Never A Dull Moment!—Rock Hudson
Frankly, Rock Hudson was bored. Or rather, Roy Fitzgerald was. It was August of 1946, and Roy had spent the greater part of his time since May sitting on the beach in Winnetka, Illinois. When he received his discharge from the Navy after the war, the general consensus seemed to be that he deserved a well-earned rest. “Don’t jump into something right away. Take time off. Have some fun,” well-meaning friends and relatives suggested.
Well, Roy was taking time off. And he was waiting for something interesting to happen. Somehow, everything had changed. “What’s become of that old gang of mine?” could have been his theme song. While he’d been in the service, a lot of his friends had moved away; others had married. While they were still his friends, things weren’t the same. You couldn’t call up a married buddy at midnight and say, “How about shooting the breeze and listening to some new records I bought today?” The little woman might take a dim view of such shenanigans. And besides, most of his pals had to go to work early in the morning.
So June slipped into July, and July into August and Roy was still sitting alone on the beach and growing more bored every day. You might even say that Roy was beginning to be unhappy. Unhappiness was a state so foreign to his usual happy-go-lucky nature that it was a while before Roy fully realized how heavy was the gloom that had descended on him. It was a chance twist of the radio dial one sultry August morning that woke Roy up and changed his whole life.
His mother had just gone off to her job at the telephone company and Roy was trying to make up his mind whether to go to the beach or stop by The Sweet Shoppe. There might be someone there to gab with. The music program he’d been listening to came to an end and before Roy bestirred himself to find another, one of those morning sunshine programs came on the air. You know the kind, where the announcer is full of jolly good cheer and the orchestra boys make funny sounds with their musical instruments. People come up on the stage from the audience to be interviewed and everybody seems to have a whale of a good time.
In Roy’s mood, all this early morning joviality rubbed him the wrong way. He jumped up to twist the dial, but before he could get across the room his attention was caught by the guest of the day. It was an elderly gentleman’s birthday—his 100th birthday to be exact. It seemed inconceivable to 20-year-old Roy that anyone could live that long—or would want to.
The announcer asked the centenarian if he’d been happy all his life and he answered quite firmly that he had been. “You know,” he said, “a long time ago I realized that when I woke up in the morning I had a choice—either to be happy or unhappy for that day. I always decided to be happy. I look on each day as a new adventure and find something interesting in it.”
The old gentleman had a lot more to say about his life, but these words stuck with Roy. He neither went to The Sweet Shoppe that day nor to the beach. Instead, he went down to see his old boss, Postmaster of Winnetka, Floyd Watts. Before the war, Roy had been a mail carrier for a few months. Now he knew he didn’t want to make mail carrying his life work, but he also realized that if every day was going to be a new adventure for him, he’d have to do something about it. He couldn’t sit in the shade waiting for the apples to fall in his lap. He’d have to shake the tree.
“Taking that job as mail carrier was a big turning point in my life,” the Rock Hudson of today said as he sat at a table in the Green Room of Warner Brothers Studios. The Green Room is a kind of eating establishment reserved for directors, producers and stars.
“That job as letter carrier made me think about other people, not just about myself and what I wanted to do with my life,” Rock explained. “I began to take a genuine interest in the people I carried the mail to and the things they were interested in. I think being interested in other people is a sure-fire way of avoiding boredom.”
Well, nobody can accuse Rock of not practicing what he preaches. Proof of his liking for other people and vice versa was about to come through the door. The “Giant” set had just broken for lunch. Rock had dashed out a little ahead of the crowd because of the interview. Now, one by one, the rest drifted in. Since Rock had chosen a table by the door, there was no avoiding him, not that anybody wanted to.
Liz Taylor came in first. She was wearing a luscious sunburst chiffon number and a picture hat out of the twenties. Liz plays Rock’s wife in Edna Ferber’s novel about Texas and Texans.
Liz and Rock greeted each other warmly. He told her he’d ordered ham and eggs, and there was a twinkle in his eyes. Her eyes sparkled, too, as though they were sharing a nice little joke. Liz then sat down at an adjoining table with her dress designer.
Jimmy Dean came through the door next. He wore Levis, horn-rimmed glasses and his hair standing straight up. Jimmy plays the part of Jeff Rink in “Giant,” but today he was finishing up a fight scene in “Rebel Without a Cause.” They exchanged a cheerful hello.
