Welcome to Vintage Paparazzi.

The Who Almost Got Away—Rock Hudson

When Phyllis Gates captured Rock Hudson she was capturing the man who was admittedly Hollywood’s Number One bachelor. She was, furthermore, capturing a man who had managed to elude some of the loveliest young women in that or any other city. And not only lovely—clever, too. Clever in the art of handling men, clever in the art of conversation, clever in the matter of knowing exactly how to dress for any given occasion, drawing neatly and correctly that invisible line between underdressing and overdressing.

How did it come about that they lost him while Phyllis caught him? The obvious thing, and the easy thing, is to say that those other charmers didn’t really want him, that, like Rock, they considered their dates with him to be strictly for fun and laughs.

Oddly enough, however, Rock never did feel that way. He is the farthest thing from a “ladies’ man.” Rock likes to feel comfortable with people, he likes to settle into friendships as easily as settling into an old pair of shoes. He doesn’t like to have to make an effort, to invent conversation when there is none. Another thing he doesn’t like is to have things planned for him.

“I am,” he will tell you lazily, “strictly a ‘spur of the moment’ guy.”

And yet there was certainly nothing “spur of the moment” about his decision to marry. He was a bachelor for twenty-nine years, eleven months and twenty-three days before he and Phyllis gravely and solemnly said their “I do’s.” In those twenty-nine years, Rock had eluded older women and younger women, ambitious women and lonely women; women who were impressed by being seen with Rock Hudson, the movie star, and women who, like Lori Nelson, Terry Moore, Betty Abbott, Barbara Ruick and a half a dozen others, were, quite simply, delighted to be with Rock Hudson, the man. Even now, when Rock is happily married to Phyllis, girls like Terry, Betty and Lori sing his praises, and Terry will tell you frankly:

“I only had two dates with Rock, but my husband will understand what I mean when I say that I’ll never forget those two dates. Maybe it’s because I had expected to find Rock sophisticated or bored or both. Instead, I found him to be completely unspoiled and natural. He not only appreciates anything you might do for him, he tries constantly to think of some little thing to do for you. And believe me, that’s rare in any man, much less in someone who’s accustomed to having people fall all over him every time he appears somewhere!”

One of the things Terry remembers most vividly about her dates with Rock is the time when she admired a toy dog in a drugstore window, but said nothing about it until they were two blocks away from the store. When she mentioned that someday she’d have to come back and buy the dog to add to her collection of toy animals, Rock ran back and bought it for her.

“I never met anyone more genuinely sensitive to other human beings,” Terry says, and adds, “except my husband. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I fell in love with him,” she says reflectively, “because he reminded me a little of Rock.”

Lori Nelson, no slouch when it comes to the date department, is glowing in her memories and reminiscences of Rock as a bachelor.

“Actually, I don’t think I had more than three or four dates with Rock,” Lori recalls now, “but what I liked most about him, I think, was the fact that he had such a wonderful sense of humor and he was so easy to get along with. He’s always happy. I never saw him in a bad mood. He can get along with anyone, and he’s ready to fall in with any plans.”

Despite Rock’s insistence that he’s “strictly a ‘spur of the moment’ guy,” Lori remembers how impressed she was by the fact that Rock always made dates ahead of time, and was always on time.

“In fact,” Lori sums up her opinion of Rock as husband material, “he has the qualities of the kind of man I’d like to marry.”

Betty Abbott, whose romance with Rock seemed definitely headed for the altar, refuses to be quoted on why she lost him, explaining, “After all, it’s not as though I’m someone who wants—or needs—to see her name in print. Whatever it was, it’s over, so why talk about it?”

But these were just a few of the many top Hollywood glamour girls with whom, from time to time, Rock’s name was linked romantically. And when his surprise marriage to Phyllis Gates was announced, there were others who had been hoping more seriously, and who made very little effort to hide their chagrin. “What,” they said, “has she got that I haven’t got?”

Phyllis, herself, would be the last to answer—or even attempt to answer—that question. She just doesn’t know. Perhaps Rock doesn’t know. Except that when he begins to tell you about Phyllis, or about his life with her, you can read between the lines and know what Rock’s good friend, George Nader, means when he says:

“One of the things I like best about Rock and Phyllis is that they realize their happy marriage was the result of the right person at the right time. When that comes, you do it. Before then, you don’t.”

A great many words have been written bout the fact that Rock had said he wouldn’t marry before he was thirty, and implying that somehow, when that magical number was reached, he would automatically fall into the arms of the nearest woman. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Rock and Phyllis were ready for each other, in every way, when they met and fell in love. They knew what they wanted—from love, from marriage, from themselves.

On the other hand, there are parts of marriage that did not and do not come easily to Rock. When he married Phyllis, Rock was a bachelor in the exact meaning of the word. He was a man who had lived alone. accounted to no one but himself and his studio for his comings and his goings. Then two words, “I do,” changed his status in a matter of minutes. Suddenly he was sharing his home, his hours, his habits, his life. He became responsible for the happiness and comfort of the girl with whom he had fallen in love. And because he knew that, in marriage, love and sharing are mutual matters, he could only hope that his wife would understand if a good intention went astray now and again. “Fortunately, Phyllis has a way of understanding,” he grins in the manner of a comparatively new husband. “And it’s a wonderful thing. You hear a lot about born bachelors. I suppose there are any number of them around. But believe me, no man is a born husband!”

