- Jake Picking plays a fictionalized version of actor Rock Hudson in Netflix’s Hollywood.
- The real Rock Hudson was a closeted gay man who eventually married a woman.
- Their marriage lasted three years, and Rock eventually died at age 59.
American Horror Story and Pose creator Ryan Murphy is reimagining life for gay actors in the 1950s with his new Netflix series, Hollywood. One of the subjects whose real life gets the fairytale-esque treatment is Rock Hudson, a closeted gay man who became famous for his roles in classic Hollywood films Giant and Pillow Talk (to name a few).
Jake Picking plays Rock—or rather, a proudly out Rock who’s able to walk the red carpet with his boyfriend without fear of it being a career-ending move.
The real Rock Hudson wasn’t lucky enough to share his full self with the world, which may be why you’ve never heard of him before, even though he was basically the Brad Pitt of your grandparents’ generation.) Nonetheless, the true story of his life is fascinating. Here’s everything you need to know about the real Rock Hudson:
Rock was a BFD back in the ’50s and ’60s, thanks to his good looks and, ya know, acting skills.
Rock was actually born Roy Harold Scherer Jr., according to Biography, and he changed his name in 1947 under the direction of a talent scout. (“Rock” was for the rock of Gibraltar and “Hudson” was for the Hudson River.)
After joining the Navy in 1944 and serving for two years, he moved to Hollywood. There, he spent any time he wasn’t working as a truck driver hanging around the movie studios and handing out headshots to studio executives, Biography reported.
He finally broke into acting after he landed a contract with Warner Brothers and later Universal Pictures.
He was really, really good-looking.
Seriously. Practically everything written about Rock mentions his chiseled good looks and hot body.
And he maintained those good looks throughout his life.
Rock had no acting training before he broke into the business.
But he ended up doing just fine for himself. Some of his biggest roles included Giant alongside Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean, and Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, and Send Me No Flowers with Doris Day, according to IMDb. He received as Oscar nomination for Giant, but didn’t win.
He worked hard to hide his sexual orientation.
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Rock was a closeted gay man at a time when there was zero chance an openly homosexual man could be a movie star.He ended up marrying Phyllis Gates, the secretary of his agent, who may or may not have known he was gay, according to his biography, All That Heaven Allows.
The marriage happened after people started publicly wondering why Rock wasn’t married, and a tabloid was about to expose him, USA Today reported. The couple divorced three years later.
He eventually died of AIDS.
Rock publicly disclosed his diagnosis just before his death in 1985, making him the first major celebrity to die from an AIDS-related illness, Biography reported. He was 59.
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