'Hollywood': Rock Hudson's controversial marriage and love life never involved a black boyfriend

Ryan Murphy's rendition of 1940s' Hollywood shows Hudson arriving at the Oscars, hand in hand with a black boyfriend. In real life, things were slightly different


                            'Hollywood': Rock Hudson's controversial marriage and love life never involved a black boyfriend
Rock Hudson (1925 - 1985) (Getty Images)
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Ryan Murphy's representation of 'Hollywood' back in the 1940s fits like a globe for Netflix. Crafted for the progressive pioneer of all things streaming and binge-worthy, the show sees box office superstar Rock Hudson as an openly gay player amid tinsel town. He arrives at the 1948 Oscars dressed in a pristine white suit, along with his African-American boyfriend Archie Coleman about to make their debut appearance as a couple to a herd of onlookers who just aren't ready for gay romance. Nervous and fidgety in equal parts, the couple is met with initial quiet of shock that soon turns into a hateful uproar. And while this brazen coming out at the time was something Hollywood would have never allowed in real life, that's not the only creative liberty Murphy's rendition takes. In real life, Hudson — a closeted actor — never even dated a black man, let alone tag him along as a date to the biggest night of the industry.

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The biggest controversy surrounding Hudson's life was probably that infamous kiss with 'Dynasty' co-star Linda Evans. Not because he was gay, or closeted for that matter, but because Hudson was hiding his AIDS diagnosis at the time. The moment the news came out, a crusade began against the actor, which has been described as a witch-hunt by 'Dynasty' creator Aaron Spelling in an interview with LA Times. But before that controversy took over Hudson's life in 1984, he had secretly been with a string of men in what has been labeled flings, and serious relationships. The most talked about and publicized of Hudson's relationships with men allegedly involved a three-year-long one with Lee Garlington back in the '60s, and a five-year-old one with Marc Christian, whom Hudson was dating when the AIDS scandal broke out. 

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Actors Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida in Santa Margherita Ligure, near Genoa in Italy, for the filming of 'Come September', September 1960 (Getty Images)

Despite not being out, Hudson's co-stars allegedly knew of his sexuality. These included some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Julie Andrews, Mia Farrow, Elizabeth Taylor, Susan Saint James, and Carol Burnett. Hudson's sexuality wasn't exactly a hushed up secret within the industry either. In 1955, his agent Henry Wilson (who is also played openly gay in Murphy's series) had to compromise with tips on his other clients' indiscretions when Confidential magazine threatened to run an expose on Hudson's "secret".

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Even though rumors suggest Hudson had a thing with Wilson too, soon after the magazine incident, the actor ended up marrying Wilson's secretary Phyllis Gates. They had dated briefly, and in the long run, it became evident that the marriage — which was Hudson's self-proclaimed "blessing" — was just a publicity stunt as damage control. 

Their marriage lasted from 1955 to 1958 and ended with Gates filing for divorce under the grounds of mental cruelty — something that Hudson didn't contest. At the time, LGBT magazine The Advocate had published a story by Bob Hofler claiming Gates was actually a lesbian and knew full well of Hudson's sexuality even though she claimed she married him out of love and not to hush up the expose. Hofler's story, that came out after Gates' death, also claimed she was blackmailing Hudson to out his secret.

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These conspiracies aside, Hudson was also rumored to have married Jim Nabors in the early '70s. Hudson later explained the origins of these legends as a group of "middle-aged homosexuals who live in Huntington Beach" sending out joke invitations for their annual get-together. The group apparently invited its members to "the marriage of Rock Hudson and Jim Nabors", as a running gag for Hudson taking Nabors' character Gomer Pyle's last name to become Rock Pyle. Unfortunately, plenty of people took the joke too seriously, and as a result, Hudson and Nabors never spoke again.

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American actor Rock Hudson shares a joke with his latest date Marilyn Maxwell in Hollywood (Getty Images)

It was only all the way in the year 1986 when some clarification was received on who exactly dated Hudson, and which alleged flings were just rumors. Co-written by himself and Sara Davidson, Hudson's biography, 'Rock Hudson: His Story', names novelist Armistead Maupin as his good friend, and includes Jack Coates, Tom Clark (who published a memoir about Hudson, titled 'Rock Hudson: Friend of Mine'), actor and stockbroker Lee Garlington, and Marc Christian (born Marc Christian McGinnis) as Hudson's lovers. Hudson was reportedly dating Christian when that scandalous 'Dynasty' kiss happened. Amongst those unaware of his secret diagnoses was Christian too, and Hudson was terrified that he would spill his secret, claims Wilson in an excerpt of the biography published in People magazine.

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As for Garlington, he has spoken at length about how he and Hudson managed to keep their flame a secret, and was also labeled by Hudson his "true love" in the biography. Apart from Garlington and Christian, Hudson was also allegedly involved with Charlene Holt (1963 - 1964), Edie Adams (1961), Elaine Stritch (1957), Terry Moore (1953 - 1954), Mamie Van Doren (1953), Vera-Ellen (1951 - 1954), Marilyn Maxwell, Liberace, Anthony Perkins, Henry Willson, and George Nader. But as for an African-American boyfriend, so far, that remains just Murphy's wishful thinking.

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'Hollywood' premieres on Friday, May 1, at midnight, with all seven episodes available for streaming only on Netflix.