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Interview With Phyllis Gates, Married to Actor Rock Hudson

Aired March 11, 2004 - 21:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rock Hudson and his charming wife, Phyllis, expressed their happiness about the brilliant premier.


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive, Rock Hudson's ex-wife, Phyllis Gates, breaking her long silence, her first TV interview ever. She spent three years married to the handsome star who made millions of women swoon and then shocked the world by revealing he was gay and then dying tragically of AIDS. What stories can she tell about their life together? A rare, revealing, emotional hour with Rock Hudson's ex-wife, Phyllis Gates, exclusive next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's a great pleasure to welcome Phyllis Gates to LARRY KING LIVE tonight. Phyllis was married to Rock Hudson in the mid-'50s, from 1955 to 1958. She was the secretary for Rock's agent at the time, Henry Wilson. She wrote a book back in 1987 called "My Husband, Rock Hudson." That's the only time she's written or spoken about all this, but she's agreed to be with us tonight. We're happy to welcome her here.

You don't -- you don't speak about him. You wrote the book. Why now?

PHYLLIS GATES, MARRIED TO ROCK HUDSON: Well, I didn't really plan it this way, but...

KING: We contacted you, right?

GATES: You contacted me.

KING: All right, what -- let's go back to the meeting.

GATES: All right.

KING: You were a secretary. And who was Henry Wilson?

GATES: Henry Wilson was the biggest agent at that time. He was a builder of everybody. And he was a very good agent. I don't think it turned out that well. He was such a nice man. But so be it.

KING: So his career didn't end well?

GATES: No. No.

GATES: And Rock was one of his clients?

GATES: Yes. His biggest client.

KING: And Rock was becoming a big star in movies then, right...

GATES: Oh, yes.

KING: ... in the '50s the Doris Day movies, et cetera.

GATES: No, that was after.

KING: Oh, really? But he was already...

GATES: Started, yes.

KING: "Giant" had been made?

GATES: No, it hadn't, but it was made during the time when I first met Rock. And I went down to Marfa (ph), Texas, and met all the Texans down there...

KING: That's where they filmed, right?

GATES: ... got cowboy boots. Yes, it was just -- Rock took hundreds of pictures, which he -- he loved to take pictures.

KING: How did you get to be -- come to Hollywood and be the secretary?

GATES: Well, I worked for a producer called Maynard Morris (ph) out of MCA, I think it was, in New York. And then I came out here, and then I became Henry's secretary.

KING: Why'd you come here?

GATES: I liked the sunshine, because of a friend of mine. He said, Why don't you come out and get some sunshine? I said, Well, it sounds good to me. Out I came.

KING: What was the first meeting with Rock like? Where did you meet?

GATES: I think I met him in his office, Henry's office. He walked in one day. You see, there was two desks. Pat Swofford (ph) was here, and I was over here. And there was two of us there. And Rock walked in and he said, Is Henry here? And I looked up and up and up. I said, Yes, Rock, he is. OK, I'm going to go in and see him. OK, I said. And he walked through the door. I was in love.

KING: But you had an immediate attraction.

GATES: Well, who wouldn't?

KING: Yes, who -- you're not kidding.

GATES: You bet I did! KING: And you're originally out of Minnesota, right?

GATES: Yes. I am from Minnesota.

KING: You're not some -- you're not a slick city chick, right?


KING: So how did -- how did the romance begin?

GATES: Well, it was -- it took quite a bit of time. You know, it just didn't go overnight.

KING: Did you talk to him upon occasion, see him upon occasion?

GATES: Oh, sure, but not too often. And then Henry says, Let's go over to Cock and Bull (ph) and have a drink. And then I went over the next night or the night after. And then Henry said -- he was instigating immediately, trying to get us together.

KING: He was?

GATES: Oh, sure. Henry was. And then he said, Let's go to dinner. And I said, OK, feeling a little bit uncomfortable with the situation, and off we went. Had a wonderful evening.

KING: When did it get serious?

GATES: About a month later.

KING: And Henry was encouraging it?

GATES: Oh, all along. Sure.

GATES: Do you think Henry knew that Rock was gay?

GATES: Well, I don't know.

KING: I mean, for publicity purpose, would it look good for him, you know, to be with some...

GATES: Oh, sure.

KING: Yes. So...

GATES: But I didn't think about that.

KING: And nor did anyone else, right?

GATES: No. No.

KING: So tell me what it was like, what the relationship was like.

GATES: Well, let me see. What'd we do? Well, at first, he kept making dates and breaking them. And he wasn't very nice, but he was very busy and I understood all that. And so he'd make a date and then he'd break a date. And I'd say to Henry one day, I'm not going to see him anymore. I just don't like people like that. I kept telling him...


GATES: ... OK, OK, OK, he said. And so I just said, Don't have him call me. Please tell him to stop calling me. But he did. He called me a few nights later, and I said, OK. You know how that goes! And I think I was in love then.

KING: And then how did the marriage -- how did he propose? Where'd that happen?

GATES: Well, that was in Henry's office.

KING: In the office?

GATES: He laid down on the floor with his feet up on a chair, and he said -- he started to call me "Bunting." I don't know why, where he got that name, but he...

KING: Bunting?

GATES: Bunting, B-U-N-T-I-N-G. He called me that all during our relationship. And he said, Would you marry me? And I said, Yes.

KING: Had you been intimate? Had you been very close?

GATES: Very close.

KING: So this was not a shock, to get this request.

GATES: No. Very close already.

KING: And how long...

GATES: It happened very fast.

KING: And how long did it take to you say yes?

GATES: About two minutes, one minute maybe!