There was a commotion at the door. It was Jane Withers. She, too, was in a 1920 dress.
“Where’d you get that Davy Crockett cap?” Rock called out to her.
“If you’re referring to my hair, Mr. Hudson,” she said, “it’s a wig.”
Jane plays Rock’s first sweetheart in the picture—a Texas gal from a neighboring ranch. As she passed by our table, she gave Rock a friendly tap on the shoulder. There was that twinkle in Rock’s eyes again, and they, too, seemed to be sharing a joke.
A tall lad in buckskins came through the door next. He really did look like Davy Crockett, but it turned out to be Tab Hunter, testing for the role of Daniel Boone. Rock and Tab exchanged cheery greetings.
Lori Nelson was the next to come in. She was on the lot to do publicity pictures for her latest movie, “A Handful of Clouds.”
“Lori, girl,” Rock called. “it’s good to see you. Tell me, do you have your petticoat on today?”
“Rock Hudson, won’t you ever stop teasing me about that?” Lori cried in mock exasperation.
Rock’s eyes twinkled. Lori’s sparkled. Now, at last, one secret was going to be revealed.
“It wasn’t such a big thing,” Rock said grinning. “Lori wanted a little attention, so she dropped her petticoat on Hollywood Boulevard.”
“I’d better tell the story,” said Lori firmly. “I used to date Rock’s roommate. We double dated a lot with Rock and his girl friend. One evening we were just about to enter a theatre on Hollywood Boulevard when the snap of my petticoat gave way and down it went around my feet. Not many people would have noticed though if Rock hadn’t laughed so loud. Everybody for a block around heard him and looked our way.
“That’s something you ought to know about Rock,” Lori said turning to me. “He’s the biggest tease in Hollywood. But I guess that’s why people like him so much. Rock’s never mean about his teasing. He has a wonderful sense of humor and he isn’t afraid to give out with a great big laugh if something strikes him as funny. This gets everybody else in a gay frame of mind and, before you know it, everyone is having a wonderful time without much really happening.”
I’m happy to report that at this point, Rock looked appropriately embarrassed.
“I was talking about the summer I was bored,” Rock brought Lori up to date on the conversation and changed the subject.
“It was the summer I got out of the Navy. I got a job carrying mail and, as I made my rounds, I began to notice that people fell largely into two groups—the ones who always had a cheery word, who seemed to have boundless energy, and those who were tired and listless. The first group greeted me as though I were bringing an inheritance check while the others seemed sure I had nothing but bills. As I got to know the people on my route, I discovered the secret of the happy ones—they all had hobbies. I remember one woman had the most beautiful flower garden I’ve ever seen. Another raised prize dogs, and another elderly woman was constantly baking. Needless to say her hobby interested me the most.
“She didn’t have a family and I won- dered why she baked so much, only to give it away to people like me who came to the door. One day I asked her and her reply opened my eyes.
“ ‘Son,’ she said, ‘I’ve lived a full life, traveled a lot and, in the old days, there wasn’t an event in Chicago that I didn’t attend. But I can’t get around the way I used to. I’m almost seventy-nine now. So I bake. I find it very interesting. Remember this, nothing is uninteresting; there are only uninterested people.’
“I realized then how that little old lady had made the most out of what presented itself to her. Maybe she hadn’t been intensely interested in baking at first, but it was something she could do so she created an interest. That’s the same thing Lori did with her stamp collection.”
“That’s right,” Lori admitted. “I never thought I’d be fascinated by collecting stamps. When my grandfather gave me a lot of foreign stamps he’d been saving, I put them in a drawer and forgot about them. Then one day I realized what an opportunity I was letting slip by. I received fan mail from dozens of foreign countries, but I wasn’t doing anything with the stamps. I bought a stamp book and began pasting them in. The more I worked with the stamps the more fascinating the hobby became.”
“That’s what I mean,” Rock said. “Lori made use of what she had. She created an interest where none had existed.
