November 17, 1925 – October 2, 1985
Rock Hudson’s homosexuality was one of the worst kept secrets on the planet. Sometimes he was extremely concerned and protective of his image, and other times he would just throw down with the gays. It just depended on who he felt at the moment.
I remember being in grade school in 1973 and hearing about the infamous (fictitious) wedding that was to take place between Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors. “Rock Hudson? You’re crazy. He can’t be a fag.” Mmhm. Guess what. Rock lived the life, and never stopped. Until the end.
“I love to smoke. I keep hoping someone will discover it’s a healthy habit because the smoke kills all the germs in your system. I love to drink and I hate exercise. I don’t mind going out on the side of a hill and chopping down a tree, but I hate organized exercise. I built a gym in my house but I never use it. I don’t even like to walk through it.”
I read Tom Clark’s book Friend of Mine, the other day. Clark said it was “the book he swore he would never write.” A memoir about his life with Rock. He did explain that he wrote it to counteract the bad things that were written by those he considered less qualified. By most accounts, Tom was very much an important part of Rock’s life for many years. He was also very protective of Rock’s memory, after Rock died. There are no revelations in the book, it’s kind, and trite.
Best anecdote ever: “While we were in Rio, we made the obligatory sightseeing tour to the mountain that has a gigantic Christ figure. That day, a heavy cloud sat on top of the mountain, obscuring the statue. We climbed the steps until we were at the base of the figure and then – a miracle! – the cloud lifted and there stood two friends from Hollywood, Valerie Harper and Ruth Buzzi!”
Clark claimed that Rock couldn’t have got AIDS from being promiscuous, and Rock “certainly wasn’t Haitian.” In real life, Rock’s parties are legendary. I had a gentleman on my tour who told me his uncle was invited to a black tie affair at Rock’s house. He arrived in a tux, only to find every other guest (all male) nude, except for a black tie. Another had 50 nude men in a swimming pool. A guest asked, “Who are they?” Rock responded, “The blondes are named Scott and the brunettes are named Grant.”
Rock started losing weight. He had a bit of a belly, so at the beginning it made him happy. He developed a sore that wouldn’t heal. It was looked at.
He was diagnosed with HIV on June 5, 1984.
According to one report, Mark Miller, a long term friend of Rock’s said that Rock became infected by a $150 hooker. “Six months later, we got a letter saying, “I’m terribly, terribly sorry. I did not know it at the time, but I’m HIV positive.” Others deny this report. Tom Clark swears that Rock contracted the disease through a blood transfusion, when he had bypass surgery in 1981.
Hudson’s last acting gig was on Dynasty. The press blew a nerve when they learned that Rock had the AIDS and kissed Linda Evans onscreen. There was one report stating that Rock bragged, “it was a wet, juicy kiss.” Linda Evans stated that Rock’s “lips were tight shut. He barely touched the side of my mouth. He really cheated the audience with that kiss.” Rock himself agonized over that kiss and made sure that his lips were dry and nothing really touched Linda.
EJ Fleming sends this amazing document written by one of Rock’s household staff during the scandal. Rock sent Linda flowers, so Linda’s secretary called over to confirm they were from Rock. Or… “someone else’s sick joke.”
Thank you EJ Fleming – we are honored to have you as a contributor.
Two months before Rock died, he joined Doris Day on the first episode of her new cable TV show Doris Day’s Best Friends. Rock looked like shit. People were horrified.
On July 25, 1985, Rock announced that he had the AIDS in a press release.
“I am not happy that I am sick. I am not happy that I have AIDS. But if that is helping others, I can at least know that my own misfortune has had some positive worth.”
He flew to Paris for an experimental treatment. Afterwards, he chartered a 747 (A 747) to bring him back to the States for $300,000.00. One doctor commented that the amount was his entire year’s AIDS research budget.