KING: Where was the wedding?

GATES: The wedding was in Santa Barbara, that Henry had set up for us, because he was -- he knew how to do things. And I had hayseed in my hair, and I think Rock had a little in his hair, too. And off we went to Santa Barbara...

KING: But this must have been a big story in the papers, right?

GATES: Oh, sure. On the way up, we got a speeding ticket. And we had to stop to get our wedding -- our marriage certificate because we didn't want anybody to know.

KING: Oh, it was a secret wedding?

GATES: Oh, secret. It was almost like an elopement. But it was Pat Devlin (ph) and Rock's best friend and wife, Jimmy Matione (ph) and his wife, and -- let's see -- well, and the minister. I insisted on a Lutheran minister.

KING: Why secret? Why -- I mean, why not a -- let's release -- press releases and...

GATES: Well, I guess Henry thought it would be too much publicity. I don't know why.

KING: Did eventually it get publicity?

GATES: Oh, sure.

KING: It got out afterwards.

GATES: Yes. Sure. By the time I got to Florida (ph), it had gotten out.

KING: You went on your honeymoon where?

GATES: Jamaica. We flew to Florida that night, and the next morning, we went to Jamaica -- lovely Jamaica! Had a wonderful time there.

KING: It's a great place.

GATES: Great place for a honeymoon.

KING: One of my favorite places.

GATES: Oh, heaven! We did everything in the sand, you know, walked and talked. And oh, it was just wonderful.

GATES: What was it like for this little girl from Minnesota by way of New York to be with a movie star, a genuine movie star, a major movie star?

GATES: Oh, I didn't think about that. But I just knew I liked him, and it grew and grew and grew...

KING: And what was...

GATES: ... as most marriage...

KING: Yes. And what was he like?

GATES: Well, he was very shy and very nice and very gentle, very kind to start. We had a wonderful time.

KING: You would call him a good husband?

GATES: Then, oh, yes.

KING: Did you want children?

GATES: Oh, sure.

KING: Did he want children?

GATES: Doesn't every woman want children? Oh, yes. He loved kids, and he wanted more children than I did. I didn't want to have six. But he said, Well, Bunting, how -- let's get started on our family. OK, I said. He was always after me. All these stories I've heard that he didn't want to make love, I can't even believe it.

KING: He...

GATES: He carried me in more bedrooms than I could ever remember.

KING: And he was good?

GATES: Oh, good!


GATES: Sorry!

KING: Hey, Phyllis, hey, all we want is the truth, baby. That ain't bad to hear. Why didn't you get -- what, you couldn't get pregnant?

GATES: No, I didn't. It's not that I couldn't, I just didn't.

KING: You did try.

GATES: Yes. Oh, sure.

KING: And he wanted children.

GATES: Yes, he wanted children. And -- yes.

KING: The saga of Phyllis Gates. What a story. We'll be back with more right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is a guy that's as big as Texas in "Giant," and such a performance. And he has his lovely lady with us here tonight. You see them off stage. Would you give them a nice introduction, like you always do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Must be only Rock Hudson. Hello. How are you? Nice to see you again.

ROCK HUDSON: Nice to see you again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to meet your wife.

HUDSON: This is my wife. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. So nice to meet you, Phyllis. You want to step in here?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I don't know whether Rock remembers it or not, Phyllis, but...

HUDSON: Yes, he does.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... I think it was one of your first movies we were in together, "The Fat Man."

HUDSON: Yes. Yes. Certainly was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, and he's such a big star now!

HUDSON: Oh, no.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to make him blush again. He is simply wonderful in "Giant."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to tell you something. He just -- oh, that scene at the finish with Elizabeth and you, where he sets down and admits that he's been beat up, and his saddle slipped out from under him!



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you seen the picture yet?

GATES: No, I haven't seen it. I've been waiting, but I've seen (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have a surprise in store for you, too.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hear you're just wonderful, Rock.

HUDSON: Well, I -- I don't know, Jane. I...


KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE with Phyllis Gates, the only woman ever married to Rock Hudson. They were married for three years. And we're discussing the life and times of an extraordinary lady, an incredible story.

By the way, did you live together before you were married?

GATES: Oh, yes.

KING: You did.

GATES: About a year.

KING: So it took how long before -- from meeting to getting married?

GATES: Well, we lived together about a year in his little house up on Warbler (ph) Place. In the book, it says, Oh, come on now, Bunting. Let's go up and see this house. I found the most wonderful little house for us. And it really was small and wonderful, a delightful little house. And so he said, Will you come and live here? I said, OK. I always said just, OK.

KING: I gather you liked him.

GATES: I liked him a lot.

KING: And how come he never explained Bunting?

GATES: I don't know. It's in the book. Bunting -- he called me Bunting. It means -- it's like a baby, you know, the bunting clothes or something.

KING: Yes.

GATES: Bunting all the time he called me.

KING: It's also a baseball term.

GATES: Yes. I don't know. I don't know what it was, but he thought it was very fun.

KING: When did things go wrong? What happened?

GATES: Well, they didn't really go wrong. They just dissipated on his part, and when I thought that I was in love and he was never home. He just was going here and going there. I got an interview, and I got this to do and I got that -- but that was a long time after we were married. And finally, I just thought, Why?

KING: Did you continue to work after you were married?

GATES: Oh, no. He said, You must be home here now. I love to cook, and so I was cooking little foods for him. And then we'd come back from -- we went to Texas for "Giant." I fixed dinners for Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Wilding. I'd make chocolate souffle. And Elizabeth and I were sitting there and stirring the eggs one morning at 2:00 in the morning. And I mean, it was fun. It was a great -- we had a great, great time.

