Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood presents a reimagining of what post-World War II Hollywood could have been if the oppressive biases that existed at the time (and still exist today) had been examined and overturned. The entertainment industry would undoubtedly have been changed forever — and for the better.
Since the show offers an alternate reality to real-life old Hollywood, many real-life actors of the time period feature heavily in the storytelling. In fact, Rock Hudson — one of the most popular movie stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age — features heavily in the show (he’s played by Jake Picking). In the show, Rock Hudson comes out as gay and has a relationship with screenwriter Archie Coleman. Was the real Rock Hudson gay?
Was the actor Rock Hudson gay?
Rock Hudson’s real name was Roy Harold Scherer Jr. He was adopted by his stepfather as a child, changing his legal name to Roy Fitzgerald. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After being discharged in 1946, Roy moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Just one year later, he was discovered by talent scout Henry Willson — and his life (and name) was changed forever.
Henry came up with the name Rock Hudson by thinking to combine the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River. Years later, Rock admitted that he actually hated the name, but after he became a huge star, he had no choice but to continue using it.
As for his sexuality, that was a topic on which Rock Hudson never chose to speak publically. He was known by many of his fellow film industry insiders to be homosexual, but he — along with Henry Willson — worked hard to keep that information under wraps.
In 1955, Confidential magazine threatened to reveal Rock’s homosexuality in an exposé — Henry stalled them by disclosing the secrets of some of his other clients (namely, that Rory Calhoun had spent time in prison and Tab Hunter had been arrested at a party). That info was enough to keep Rock’s secret out of the papers, but how long would that last?
In 1955, Rock married Henry’s secretary Phyllis Gates.
It was later reported that Rock’s marriage to Phyllis was designed to throw the press off the scent so he could continue living as a closeted homosexual. However, in Phyllis’ 1987 memoir My Husband, Rock Hudson, she claimed that she had married Rock out of love and not to prevent his sexual past being exposed. In 1958, Phyllis filed for divorce from Rock. Neither she nor Rock ever remarried.
Rock died from AIDS-related complications in 1985.
Rock was diagnosed with HIV in June of 1984, though he kept his diagnosis a secret from the public while he attempted to continue working as an actor. He also spent time traveling to various countries in search of a cure for HIV. In the months that followed, people began to speculate about his health after he made several public appearances while looking very ill. In July of 1985, Rock’s publicist revealed that the actor had AIDS.
Just a few months later, on Oc. 2, 1985, Rock died in his Beverly Hills home. He was the first major public figure to openly acknowledge he was suffering from AIDS, and his search for a cure brought awareness and attention to the disease that had been wreaking havoc for the past few years.
In Hollywood, Rock Hudson still goes through many challenges in his life as he tries to make it big in Tinseltown, but we get a glimpse of what could have been if the real-life Rock hadn’t been required to hide his true self form the world. Hollywood is now streaming on Netflix.