Rock continued treatment at Cedars Sinai Medical Center for about a month. A lot of Rock’s friends stopped by to visit. Of course Liz was there. So were Juliet Prowse, Carol Burnett… Roddy McDowall’s visit was so depressing, they told him not to come back. Angie Dickinson wanted to, but didn’t. I imagine a lot of people wanted to, and didn’t.
Rock knew his time was up. He wanted to go home. The Castle. Doctors objected, with a string of “what-ifs”. Rock et al probably just figured, ‘what’s the worst that’s gonna happen? He dies?’
In The Castle, Rock would drift in and out of clarity. He spent his last days in the master bedroom (The Blue Room) that had a dark wood four poster bed, adorned with a carved nude man. People visited. A priest was invited in and Rock gave a confession. This is good: Pat Boone and his wife Shirley, Gavin and Patty MacLeod, and about 6 other highly religious people paid a visit to Rock, and had a prayer vigil. Hard core. Speaking in tongues (no doubt shooting the stink eye to the bed’s nudie statue). A delirious Rock opened his eyes and said, “Oh hello. Thank you for coming.”
According to Tom Clark: On the morning Rock died, they watched The Today Show. He and Rock had a cup of coffee. Tom asked Rock if he wanted another cup, “No, I don’t believe so.” Clark left the room, a nurse stayed with Rock. When he returned, the nurse stated, “Mr. Clark, Rock is gone.”
It was October 2nd, 1985 and Hudson was 59 years old.
One report I read stated, “While paparazzi coagulated outside the house, Shirley Boone (again with the Boones.) climbed to the second floor bedroom carrying a Bible with her name emblazoned on the cover. Over the corpse in the king-size bed, she chanted, “Get the disease out of the body.” Then, grasping Rock Hudson’s thin legs, she began to speak in tongues. This continued for half an hour, while the coroner waited downstairs.
Now according to Tom Clark, when Rock died Tom stayed alone with him for 10 minutes, then he and the nurse cleaned up Rock and called the funeral director.
Clark says that he and Rock discussed the mayhem of a celebrity funeral they had attended, and turned Rock off completely on a public thing. Clark promised Rock that he would accompany Rock’s body from The Castle to cremation, never leaving his side.
The press were alerted, and the media converged. Liz Taylor sent over her personal security to help diffuse the situation. You know they were always on “stand-by” at Liz’s. She was America’s Queen Mother.
An inconspicuous van picked up Rock’s body, which was loaded in the garage. It was all done on the secret, hush hush. No one wanted to touch Rock’s corpse. At the time, who could blame them?
Rock Hudson’s Body
Rock was taken to recently rescued Grandview Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
He was cremated here.
Rollllll it in the oven!
Tom Clark had originally cleaned up in Rock’s Last Will and Testament, dated August 18, 1981. 5 days after signing it, Rock submitted a codicil that snatched that shit away. The fascinating document is available at Celebrity Collectables. Cars, furniture, films, all personal property and personal effects… for you. No wait.
In the document, Rock requested that after cremation, his remains be “scattered in the channel between Wilmington and Catalina Island.”
Liz threw a memorial service on October 19 for 150 close and personal friends. Robert Wagner, Stephanie Powers, Esther Williams, Lee Remick, Tab Hunter, Susan St. James, Angie Dickinson, Roddy McDowell. Carol Burnett and others, eulogized Rock. According to Rock’s wishes, there were margaritas and mariachis.
Taylor paid for a bronze plaque for him on the West Hollywood Memorial Walk.
Rock has had many relationships in his life. A lot of very complicated relationships. I can’t even begin to sort through Miller, Clark, Christian… and I won’t. Plenty of that elsewhere, it’s not hard to find.
Rock’s estate was auctioned off.
April 1, 1986 entry in Andy Warhol‘s diary:
“Stuart and I went up to see Rock Hudson’s exhibit at the William Doyle gallery (cab $3). And the whole thing was so nelly, not one good thing. You’d like to think that a big brute movie star would have had great fifties stuff, like maybe big rugged Knoll pieces, but it was just comfortable nelly junk from his New York apartment. There was only one sort of nice thing, a wooden box that was so ugly and Elizabeth Taylor had written on it.” Get it. Read it. So funny.