KING: And he just seemed to lose interest after a time.

GATES: After a while.

KING: When did you first learn about Rock Hudson and homosexuality?

GATES: Well, I didn't, really. I didn't know anything about it until after I was divorced.

KING: And when did you learn then?

GATES: That he was playing -- had been playing around all the time that I'd been married, and I didn't...

KING: With men?

GATES: With men. Yes. I didn't...

KING: How did you find out?

GATES: Oh, friends told me. You know, they're very good with gossip. You know how they talk about everybody in Hollywood. My goodness! You don't last very long, you know...

KING: Well, based on your own experience and the loving you had and the obvious passion you had, weren't you shocked?

GATES: Shocked? Went to a psychologist.

KING: You did?

GATES: Yes. For one year, so that she could help me through it. And she said, You don't have a chance here, Phyllis. And I said, Well, thanks a lot, Doctor. She said, I'm just being honest.

KING: You saw no inkling of it while married to him?

GATES: No. I didn't see any inkling. How could you? He was so handsome and he was so good-looking and he was so strong. I never saw anything. Maybe I was a dope.

KING: In other words, you would go out and you'd never see him look over at a man or...

GATES: Never.

KING: ... a man look at him, where you would be suspicious?

GATES: I don't know about be suspicious, but I would see it. I would...

KING: But you wouldn't think anything?

GATES: No. I wouldn't.

KING: So that never entered your mind. GATES: Never!

KING: Remember, these are the '50s...


KING: ... where it almost never entered anybody's mind, right?

GATES: Never. I never even thought of it, Larry.

KING: When rumors started and there were occasional rumors in print, were you bothered, even as an ex-wife?

GATES: Yes. I'm still bothered even today. I couldn't even talk about it for a long, long time.

KING: Did he keep in touch with you?


KING: Lost touch completely?

GATES: Lost touch completely. Bought me presents all the time. You know, he bought me more jewelry than I ever could think I could wear.

KING: After were you divorced?

GATES: No, no.

KING: During -- in other words -- oh, so he was -- up to the point of getting disinterested, he was a great husband.

GATES: Oh, he was -- he bought me so many things, you can't even believe it.

KING: So you were a totally happy person.

GATES: I was.

KING: And looking to have a family.


KING: And then suddenly, the disinterest occurs.

GATES: Boom.

KING: Did you have to file for divorce?

GATES: I filed for divorce. I got the divorce.

KING: Did you get -- did you get well heeled with alimony?


KING: Why not?

GATES: Well, I don't know. I think -- I didn't want to take advantage of him. And then I thought -- I don't know what happened.

KING: But you didn't come out of this strong.

GATES: Oh, no.

KING: Would you go to see...

GATES: But that was years ago, you know. There wasn't much alimony then.

KING: Did you go to see his movies?

GATES: No. Why would I do that?

KING: Well, because he was once your husband.

GATES: No. I didn't. I couldn't face it.

KING: Didn't lots of -- I think you wrote years ago -- didn't lots of men call the house?

GATES: Yes, they did start to call the house.

KING: And men showed up asking for money?


KING: No? Rock would leave in the middle of the night for no reason?

GATES: Yes. He'd pretend he was mad at me or some -- or fake an argument, and out the door he'd go. And I thought, Well, where is he going now? I never -- I don't know what he was doing, but I have a hint now.

KING: Yes, but then -- but you must, if you feared anything, feared another woman.

GATES: Well, sure.

KING: I mean, that would be logical.

GATES: The women were all over him. They're snapping his suspenders when he went to a premier. I mean, you can't imagine what it was like living with Rock. Every woman in this town was in love of him besides me. I practically kicked, you know, somebody who...

KING: Did you? Oh, yes?

GATES: No, I didn't kick her.

KING: But you were jealous?

GATES: I was jealous. Who wouldn't be? Wouldn't you be jealous?

KING: Sure. He was jealous of James Dean. Is that true?

GATES: Yes, he was.

KING: Because?

GATES: Well, James Dean was a charmer. When I went down to Marfa, he says, Come on, let me show you how to use the rope. And he had this lasso...

KING: He could do that, couldn't he.

GATES: Yes, he could. Very good. And he showed me. Of course, I couldn't do it, but I tried. And we had a very good time. But you know, Rock was so happy to have me there, first time. We got there, and he was just so happy to see me and -- but he didn't behind if I fiddled around with James Dean in that area. But he was jealous...

GATES: Why didn't he like James Dean?

GATES: I don't know.

KING: He didn't tell you? He just didn't like him?

GATES: No. He just said, I don't like James Dean, he'd say. I think it was because he was very, very talented, and he was jealous of his talent.

KING: Could be.

GATES: I don't know.

KING: He was sure talented.

GATES: Good talent.

KING: Did he like Elizabeth?

GATES: Oh, sure. They were friends for years and years and years.

KING: Yes, right to the end.

GATES: Right to the end.

KING: Did you like Elizabeth?

GATES: Oh, yes. Very much. Like I say, you know, when I went to Paris once, she sent her car and driver over. Let them take care of you, she'd say. Had their driver -- car and driver for about a week or two. I mean, she was very -- she was lovely to me.

KING: How did Hudson handle Dean's death?

GATES: Well, he cried. KING: Really?

GATES: He cried. He was very touched by it. And I sat down and tried to hug him, you know, and I said, Rock, it's not your fault.

GATES: Yes, but I hated him, he said.

GATES: Well, yes, so be it, you know? But it wasn't your fault that he killed himself and that he died in a car...

KING: Died in a car wreck.

