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Everything Happens To Rock Hudson!

“It’s been this way ever since I was born, I guess,” Rock muses. “Just when I think things are most peaceful—bam!—something happens to me. When I was six months old, there I was in my mother’s arms, probably feeling safe and smug, the way babies do. And d’you know what? Mother fell down—right on top of me and broke my leg!

“Of course I don’t remember anything about it, although Mother still gets the shudders over it. But a man who gets off to that sort of start in life ought to be careful. Yet it seems the more careful I am, the safer I feel, the more certain Fate is to deal me some sort of wallop. I guess I’m the original ‘innocent bystander.’

“If there’s a wrinkle in the rug, it’s my toe that finds it. If someone spills a tray of drinks, I’m the one who gets the full benefit. Of course, my being so big may have something to do with that. There’s more of me to get in the way than there is of most people.”

This Rock is a man who, although he enjoys fun and bright lights as well as anyone, also enjoys peace and quiet and often goes deliberately in search of them. He should know by this time that these are the occasions on which he should watch his step.

Take last winter, for instance, after the holiday hoopla was over. Rock reflected that he hadn’t seen his eighty-four-year-old grandmother in some time and decided to take off for Mobile, Alabama, to pay her a visit. It would be peaceful (that word again!) after the holiday celebrations.

Well, he made it to the airport without incident and was sitting placidly in the plane, waiting for it to take off, when the plane sitting next to his suddenly burst into flames for no apparent reason and with much resulting excitement. “Surely I had nothing to do with that,” he reassured himself, trying to conquer a slight uneasiness.

Later on, during the flight, he noticed a blonde aboard the plane. But they didn’t become acquainted and he forgot all about her until—

He reached his grandmother’s house at seven in the morning and the phone was ringing. A New York newspaper was calling excitedly, long distance, to say that a report had reached there that Rock had eloped with Marilyn Monroe (naturally this was before she actually did elope with Joe DiMaggio) and the paper was sure that she was there in Mobile with Rock at his grandmother’s house. He was still struggling to convince them that he was only casually acquainted with Marilyn and that he was not concealing her when the doorbell began to ring and the local press swarmed in, vastly agog over the same rumor and just as unwilling to be convinced that it wasn’t true. They were sure Marilyn must be in the house, hiding under something.

“We know she was on the plane with you!” they accused. Then Rock remembered the unidentified blonde he had observed across the aisle. She hadn’t resembled Marilyn in the slightest and he didn’t even remember whether she had gotten off the plane at Mobile.

“Rock, dear,” his gentle grandmother protested, “who are all these people? I thought we were going to have a nice, quiet visit. Do things like this go on all the time in Hollywood?”

Rock was trying to explain that “things like this” hardly ever happened to him, except when he was seeking peace and quiet, when the phone began to ring again. This time it was long distance calls from papers in New Orleans which had somehow got the idea that the newlyweds (they were calling him that by this time) were. on their way to that Southern city and they wanted to know whether the wedding had taken place yet, where the pair would be staying and how soon they could take pictures.

Talking on the phone, Rock could see from a window local reporters lurking behind every shrub and curiosity seekers milling about the house in droves.

Naturally the excitement died down almost as suddenly as it had flared, but Rock decided he had better come home anyhow.

“I thought Grandmother had had enough of my ‘peaceful little visit,’ ” he says. “No telling what might have happened if I stayed there.”

Things happen to Rock almost as surely when he tries to be what he calls “grand” as when he tries to be peaceful.

A few weeks ago a New York show of special renown played Los Angeles and Rock and a date decided to attend in style.

“We were really going to ‘do’ this one,” says Rock. You know—a regular romantic evening! I got all dressed up in a new suit and we went for dinner to a smart restaurant for an enormous steak to end all steaks, drenched in a stupendous sauce.

“The waiter arrived, carrying the platter with the triumphant flourish that a good waiter uses when he brings you anything that grand—and that expensive. So what happened? With the final flourish, the waiter tripped and catapulted steak, sauce and all the trimmings all over me, beginning with the top of my head. He wound up flat on his face at my feet.

“What happened next? My memory is a blur of agitated people wielding mops, cloths, brushes. I was whisked to the gentlemen’s room where more people appeared with more rags and stuff. My hair was cleaned, my face was washed, my clothes were subjected to the most energetic treatment.

“Presently, breathless, dinnerless, but reasonably tidy, even if smelling strongly of cleaning solvents, my date and I went on to the theatre. We were going to see that show or else! We had dinner after the show. By that time we were nearly famished.”

And this reminded him of the time he took Piper Laurie to a premiere. They were to go on to a party afterward but when they left the theatre they made the horrid discovery that somehow Rock had backed up against a wide stripe of wet white paint. “What to DO?” he wailed.

But Piper, an imperturbable girl if you ever saw one, said, with only a tiny giggle, “Think nothing of it. My house is right on our way and Mother will fix it.”

Mother did, too. While Rock took a distinctly informal pose, face down on the divan, Mother got at him with the paint remover until he was as good as new and that evening, too, was saved.

“I’m pretty lucky about getting clean-up jobs,” he observes.

Rock also felt pretty “elegant” a year or so ago while he was working in England and was presented to the Queen at a “command performance.”

“It went like this—I think,” he says, wrinkling a brow. “She said, ‘I understand you are making a picture over here.’ And I said, ‘Yes, your Majesty.’ She said, ‘I hope you will come back soon!’ and I mumbled that I hoped so, too.

“Then I back off and got clear away from there and instantly I was submerged in people who demanded to know what she had said, what I had said—I was so flustered that it was a week before I could remember one word of the conversation. You see, I fluster easily.”

When he was assigned his role in “The Magnificent Obsession,” it seemed to Rock one of the most important and exciting things that had ever happened to him. He went about for weeks in a rosy glow, determined that he would be so good in this picture that he would surprise everybody. And he took such good care of himself, so that he would be super-fit when it was time for the picture to start.

“Relax. That’s the thing,” he told himself.

So one beautiful day he went alone to the beach to bask in the sun and enjoy a bit of gentle surf bathing. He saw some small boys riding the waves in inner tubes and that looked even more restful than loping through the water under his own power. He got himself a fat inner tube, inflated it, went into the water and got aboard.

“I’m a big guy,” he says, “and I had no idea of the buoyancy of that thing. First thing I knew I was riding the crests of those waves like a little cockleshell—and just as helplessly. Then a big roller came along, tossed me aloft and then slammed me on my head. That’s how I broke my collarbone and scared myself nearly to death for fear I wouldn’t be able to make the picture!

“And all I was doing was trying to have a little peace and quiet all by myself at the beach!”

However, Rock’s luck never seems to desert him completely, even when he is walloped in search of peace and quiet. His close friend Betty Abbott came flying back from Europe to cheer him through his days of recovery. And the picture waited. He did make “The Magnificent Obsession.”

During the filming of “Bengal Rifles,” someone noticed he had a bandaged knee. “More peace and quiet?” he was asked.

Rock grimaced. “Just took a peaceful little stroll,” he admitted. “Twisted the darned thing. You know—anything can happen to me.”

Nevertheless he’s working. Guess he’s a lucky guy, after all. In spite of everything, Rock always comes up smiling.





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