Rock Hudson: Those Who Stood By Him And White House ‘Friends’ Who Abandoned Him

Rock Hudson died 30 years ago, a tragic death due to complications from AIDS. See the ABC News report of his death here.

Hudson was gay at a time when it would have ruined his career if people knew, and he contracted AIDS when the disease was very misunderstood and the people who had it were shunned.

In a special tribute to Rock Hudson, People spoke with those who were closest to the movie star and the man himself. Lee Garlington, who is now 77-years-old and a retired stockbroker, secretly dated Rock Hudson from 1962 until 1965.

During those years, the couple kept a low profile. Garlington reminisced about meeting Rock Hudson when he was an extra in a film starring Hudson.

“He was the biggest movie star in the world, and the rumors were that he was gay. 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.”

But the following year, Garlington was invited to meet Rock Hudson.

“I was scared to death. 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.”

Rock Hudson and Garlington tried to stay out of view of the public and neighborhood eye.

“I’d come over after work, spend the night and leave the next morning. 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.”

People also reports that Garlington has always regretted not being there for Rock Hudson in his final days.

“I called again in his final weeks and was told that he had dementia, did not recognize anyone and that he looked too terrible, that I should really remember him as he was. I took the easy way out and did nothing.”

While Garlington made some attempt to see Rock Hudson and to find out how he was doing in his final days, the San Francisco Sentinel reports that First Lady Nancy Reagan abandoned Hudson, who was a friend of hers. In 1985, a telegram was sent to Reagan, asking her to help get Hudson into a special French military hospital where he could be treated with an experimental drug, but she refused.

The excuse passed down from the White House and presented by Mark Weinberg, the deputy press secretary, was that President Reagan and his wife could not treat Rock Hudson any differently than anyone else.

“They were both very sorry for Rock’s condition and felt for him and all the people. But it just wasn’t something that the White House felt that they could do something different for him than they would do for anybody else.”

Rock Hudson’s illness changed people’s perceptions about AIDS and being gay. The Good Men Project reports that Hudson’s Aunt Lela said they would never have guessed he was gay because he was such a “good person.”

“Never would we think that he would be that. He was just always such a good person.”

Regardless of who supported him in his final days and who didn’t, Rock Hudson was a much-loved and talented actor. The trailer from the movie Pillow Talk, in which he starred alongside Doris Day, showed the actor’s undeniable talent.

You were a star, Rock Hudson!

[Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]