GATES: You know, It's just one of those things.

KING: Do you think Rock felt guilty...

GATES: I think so.

KING: ... guilty for hating him and then...

GATES: Guilty for his -- the way he felt, for his mood swings because of James Dean, yes.

KING: When we come back, I'm going to ask Phyllis Gates how she finally discovered it actually -- in other words, without rumor -- that you knew. And then, of course, dealing with the AIDS thing. Phyllis Gates is our special guest. She wrote the book years ago "My Husband, Rock Hudson." They ought to re-release it. He gave you those pearls, too, or...

GATES: Yes, he did. He gave me -- this is one thing he brought back from Italy. This is cloisonne. I've got tons of jewelry in the bank that he gave me.

KING: Good! That you kept.

GATES: Oh, that I kept.

KING: We'll be...

GATES: Not all of it.

KING: We'll be back with Phyllis Gates. Don't go away.


HUDSON: Jet (ph), come outside. I want to talk to you.

JAMES DEAN: Just a minute here. I'm afraid I'm going to beat you to it. I'm quitting. I lost the one friend I had in this place, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) too. So I'm quit. I'm dead quit. Don't have to say another word to me.

HUDSON: Nobody's firing you, Jet.

DEAN: Boy, howdy, nobody's firing me! I told you I quit. HUDSON: Nobody wants to fire you. Now, you just...




KING: Dale, you say that Rock knew a lot of women.


KING: I mean, was intimate with...

OLSON: Rock loved women, and he...

KING: ... women.

OLSON: Yes, he had affairs with women. I mean...

KING: He was married once.

OLSON: Yes, he was married once. He was married quite happily for a period of time. Rock Hudson was truly maybe the nicest person who ever came to Hollywood. And he was nice to everybody. He was nice to the people he worked with. He was nice to the press. And everybody took care of him. The studio took care of him. Everybody had the rumors. Everybody heard about the possibility of his being gay, but very few people ever printed it. The press were so kind to him...

KING: Just plain liked him.

OLSON: They -- everybody respected...

KING: But you're saying he...

OLSON: ... him and liked him.

KING: ... deserved to be liked.

OLSON: Absolutely.


KING: We're back with Phyllis Gates, married to Rock Hudson for three years, wrote the book years ago, "My Husband, Rock Hudson." This is her first ever television interview.

You're doing very well. You're not nervous or nothing, right?

GATES: Oh, no, Larry!

KING: No. Come on, Phyllis!


KING: Stop -- by the way, did anyone ever suspect the possibility of a relationship between Rock Hudson and James Dean?


KING: No? And you doubt that.

GATES: I doubt it.

KING: Because sometimes hate could be close to love, and if you hate someone so much and cry when they die, one might think...

GATES: No, I don't think...

KING: ... suspiciously...

GATES: ... there was anything like that.

KING: You found out, I'm told, that just a week before the wedding, Rock and Wilson consulted an attorney, trying to find a way to stop publication of a magazine story about his homosexuality.

GATES: In "Confidential," I think it was. That old...

KING: Oh, I remember it well.


KING: Yes.

GATES: Oh! Awful magazine.

KING: They were going to run a story -- did they -- did the story run or not run?

GATES: No, it didn't run. And...

KING: Did you know about that, that they were going to write it?


KING: How, Phyllis, were you kept in the dark?

GATES: Well, because I'm a little on the naive side, gullible side, I guess. I don't know, Larry. I just didn't...

KING: In other words, you never heard whispers while married?

GATES: No, I didn't.

KING: Never -- all this you learned, you learned later.

GATES: No. I was with my friend, Pat. We'd go play golf and stuff like that. You know, and we never -- she'd never heard anything and she'd never suspected. I think in the book, I quoted her as saying, Who would have ever thought that Rock was bisexual? She never thought that Rock was bisexual, never in a hundred words (ph).

KING: And obviously, you say bisexual, right, obviously, because he had...

GATES: I think so.

KING: Do you think he continued to see women, as well?

GATES: I don't know if he did.

KING: But you know he certainly he was...

GATES: Oh, boy!

KING: ... bisexual.

GATES: Did I ever!

KING: He was an accomplished lover?

GATES: I think so.

KING: All right, when did you "know" know it? When did you find out Rock Hudson was gay?

GATES: Well, I can't really answer that correctly because I don't know when I found out. I don't know if I ever found out. But I think perhaps the Dr. Duvois (ph) confirmed some things that I was thinking about.

KING: Who is he?

GATES: She. It was a woman I went to for the year, the psychologist who helped me so much. And it could be that she mentioned it -- Don't you think that your husband has perhaps got a gay streak? And I said, I don't know. And she said, Well, let's examine it further. So we went over and over and around.

KING: Well, something in her conversations with you must have led her to think that.

GATES: Yes. Sure.

KING: So she found out something through you that you weren't aware of.

GATES: Yes, probably.

KING: That must have shocked you.

GATES: Very. She was very bright, you know, a very bright psychologist. And she had given him Rorschachs once because I wanted...

KING: Oh, she treated him, too? GATES: Yes. I wanted him to go to her. I said, Why don't you go in and talk with Duvois? OK, he said. He went and he took the test.

KING: That's the ink-blot test.

GATES: Yes. And then -- but he never went -- and then she didn't want to work with him because she just thought it was a -- you know...

KING: Conflict?

GATES: ... conflict of interest. And so then she was -- he was supposed to work with a Dr. Rankin (ph), and he never went.

KING: Why did he go to a psychologist, in the first place? Was he having emotional problems?

GATES: No, because I insisted that he go.

KING: You thought something was wrong?


