Lee Garlington dead at 86: He was Hollywood legend Rock Hudson’s ‘secret’ boyfriend

Lee Garlington who secretly dated Hollywood star Rock Hudson, has passed away at 86
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Lee Garlington has passed away at the age of 86, the Atlanta born stockbroker secretly had a romance with the late Hollywood legend Rock Hudson. The news was confirmed to People magazine by his husband Paul Garlington. Lee Garlington died on December 6, 2023, in Laguna Beach, California. Lee and Paul were visiting California to celebrate their 37th anniversary and were living in New Zealand where they had moved to two decades before. Lee passed away from prostate cancer and internal bleeding and had been buried in Arrowtown in New Zealand. 

Paul Arlington revealed to People that “Lee was one of the most decent and loving human beings I've ever met and the most important person I'll ever know,” he continues, “and I would like him to be remembered as the love of many people's lives but most notably mine and Rock Hudson's.”

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with the American actor Rock Hudson, he was born Roy Harold Scherer Jr. on November 17, 1925 in Winnetka, Illinois, and went on to become a Hollywood legend who starred alongside the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean and also co-starred with Doris Day in the movies, ‘Pillow Talk,’ ‘Lover Come Back,’ and ‘Send Me No flowers.’ 

Rock Hudson married his agent Henry Wilson’s secretary, Phyllis Gates, and their marriage was depicted in the TV film Rock Hudson starring Daphne Ashbrook as Gates and Thomas Ian Griffith as Hudson. When Phyllis Gates passed away in 2006, The Guardian wrote that “Unknown to Gates, their union, in 1955, was fixed. She always said the marriage was for love but - like most of the world - she did not know the truth about her husband: that he was gay and risked possible exposure in a scandal magazine. The pair divorced after less than three years, and his career continued in films and on television.”

When did Lee Garlington and Rock Hudson ‘secretly’ date?

Lee Garlington and Rock Hudson reportedly dated from 1962 to 1965 and the pair met when Lee was a film extra.  Lee Garlington told People that “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.”

A year later, Lee got a call from a friend of Rock Hudson informing him that the actor would like to meet him. Garlington revealed of the culture at the time that “Nobody in their right mind came out. It was career suicide. We all pretended to be straight.”

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When Lee Garlington read Rock Hudson’s biography Rock Hudson: His Story, he told People that “ I just lost it. He said his mother and I were the only people he ever loved. I had no idea I meant that much to him.” Lee Garlington and Rock Hudson’s relationship came to an end in 1965.

A year after being diagnosed with AIDS in 1984, Rock Hudson became one of the first celebrities to disclose his diagnosis. Rock Hudson died in Beverly Hills, California on October 2, 1985. Men’s Health reported that “he died before Ronald Regan (the then US president) even announced the words AIDS publicly. His death humanised those who were dying from the disease, since he was a beloved actor and not seen as a sexual deviant like most other gay/bi men at the time. Actress Morgan Fairchild even went as far as to say that ‘Rock Hudson’s death gave AIDS a face.”

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