Rock Hudson’s “true love” shares details about their forbidden romance
Lee Garlington dated movie star Rock Hudson in the '60s, a time when men pursuing relationships with one another was deemed unacceptable. Now, years later, Garlington looks back fondly on the secret moments the two shared together.
“We couldn’t take any pictures together, it was too dangerous,” said Garlington.
“We could only take pictures of each other.”
Hudson was the leading man of Hollywood. Standing tall at 6’4”, the handsome actor was loved by all, with no one suspecting that the sexuality of the star could be anything but straight. Garlington, a successful stockbroker, was the man who had his heart.
Speaking to PEOPLE, Garlington, who is now 81, has opened up for the very first time about his forbidden romance with Hudson, and the private photos from their 1963 trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
“Sadly, at the height of his fame, being authentically who he was would have resulted in a terminated contract and a shattered career,” said Mark Griffin, the man behind the biography All That Heaven Allows, which gives an inside look into the actor who died from causes related to AIDS.
“Fortunately, there has been significant progress in Hollywood and beyond,” says Griffin. “It’s just too bad that Rock didn’t live long enough to see our culture evolve.”
As Garlington remembers his time with the movie mogul, he looks back at the holidays they took together as a couple, in order for Hudson to remove himself from the grasp of his handlers.
Photo of Hudson taken by then boyfriend Lee Garlington. Photo: People
It was Elizabeth Taylor, who was his co-star in the film Giant, who provided recommendations on where to go. She told him to visit Puerto Vallarta, which back then, was a quiet town.
“We walked on the beach and took pictures of each other with his camera and drove around in an open jeep,” Garlington revealed. “We just lived the life of two normal gay men that loved one another. There were no paparazzi, and no one knew we were there. We were just comfortable being us.”
The couple only had one picture together, which was taken at a bar in New Orleans. “His agent told him that he was never to have one of his boyfriends in a photo because if anyone saw it, they would suspect he was gay.”
According to Garlington, Hudson “did not have the opportunity to live his life the way he wanted to and he had to go around hiding".
“I wish he had been born 30 or 40 years later. He’d be more relaxed and at ease and it would have been a happier life. He’d also be elated by how much has changed.”
It was only a few months before his passing when Hudson revealed that he had contracted AIDS.
Lee Garlington in Puerto Vallarta, photographed by Rock Hudson. Photo: People
“Because he was so widely loved and appreciated, his admission changed so many people’s attitudes about AIDS. He had a huge impact, much more than he ever realised,” Garlington said.
And it was after his death that Garlington discovered Hudson had given him the title of his one “true love” after a biography of the late star was published.
“I broke down and cried,” said Garlington. “He said his mother and I were the only people he ever loved. I had no idea I meant that much to him.”
Years later, Garlington is now happily married to Paul Garlington, a man who he has been committed to for the last 32 years. But despite it all, he still remembers the special moments he shared with Hudson.
“I remember how handsome he was and what a great time we had together. He was the kindest man I ever met.”