GATES: Based on his lack of interest?

GATES: Yes. I did...

KING: Did he get depressed a lot?

GATES: Yes, he did. He did get depressed.

KING: Moody?

GATES: Moody. Very, very moody. And moodiness is hard to deal with, for anybody, I think.

KING: How did he deal with success?

GATES: He loved success!

KING: That he loved.

GATES: That he loved. Fame and success? Sure.

KING: So he liked the whole attention he got. You'd go to -- when you went out to dinner, photographers, right?

GATES: Who wouldn't, you know? Sure.

KING: Major movies opening, the red carpet. Did you like it?

GATES: Yes, I did, for a short time. I loved it!

KING: All right. After the divorce, what did you do, Phyllis? Did you remarry? GATES: No, I didn't.

KING: Never remarried?

GATES: I just couldn't. I just couldn't.

KING: Because you loved him so much? Did you date? Did you ever get involved with other men?

GATES: Oh, sure, lots of people. Not lots, but I did get dates. I was going to get married. I had very good neighbors, the Weirs (ph), and they kept fixing me up. They always fixed me up. But I didn't want to get married. I thought, How can I replace him? You know, I loved him so much. So I thought, Well, what am I going to do now?

KING: How did you hear about AIDS?

GATES: I didn't know anything about AIDS, but I heard about it from my neighbor down in Palm Springs that a friend of his had died from AIDS. And I didn't even know what it was. And then I guess little by little, then, the information came through.

KING: Do you remember how you first learned that Rock had it?

GATES: Somebody called me from Florida and said, Did you know your ex-husband has AIDS? I said, What? And he said, Do you know he has AIDS? And I said, Well, if that's true, I'm sorry for him. And they said, Well, it is true. And that was it.

KING: Did you try to reach him?


KING: Why not?

GATES: Because I didn't want to. I didn't want to get into that mish-mash because he had a terrible secretary who'd said nothing but bad things about me. And so -- he just made up stuff.

KING: About you?

GATES: Yes, about me. And so I just thought, Why should I get into it? So I didn't. I'm a stubborn Norwegian, I guess.

KING: Who did he make this up to? Was it the press or people who were interested in you? In other words, who was the secretary lying to about you?

GATES: Everybody he talked to, probably.

KING: So you never contacted him?

GATES: Never again.

KING: Ever regret that? GATES: Sometimes.

KING: Where were you when he died?

GATES: Watching television.

KING: And that's where you saw it.

GATES: That's where I saw it.

KING: Remember your reaction?

GATES: I cried.

KING: Do you remember seeing him on the show he did with Doris Day, the first time we saw him...

GATES: No, I didn't see that.

KING: ... when he looked terrible?

GATES: No. He looked terrible, didn't he. No, I didn't see that.

KING: Did you see him when they had him come back from Paris on the plane and...

GATES: Yes. From (UNINTELLIGIBLE) He fainted on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) didn't he?

KING: Yes.

GATES: Hotel.

KING: He fainted on the floor.


KING: And he was trying to get a cure there or something.

GATES: Yes, he was. He was taking some sort of shots.

KING: Did you think about attending the funeral? Was there a public funeral?

GATES: Yes, but I didn't want to go.

KING: Out of love? Out of sadness?

GATES: Sadness.

KING: Phyllis Gates is our guest. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - JULY 25, 1985) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Rock Hudson has acquired immune deficiency syndrome, which was diagnosed over a year ago in the United States.




MARC CHRISTIAN, ROCK HUDSON'S FORMER LOVER: We dated for 9 months before we did anything together. And I knew him a year before I moved in. So, we were friends basically.

KING: Explain this, since then, 1985, no one came out of the closet. How did Rock Hudson date?

CHRISTIAN: He would come over at lunch-time. I'd come back from work and we got to lunch. He never seemed to be uptight about it in public, but we didn't do a lot of phsyical affection or anything.

KING: But you'd go out to dinner together?


KING: And no one printed that in columns and stuff?

CHRISTIAN: No, the press was very, very genteel 20 years ago, compared to today.

KING: And he had been married.

CHRISTIAN: He had been married. And he did like women as well.

KING: When he was with you, did he also see women?

CHRISTIAN: No. Not at all.

KING: But he liked women?

CHRISTIAN: Oh, yes, very much so.


KING: We're back with Phyllis Gates, her first-ever television interview. She was married to Rock Hudson for three years. Wrote a book about it back in 1987, "My Husband Rock Hudson," but has a difficult time talking about it, as you can tell.

She was secretary for Rock's agent, Henry Willson. Let's cover some things we may have missed going through it the first time.

He had a boyfriend at the end who wound up suing him.


KING: A fellow, I forget his name, but he was on this show.

GATES: I know him. I took him to lunch.

KING: Marc Christian.

GATES: Marc Christian. I felt sorry for him, because that was ...

KING: Rock never told him he had AIDS.


KING: Right?


KING: I think he won that lawsuit.

GATES: He did.

KING: If memory serves me correctly.

GATES: Yes, usually (ph) I've known him, but I don't. I shouldn't say that.

KING: You went to lunch with him?

GATES: Yes, I took him to lunch.

KING: What did you talk about?

GATES: Oh, we talked about everything but what you'd think we talked about.

KING: You didn't talk about Rock?

GATES: No, very little. Very, very little.

KING: Because he loved Rock, too.

GATES: So much, I think. We talked about other things. I took him to a restaurant down at the beach, and we looked out at the beautiful water. We just talked. I liked him a lot. And then he called me quite a few times to go out dinner again, but I never did. I thought, no, I can't do that. It just looks bad. That's what I thought. I was worried about the public. I shouldn't have been, but I was. And ...