“A girl I know who took up tennis is another good example. For a long time, she pretended an interest in the game she really didn’t feel. Very few things interested this girl. She had a lot of time on her hands, so she became very bored. Someone suggested she take up tennis and, in desperation, she tried. At first, she couldn’t care less about the game. But the people she met at the tennis court seemed to be enjoying themselves so much she felt she had to pretend she was enjoying it, too. Much to her surprise, she finally did begin to enjoy the game. Now it’s one of her greatest pleasures.
“I guess I have a dozen hobbies,” Rock went on, “and I didn’t come by all of them naturally. Most of them I saw other people doing and I figured if they were so doggoned fascinating to them, why not me?
“Tony Curtis, Piper Laurie and Barbara Rush all paint. I never painted in my life until a few months ago. Now I’ve got the bug. I’ve done two oils—they’re not prize winners by any means, but I had a lot of fun doing them.
“Of course, I’ve always been interested in music, Collecting records—all kinds. It’s funny though, some people don’t even try to develop more interest in the things they naturally like. Take a fellow I know. He really loves music, yet he’s never bought himself a record player, even though he could well afford. it. And he seldom goes to a concert unless someone else suggests it. When holidays and weekends come, he’s lost unless some friend thinks of something interesting to do and includes him. If he’d make the effort to buy himself a record player and start collecting records, he could make those hours he sits moping around full of interest to himself. I don’t think there’s a person alive who doesn’t have some interests. The trouble is a lot of people never follow up their interests.
“Another pastime of mine is gardening. Friends say I have a green thumb. When I lived in an apartment and didn’t have garden space outside, I made one inside. Now, of course, I have plenty of garden space in my new home. Plenty of weeds, too. Maybe I’m crazy, but I like to weed. I guess it’s all a matter of approach to whatever you decide to do. It’s like the man said, if you decide to be unhappy when you wake in the morning, everything you do that day seems like a burden, but if you decide you’re going to be happy, you discover that the simplest things you do can become fascinating. You can become interested in the ordinary routine in life and can make it an adventure.
“Working in a studio sounds very glamorous to most people, and it is, a great deal of the time. But it’s also very hard work. Sometimes, the hardest part is the waiting between scenes while the electricians are adjusting the lighting or the director is going over a scene with another actor. You could get bored then if you let yourself.”
“Rock always seems to have something to do between scenes,” Lori spoke up. “If he isn’t reading or talking to the cameraman—he forgot to mention that cameras are another hobby—he has a new record in his dressing room he’s eager to have someone enjoy with him. It might be the latest bongo number or a new recording of a Beethoven symphony. If it’s music, he likes it, as long as it’s good.”
“Of course, I have a great many more opportunities for doing the things I want to do now than I did a few years ago,” Rock said. “I’m certainly not discounting the fact that having the money to buy records, books, cameras doesn’t make a difference. Now I have the money to travel, too—that is, if I ever get a vacation,” Rock said ruefully. “This is my fourth picture without a break. If I get some time off after ‘Giant’ I want to go to South America.
“Some people feel guilty when they’re not working. They’re always talking about a vacation, but somehow they never get away. Not me. As soon as I’m free for a month I’ll be off to foreign shores. I really believe in that old adage, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’
“I realize everyone can’t take a trip to Europe when he feels like it. But a small weekend trip is in the reach of most people. The important thing is to make an effort to get away for a few days. I always come back from a weekend jaunt so refreshed that I can accomplish more during the next week than if I’d stayed home and worked those two days.
“There are hundreds of enjoyable things to do that don’t cost much money, if any. You might say that just talking to people is a hobby of mine. You can sometimes learn more in an hour’s conversation with a friend than you can by reading a whole book. Anyway, I enjoy my friends and anything you enjoy you profit from.”
The commissary crowd was beginning to thin out now. “Guess I’d better be getting back to the set,” Rock said as he glanced at his watch. “Besides, I think I’m sounding preachy so I’d better stop.”
I knew Rock and the cast were shoving off for a five weeks location in Marfa, Texas, within the next few days. As a parting shot, I said, “I suppose you’re going to collect hillbilly records when you’re down in Texas.”
“How did you know?” Rock asked.
“Good heavens,” I thought, “isn’t there anything this boy isn’t interested in?” I drove home then, but first I stopped by the tennis shop, the record shop and the bookstore. Then I went out in the yard and shook the apple tree.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE SEPTEMBER 1955