Nowadays most people know that Rock Hudson was gay, but back when he was a big star it was a closely guarded secret. Indeed to keep it under wraps he married Phyllis Gates in 1955. Now THR has been given access to a transcript of a coversation where Gates confronted her hubby about his sexuality, which she’d organised to have recorded by private eye Fred Otash.
In the transcript, Gates says, “You told me you saw thousands of butterflies and also snakes. [A therapist] told me in my analysis that butterflies mean femininity and snakes represent that male penis. I’m not condemning you, but it seems that as long as you recognize your problem, you would want to do something about it.”
She also asks about, “your great speed with me, sexually. Are you that fast with boys?”
“Well, it’s a physical conjunction [sic],” replied the then 32-year-old Rock. “Boys don’t fit. So, this is why it lasts longer.”
Phyllis then said, “Everyone knows that you were picking up boys off the street shortly after we were married and have continued to do so, thinking that being married would cover up for you.”
“I have never picked up any boys on the street,” Rock insisted. “I have never picked up any boys in a bar, never. I have never picked up any boys, other than to give them a ride.”
However there are some doubting Gates’ motivations, and that perhaps she didn’t just have the conversation recorded to find out the truth. Indeed many say she knew about Rock’s sexuality and was a lesbian herself.
In her later memoir, ‘My Husband, Rock Hudson’, Gates presented herself as a naive secretary who had no idea about Rock, and was duped into marrying Hudson by gay agent Henry Willson. This may not have been the truth, as Robert Hofler, who wrote a biopic of Willson in 2006, suggested in an interview with the Village Voice, “Phyllis had told various people that marrying Rock ‘would be fun’. She then became addicted to being the wife of a star, and didn’t want the divorce.
“Mark Miller, George Nader (a ’50s actor and close friend of Hudson)’s lover, told me that she had a double standard: Phyllis could play around with women, but Rock had to remain faithful to her. In a way, she was just being pragmatic: she feared that Rock’s exposure would ruin his fame, which was in turn her gravy train.”
The conversation was recorded a few months before Rock and Gates divorced, making some wonder whether she had it taped as a form of blackmail to try and either stay married to Rock, or give herself a bigger slice of his riches.
It’s worth reading the whole of the THR article, which also has other juicy info, such as Otash’ claims he head Marilyn Monroe and JFK having sex, and his involvement in the death of Lana Turner’s boyfriend.