KING: Did he ever tell you how much he loved you?

GATES: Yes, he did.

KING: And you believed him, of course?

GATES: Of course I did. He was an actor.

KING: You don't think he loved you?

GATES: Oh, yes I do. But it passed. He didn't care for me -- I think after a while -- I don't know. He told some people he only loved two people in his whole life, and one was me.

KING: That was a quote later on, near the end of his life.


KING: Others have said this. On this show someone said that once, that he had said that. But he never attempted to contact you?

GATES: No, never attempted.

KING: What is it like, the feeling, when the person you love, when you learn that they love someone of the same sex? In other words, it's one thing to be cuckolded by another woman, or another man, or they were -- that's the average story.


KING: Man runs away with other woman, happens every day, every minute.

GATES: It hurts, terribly. I mean, how can you compete?

KING: That's right. What do you do? What do you say?

GATES: I went to Dr. Duvroi (ph). I thought maybe she could help me. She said she couldn't, really.

KING: Did she say it was not curable?

GATES: No. Well, she said, forget it, Phyllis, you should just get a divorce. So she told me, go home and tell him that you want a divorce, which I did.

KING: You quote the honeymoon in Jamaica, at your very first dinner, he says in the toast, "We must always stick together and not let anyone try to pull us apart. Hollywood is full of vicious people who spread stories and rumors. Never believe any of them."

GATES: That's right.

KING: You know the reason he was saying that.

GATES: I didn't know then.

KING: We know it now, though.

KING: Did he have any problems physically?

GATES: With me?

KING: Yes.

GATES: None.

KING: You had a happy physical relationship?

GATES: Yes, we did.

KING: So all this has got to be like a total puzzle. You think it's a real marriage ...

GATES: And it wasn't.

KING: He's running around, seeing other men. You learn later, you feel devastated.

GATES: Yes, but not right away. He didn't. You see, I could tell that. You know, you can always feel when somebody you love is sort of cheating on you. You just feel it. I don't know where it came from, but you do.

KING: But you don't think other men.

GATES: No, I did not think that.

KING: Did you ever ask Henry Willson about it?

GATES: Oh, no.

KING: Why not? He was his agent? He must have known something.

GATES: Number one, he would never tell me.

KING: But, I mean, wouldn't you think that you'd call people, people who knew him, or friends that you know of his, just for curiosity's sake, just thinking, what do you know about Rock, and was this story true?

GATES: I knew they wouldn't tell me, if they did know.

KING: So you were able to just put it aside?

GATES: Yes, my friends are -- they are like Cathy and Lela Moore (ph), people like that, and we spent a lot of time together having dinner and things like that. And went to the lodge a lot, and that was it, you know?

KING: You enjoyed a lot of friendships with Hollywood actresses and actors, didn't you, during that time. Friends with Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Wilding?

GATES: Oh, I loved Michael.

KING: One of Elizabeth's husbands. He was a talent, though, wasn't he?

GATES: Oh, yes.

KING: What about the publicity machine surrounding Rock Hudson and you?

GATES: What do you mean by what about them?

KING: Movie magazines and...

GATES: Oh, tons.

KING: How did you deal with that? Did you just ...

GATES: Well, I just -- I didn't care for that. You know, I'm just not the type to sit around and pose and all that type of stuff. But if the pictures turned out OK it was all right, I guess. I don't know.

KING: Was he easy to be with?

GATES: Rock? Yes, he was for me. Except you had to play too many games.

KING: What do you mean?

GATES: You always had to play games all the time, Clue and ...

KING: You mean board games?

GATES: Yes, board games.

KING: Scrabble?

GATES: Yes, things like that.

KING: Was he a little boring?

GATES: No, it wasn't boring. Stop that.

KING: Did you know Doris Day?

GATES: No, I never met her. That was after.

KING: Did you watch those movies?


KING: When you see it now, an old movie comes up on television?

GATES: I turn it off.

KING: Because you care so much, or because you're trying to do away with it in your mind?

GATES: That's it.

KING: Both?

GATES: It makes me very sad, all of it. And that's the way life goes. KING: Horrible way to die.

GATES: It's a horrible way to die, and I felt so sorry for him. When I thought he had a great chance of really having -- we could have had a nice life together, but it didn't work.

KING: Had you known in marriage, you could have never put up with it though, right? Supposing he wanted to stay married just for show?

GATES: Well, he wanted to stay married.

KING: Oh, he did.

GATES: Oh, he begged me not to leave him.

Don't leave me, he'd say. I said I have to, you're not a husband anymore. Because he'd leave me for nights sitting there. Then when he went over to Europe, he'd stay excessively a long time. It just got to be pathetic. I felt like a real doormat.

KING: Yes. Did he call you?

GATES: When I ...

KING: When he'd be in Europe, would he call you every night?

GATES: Hardly at all.

KING: You had a marriage in name only?

GATES: That's right, at the end -- a wonderful one to start.

KING: Our guest is Phyllis Gates. You're watching "LARRY KING LIVE." We'll be right back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, you got me up here to see the apartment. Now, will you kindly put me down?

HUDSON: It's customary for the groom to carry the bride across the threshold.


HUDSON: How does it feel returning to the scene of the crime?


HUDSON: Why did I spend a fortune having this apartment done over? Why did I cut myself off from every girl I know? Why does any man destroy himself because he thinks he's getting married? What does it get me? This.

You did yourself a great job. And as far as I'm concerned, you can stay here and charge admission.




