes both of the public and the authorities. AIDS now had a ‘face’.

Following Rock’s death and funeral in 1985, Marc Christian sued Hudson’s estate on grounds of ‘Intentional Infliction of emotional distress.’ Marc had tested negated for HIV but claimed that he and Rock had continued to have relations with each other until the February of 1985, which was more than eight months after Rock knew he had HIV.

Elizabeth Taylor, Rock’s co-star and friend purchased a bronze plaque for Hudson on theWest Hollywood Memorial Walk.

Ian and Callum.

With thanks to Wikipedia.


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    • brimancandy profile image

      Brian 5 years ago from Northern Michigan

      I was a fan of Rock Hudson when I was younger, and I loved McMillan and Wife. After he died, I started watching some of his older movies, and in some of them, he was so obviously gay, I found it kind of funny. I think Pillow Talk is probably the one where you see it most.

      But, not all of his films were like that. He was in a few war films, where he stayed fairly butch through the whole film. But, you pretty much have to be gay to notice the little things that gave him away.

      I think the only gay surprises for me has been Anderson Cooper, and Neil Pattrick Harris. I always hoped that Anderson was, because he's so cute. But, never suspected Neil Patrick Harris. Rock was kind of suprise, but, that's only because he was such a big Hollywood Icon, I think that over shadowed everything about him. The obvious was liberace, while he still denied he was gay, until his final days.

      The funny thing was, they tried to say that Rock Hudson and Jim Neighbors had a gay relationship. Though Rock said they never met. Trying to tie them together because they both died of AIDS.

    • alian346 profile image

      alian346 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Hiya Ann - lovely to hear from you again. Thanks for your comment. You're right - it was a very sad end to a great career.


    • alian346 profile image

      alian346 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      You're very welcome, festersporling1. We enjoy writing these immensely but are taking a break at present.


    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      I loved Rock Hudson. He had such an easy casual way of acting and his comedy acting was superb. I was devastated when he died and found it unbelievable that he looked so awful on tv not long beforehad; he was barely recognisable. It was a sad loss. Great hub as usual, Ian. Voted up and interesting.

    • festersporling1 profile image

      Daniel Christian 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I have loved checking out all of your famous people, but Rock Hudson sure was an interesting one. Thanks for putting these together.

    • alian346 profile image

      alian346 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thank you, Don, for your comment.

      He was and is an icon over here in the UK.


    • alian346 profile image

      alian346 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thanks for your comment, Marcy.

      Rock was indeed underestimated as an actor and if his death did anything good, it opened up people's eyes to HIV/AIDS.


    • Don Simkovich profile image

      Don Simkovich 5 years ago from Pasadena, CA

      Nice little bio. He's very much a part of American film -- and our pop culture. It's good to keep his name prominent.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Rock Hudson was indeed a classic, and quite better at acting than many gave him credit for (at least in some of his movies). I'm sad at how his life ended, but he left a huge legacy by opening the world's eyes to AIDS, and the fact that it can hit anyone, no matter how successful their life has been. Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back are two of my all-time favorite movies (even though I used them in my thesis to illustrate deception!).

      Voted up and interesting!

    • alian346 profile image

      alian346 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      A major name in our series!


    • calpol25 profile image

      Callum 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (At Home With My Wonderful Partner)

      Absolutely Brilliant Ian x

      We did good with this one - we are such a good team x