You can still buy real Rock Hudson memorabilia here.
Trivia: His birth name was Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. John Wayne used to piss Rock off and call him “June” for Junior. Rock got even and referred to Wayne as Marion. That ended soon enough.
Trivia: He was good friends with Lauren Bacall and was working with her in Written on the Wind when Bogie was ill. He would always drop her off after the days shoot, and spend a few minutes with the dying Bogart.
Trivia: Rock and his wife (yes) attended the infamous dinner party at Liz’s house with Monty Clift and Kevin McCarthy, when Monty ate it, going down the hill. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Trivia: Rock is credited with discovering Lee Majors. Were they ever a couple? I don’t know. I do know that Lee won’t discuss it. But here is proof that they were involved on some level. By the way, Lee’s real name is Lee Yeary.
“I did not give Lee Majors his start in acting. You can’t pin that one on me. Technically, he hasn’t started acting yet.” Whoops. Somebody pissed somebody off.
A real conversation I had with Lee Majors:
Me: “Hi, I’m Scott Michaels – nice to meet you.”
Lee: “Nice to meet you too. Where are you from?”
Lee: “My parents were killed in Detroit.”
Me: ” “
Trivia from my Celebrity Cookbook:
“Years ago, whenever I was interviewed, people would ask me if I cooked,” said actor Rock Hudson. “I’d always just say, ‘Yes.’ Back then, I didn’t really know how to do an interview. I didn’t know I was expected to expound on a given question! I was expected to be rather shy about it, too! The truth is, I really did used to cook! But now I’m out of practice. Last week, I cooked a steak and corn on the cob. The steak was charred and the corn was underdone!”
Rock is easygoing, charming and casually comfortable in blue jeans. “I have a very good houseman, Peter,” he explained. “Boy, can he cook!” Recently Rock honored Nancy Walker at a special birthday dinner. “Peter made a birthday cake of paté. He wrote ‘Happy Birthday, Nancy,’ in mayonnaise!”
Rock enjoys nothing more than an evening of bridge with his friends. He likes to serve a simple menu, including a hearty stew or delicious beef stroganoff. Over the years, his formula for a successful party has not changed: “Lots of good food, basic and plenty of good booze. A lot of people hide their good liquor when they entertain and bring on the supermarket special Scotch. Frankly, I find that offensive. It’s an insult to your guests. Most people don’t know the difference, and generally I can’t tell either. It’s the idea that offends me!”
If your houseboy, Peter, can’t write something in mayonnaise on your plate, or if you have to come up with stroganoff for the boys who come over to play bridge… crack out the good liquor and Rock’s recipe for Chicken Casserole. You’ll be glad you did. I just wish Nancy Walker would be there with a roll of Bounty paper towels.
Trivia: According to legend, when making Giant, Rock had a bet with Elizabeth Taylor over who could bed James Dean first. I don’t subscribe to the story because I don’t believe that Liz knew Rock was a gay at that time. Anyway, according to legend, Rock won. When Rock heard the news that Dean was killed, he reportedly sobbed for hours.
If Rock and James Dean were a couple, their relationship would have been like this. Don’t worry, it’s safe.
I’ll leave you with two pretty unbelievable Rock Hudson moments, one with Mae West
and the other is a light hearted variety show appearance with Bea Arthur, they sing about cocaine and poppers.
30 years ago this week (June 12, 1981) the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the first study on the severity of what would become the AIDS epidemic, based on research that focused on five men in Los Angeles who contracted a rare type of pneumonia with no apparent cause.
They say that Rock Hudson “Gave AIDS a face.” After Rock Hudson, everyone knew someone that died from it. Elizabeth Taylor – it’s easy to mock her, but she stepped up. She started the campaign for research and a cure, LONG before there were AIDS walks and fundraisers. Bless her. If you were to make a donation in Rock’s memory, this would be the place to do it.