HUDSON: Just calm down. We're in Maryland. We're in a motel. But it's all right. Yes, it is. We're legally married. You're Mrs. Jerry Webster. Here, have a look. I don't know how it happened, but apparently I did the decent thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I'm your wife. Eww! Horrible! I'm ruined forever.

HUDSON: What ruined? I married you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You'll go to jail for this.

HUDSON: Now, Carol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't you touch me!


KING: Our guest is Phyllis Gates. When you wrote the book, there was a lot of Hollywood dishing in it.

GATES: Did I dish a lot?

KING: You told a lot of interesting stories. One that was not dishing but you were with Montgomery Cliff the night he nearly died.

GATES: Oh, yes I was. We were up at Elizabeth's house and she was married to Michael Wilding (ph), I believe at that time still.

KING: And it was you and Rock?

GATES: Uh-huh and then Monty Cliff and -- it was another actor. His name is in the book.

KING: Because Cliff was gay, too.

GATES: Was he? I dont know.

KING: I think that's the general presumption.

GATES: You can't go by general presumptions though.

KING: OK, I think it's -- the Hollywood talk is...

GATES: Everybody gossips out here.

KING: What happened that day, Phyllis?

GATES: We went up there. We had a wonderful dinner. Then Monty was going to go home with his friend. This was not a gay friend at all. Off they went and then about three minutes later, the telephone rang and Elizabeth said they had an accident. And we all got in the car and went down the hill. And we were down there and Elizabeth was already in his car. He hit a telephone pole. She was already in the car with his head in her lap. And we sat there. And she just cried and then the newspapers came. And she said, get out of here! And she swore at them. They left. "You print one word of this and I'll never talk to any of you again," she said.

KING: Was the friend hurt?


KING: Cliff was hurt, though?

GATES: Cliff was hurt badly. So we went to the hospital, Liz and I stayed there all night long. I rode in the ambulance with Elizabeth. We stayed there all night long. It was just tragic because his whole jaw was broken. In the morning...

KING: Extraordinary actor.

GATES: Oh, wonderful.

KING: Did Rock and he get along?

GATES: Oh, very much so.

KING: Elizabeth Taylor described to us that night of running down in that car. She was frantic.

GATES: That's true.

KING: You were there with her.

GATES: I was with her.

KING: And you write about Humphrey Bogart.

GATES: Oh, yes, Humphrey and I were very good friends. Very, very good friends.

KING: What was he like?

GATES: A wonderful man.

KING: Drank too much, smoked too much.

GATES: Probably. Probably all of that. But his doctor was my doctor. Dr. Bramsmill (ph) and Humphrey...

KING: Medical doctor?

GATES: Yes. And he was just a great man. I saw him just a short time before he died. And he used to say things like oh, dear, he'd say, you never quite made it, did you, Spence, there was always Clark Gable, things like that. That was his pet peeve line.

KING: Clark Gable would kid him? He would kid Spencer Tracy that Clark Gable was bigger than Spencer Tracy?

GATES: That's right.

KING: He died of lung cancer of lung cancer, didn't he?

GATES: Yes, he did.

KING: He smoked a lot. You had lung cancer.


KING: How have you done?

GATES: Fine. I'm doing very well. I'm clear. I went to a doctor in Minnesota and it turned out well.

KING: They had surgery?

GATES: Very bad surgery. Lung surgery is not pleasant.

KING: No. They go down the back, right. Were you a smoker?

GATES: Terrible smoker. Not heavy, but often. What difference does it make, right?

KING: I think that's the same thing.

GATES: I think so. I think so. I think I made a mistake there.

KING: I never heard it put that way. Are you feeling well now?

GATES: I feel well.

KING: How did you discover it? Did you have coughing...

GATES: No, I went to a doctor for a physical. He discovered it. He said, you have a cloud over your left -- right lung.

KING: Boy, that must have been something to hear, you have cancer.

GATES: Yes. And then I went into Minneapolis and took lots of tests and I did have cancer. And so I took care of that.

KING: They cut it out, do radiation, too?


KING: You say in the book about Rock had some odd habits. You say that a psychological test revealed that he had the emotional development of a 10-year-old.

GATES: That's what Dr. Duvroi (ph) told me. KING: The emotional development of a 10-year-old?

GATES: He was pretty young to me. But he was childish, quite childish.

KING: He was spoiled?

GATES: I think so. I think his mother spoiled him. Everything had to be his way and -- yes, I...

KING: Chewed his fingernails?

GATES: I guess he -- not so much this -- this. Picking on them.

KING: Danced ballet in the nude at home?

GATES: I don't remember -- yes, he did.

KING: Phyllis, that's kind of something you remember.

GATES: I know.

KING: I think I would remember that even if it weren't Rock Hudson. Something would tell me that if someone danced ballet nude at home who happened to be an actor, I think I would remember that.

GATES: I think you would. I think I should, too.

KING: He would go days without showering or brushing his teeth?

GATES: That was before me, I think.

KING: Did you ask him about any of his little weird things?

GATES: Well, no.

KING: You were really naive.

GATES: Well, that's not naive. That's just polite.

KING: So, in other words, he's bleeding his fingers down to the bone and you don't say anything because you're polite?

GATES: I knew he was doing that, but I didn't say anything, no.

KING: He was not a happy man.

GATES: No, I think -- he had a lot of complexes, I think. And -- I don't know -- I don't know what it was. It was just...

KING: Aren't there days you regret not at least having talked to him?

GATES: Yes. There are many days.

KING: You should have called? GATES: Should have called, I guess. But I just didn't want to, because of his associates who were very cruel to me, making up stories and stuff. It just wasn't a nice thing to do.

