Rock Hudson died tragically in 1985 at the age of 59. His death would be one of the first high-profile AIDS deaths and push the conversation about his sexuality to the forefront of society. On screen, he fell for starlets like Doris Day. But off it, he had to hide who he was. His ex-boyfriend, 81-year-old Lee Garlington, once called Hudson’s “true love,” is now speaking about how far the actor went to conceal his sexuality from the public eye.

Garlington and Hudson dated from 1962 to 1965. The two met when Garlington was an extra on one of Hudson’s films. For three years, they maintained a secret relationship. Hudson’s agent banned them from taking photos together. Garlington said that he keeps pictures of Hudson in an antique box at home but they just have one together.

“We couldn’t take any pictures together, it was too dangerous,” he said. Now Garlington is sharing the photo he and Hudson took of one another on a 1963 vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.


“Sadly at the height of his fame, being authentically who he was would have resulted in a terminated contact and a shattered career,” says Mark Griffin, Hudson biographer.

“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,”‘ Garlington told People.

“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,” he said.

A mutual friend introduced them later.

Even after the two separated, Garlington now wishes the actor could’ve been born 30 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,” he said.

Garlington recalls there time in Mexico as the one time Hudson was able to live a normal life. “We walked on the beach and took pictures of each other with his camera and drove around in an open jeep. 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,” he said.

Garlington never knew how Hudson truly felt about him until after he died. In a biography, he learned that Hudson had called him his “true love.”

Lee is now married to his husband Paul. The two have been together for 32 years. But even now, Lee says, “I remember how handsome he was and what a great time we had together. He was the kindest man I ever met.”

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