Rock Hudson was at the height of his fame in the early ’60s, though his public image was decidedly different than the private life he shared with boyfriend Lee Garlington.
The two dated form 1962-1965, and now nearly 30 years after Hudson’s death from AIDS at age 59, Garlington recalls his memories of the chiseled star.
“He was a sweetheart,” Garlington, 77, tells People. “I adored him.”
Garlington was a film extra in 1962, and after hearing rumors about Hudson, decided to stage a meeting.
“He was the biggest movie star in the world and the rumors were that he was gay,” he says. “So I thought ‘Let me get an eye on him.’ I stood outside his cottage on the Universal lot, pretending to read Variety, which was probably upside down at the time. He walked out and down the street. He looked back once. That was it.”
A year passed (a year?!) and Garlington got a phone call from one of Hudson’s friends, asking if he’d like to meet the actor.
Garlington drove to Hudson’s Beverly Hills mansion for their first meeting. “Of course, he was 6-foot-4, a monster. He offered me a beer but nothing happened. Literally. I was too scared. He said ‘Well, let’s get together’ and we did.”
We suppose “let’s get together” was as good a pickup line as any for Hudson.
“I’d come over after work, spend the night and leave the next morning,” Garlington recalls to People. “I’d sneak out at 6 a.m. in my Chevy Nova and coast down the street without turning on the engine so the neighbors wouldn’t hear. We thought we were being so clever.”
They may have kept the secret from the public, but Paul Newman was another story.
“Nobody in their right mind came out. It was career suicide. We all pretended to be straight. Once we met Paul Newman and his wife [Joanne Woodward] at a premiere. He looked at me and smiled. I just read in his face – that maybe he knew Rock and I were together. We kind of laughed about it.”
Eventually, though, the passion died down and the two found they weren’t able to meet each other’s needs.
“One of the reasons we went our own way because in a way I wanted a father figure and he was not strong enough,” he says. “Rock wasn’t a real strong personality. He was a gentle giant.”
After Hudson’s death, Garlington read the actor’s autobiography in which Hudson refers to Garlington as his “true love.”
“I broke down and cried,” he recalls. “I just lost it. He said his mother and I were the only people he ever loved. I had no idea I meant that much to him.”
For the full interview, head to People.