KING: What, did they make you the heavy?

GATES: Oh, sure. They have to make somebody -- it's not going to be Rock, you know that. Their friend.

KING: Yes, Rock had to be perfect. So you had no desire even to see his movies?


KING: After the divorce, you kept friendships but, again, I want to reiterate that, you never got seriously enough involved to get married?

GATES: No. I was close to it a couple of times and I lived with somebody for two, three years but it just never worked.

KING: But you loved Rock?

GATES: Without a doubt.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Phyllis Gates on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They tell me you age in the picture, is that true? How old do you get to be?

HUDSON: I don't know. About 60.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, Chill (ph) told me the other day. He said, this to me proves Rock Hudson is really a great actor because you never are aware of the fact that he's acting an old man.

HUDSON: That's because I act with people like Chill, you see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll love this picture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure I will. I'm looking forward to seeing it. It's so nice to have seen you. I never heard such screams in my life as when you got out the car tonight.




(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rock Hudson and his charming wife Phyllis express their happiness about the brilliant premiere to radio commentator George Sanders. M.C. Art Linkletter congratulates Rock on his outstanding performance as Dick Benedict in "Giant." And Rock and Mrs. Hudson are joined by George and Mrs. Stevens, George Steven's Jr. and Audrey Hepburn.


KING: We're back with our remaining moments with Phyllis Gates. We've shown a lot of clips tonight as well of the incredible story and incredible career and the unbelievable ending. Rock Hudson died October 2nd, 1985. That's twenty years next years. That's twenty years already. It was like yesterday.

GATES: That's right.

KING: Where does time go.

Did you have hepatitis when you were married to Rock Hudson?

GATES: I had it. Yes, I did. When I came back from Africa -- we were over there for something of value, and I was in Africa for quite some time. Richard Brooks met the plane. He said, I'll tell you one thing, there isn't one thing here that won't kill you. And it (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And Rock and I slept under these great big things to keep the mosquitoes out. It was during the Mau Mau time, you know, with Sidney Poitier and all these people. And he was a wonderful man, another wonderful man.

KING: Good man.

GATES: Oh, I just adored him.

KING: In reflection, was Rock a bad person?

GATES: No. He wasn't bad. He was thoughtless, insincere to me, and he had a lot of faults, but he wasn't.

KING: What were the good things?

GATES: That he was kind and he was good and he was fun and he was playful, I guess.

KING: Was he generous?

GATES: You mean buying things?

KING: Yes.

GATES: If could have seen the things he brought me, you wouldn't believe it, from Italy -- from fur coats, from leather coats with fur lining to -- you wouldn't -- he wouldn't ever leave the store without buying something for me. And took pictures. I mean, I have so many pictures. Dr. Duvroi (ph) told me that he idolized me and that he put me on a pedestal. And so I don't know why he did that, but he did, she said. And -- it all came on with the pictures and the gifts, I guess.

KING: Obviously, he was obviously very complicated.

GATES: Yes. Very complicated.

KING: The relationship with Elizabeth Taylor. Was it more than friendship?

GATES: I don't think so, but I don't know.

KING: They were very close.

GATES: I know.

KING: And you liked Elizabeth.

GATES: I liked Elizabeth.

KING: Did you have a fear?


KING: Have you got any of your old Hollywood friends that are still friends?

GATES: No, not really. You know, Hollywood people are very strange people. If they take you out, they want you to reciprocate, and I really didn't have the money to do it.

KING: So tell me about life now. Where do you live? Do you live in L.A.?

GATES: Yes. I just came back. I was in Minnesota for three years. I didn't like it at all. The weather there is just terrible. And then I came back here, and it's fine.

KING: What do you do? You don't work?


KING: You have income?

GATES: No. I sold the little house that I had and I got a little income from that and that's about it.

KING: And you live in an apartment?

GATES: No, I'm in a big building. It's an -- assisted living, it's called.

KING: Oh, you live in one of those. How are they, are they good?

GATES: Well ...

KING: They have people take care of you all day, right? GATES: Yes. They wash your clothes and clean your house, and for that part they're good, especially when you're really sick. But I'm fine now. I think I should go and get an apartment.

KING: You want to get away from there? Are the people there older than you?


KING: You would be young in an assisted living center, right?

GATES: That's what they thought. Whatever that is?

KING: How are you? Are you happy, content?

GATES: Yes, I'm content.

KING: Do you think life dealt you a bad blow?

GATES: With Rock, yes. It could have been a lot better.

KING: You're always going to be a little part of history, you know, Phyllis? You live another 50, 60 years, no matter how long you live, it's always going to be in the obituary -- Rock Hudson. It's an indelible part of you.

GATES: Yes, I suppose. I guess that's OK.

KING: He was good and bad -- you had some good.

GATES: We had some good. I had a lot good.

KING: And you kept the jewelry.

GATES: I certainly did. I had to keep something, didn't I?

KING: I wish you the best.

GATES: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Great seeing you.

GATES: And great seeing you.

KING: Phyllis Gates, married to Rock Hudson for three years, 1955 to 1958. She was the secretary for Rock's agent, Henry Willson. She wrote a book back in 1987, "My Husband Rock Hudson." This is the first time she's ever gone on television to talk about it.

Phyllis Gates. We thank you very much for joining us.

I'll be back in a minute. Don't go away.


KING: Thanks for joining us now on this edition of "LARRY KING LIVE," an hour with Phyllis Gates, the former and only wife, ever, of Rock Hudson, and her only, ever, husband.

Stay tuned now for "NEWSNIGHT WITH AARON BROWN." We'll see you again tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us, and good night.



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