Actually, Rock has had to work hard at the job of being a husband, and those girls who thought he was “perfect husband material” might find comfort in knowing some of the problems encountered in being married to a “born bachelor.” For instance, Rock was in the habit of arriving home from a hard day at the studio and promptly shedding his coat and shirt. More often than not he shed them on the nearest chair, as his tie had always had first claim to the nearest doorknob and anyone knows better than to toss a pair of shoes on the furniture. The place for shoes was out in the middle of the floor.

After the wedding, it was Rock himself who concluded that the habit had to go. “When someone else is living in the same house, you automatically try to be neater,” he says valiantly. “At least you try to try,” he adds.

But the man who must be housebroken at the age of thirty is not housebroken easily. Take the case of the non-existent closet space. Rock hadn’t given the matter much thought until his bride began to unpack her suitcases. It was Phyllis who discovered the closet full of shirts.

Undaunted, she found another closet—the one that happened to be jammed with suits. By deft rearranging she managed to cram in her own belongings. Yet, following this, she ran headlong into what seemed an insurmountable problem—that of drawer space. There was none, due to the fact that Rock was still in the process of furnishing the house. There were simply very few drawers. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to buy a bureau,” she told him.

He placed the order immediately. “The bigger, the better,” were his instructions.

On the date set for delivery, Rock came home with the general idea of admiring the new acquisition. He located Phyllis in the kitchen. The bureau, however, was missing. “Honey, I’m sorry,” he said to his wife. “They promised they’d bring the bureau today.”

“Oh, they did,” his wife replied casually. “I had them put it in the attic.”

“Phyllis, that’s a crazy place for a bureau,” said Rock, not unkindly.

“Sure,” she agreed, “but it happened to be too big for the bedroom door.”

Although the tragedy was momentarily a major one, Rock recalls the incident fondly, and gives with it a big hint as to why Phyllis won out where others had failed. “I guess it was the way she took it,” he says. “She began to laugh and that got me started. Pretty soon what might have turned into our first quarrel became a big joke.” He looked thoughtful. “That’s one of the wonderful things about Phyl—you can always count on her sense of humor. And, I might add, her complete control over any given situation.”

The situation Rock best remembers occurred on a morning after a night before. The Hudsons had had guests who’d stayed until the smaller hours. When the doorbell rang at ten A.M., Rock and Phyllis were still asleep. It rang again and Phyllis raised a drowsy head. “Rock,” she said, “are we expecting anyone?”

“Uh . . . ubb . . . ugh,” said Rock.

“Rock, I think we have company.”

He opened an eye. “Couldn’t be,” he mumbled. “They said they’d call if they were coming.”

Who said?”

“Hmmmm?” The other eye struggled open. “Oh . . . ummm . . . well, the studio wanted to take some pictures. Wasn’t definite. Told me if it was definite they’d call.” Both eyes closed. “Didn’t call,” he finished weakly and pushed his face back into his pillow.

The Hudson doorbell is not one to be ignored. “Better answer,” suggested Phyllis.

Rock got to his feet and struggled into a robe. On the front steps he found a publicity man, several cameramen and two electricians. They were surrounded by photographic equipment. “Good grief,” moaned the publicist as he caught sight of their subject. “I forgot to let you know we were coming.”

Their host led them into the living room and returned to the bedroom to rouse Phyllis. “I guess a lot of wives might have been upset,” Rock recalls. “But do you know, the only thing that bothered my wife was the fact that we had to keep them waiting while we got dressed?”

He goes on. “Phyllis worked in an agency before we were married, so she knows this business. Still, it’s one that can get terribly confusing at times. All the same, people from the studio have told me that whenever they call her and talk to her about something we’re supposed to do or something that’s going to happen, she gets the picture right away.”

But don’t get the idea that Mrs. Hudson is just her husband’s yes-woman. She has a very definite mind of her own.

“Take the matter of dinner,” says Rock. When they dine at home, Phyllis does the cooking. Mealwise, Rock still maintains many of his bachelor tastes. “But at home I eat fairly sensibly,” he admits.

You’d have to lunch with Rock to appreciate this statement—as Martha Hyer could tell you. Martha, his co-star in “Battle Hymn,” joined Rock at a U-I commissary table one noon and could hardly down her own meal for watching Rock go through his order. She looked on, fascinated, as he consumed a dish of chili and then a dish of cottage cheese. When he’d finished he asked Mabel, the studio waitress, for a chocolate nut sundae. “That’s more like it,” sighed Martha.

And she meant it, until the sundae arrived and Rock began to sprinkle it with salt. “Hudson,” said Martha. “Does Phyllis really whip up these exotic dishes for you?”

“Well,” said Hudson. “No.” Then he added helpfully, “But she’s come around to my way of thinking about sour cream on steak. Now that’s the greatest!”

Martha pushed away her own dessert. “Let’s get back to the set,” she suggested weakly.

Phyllis and Rock both have definite tastes and definite ideas, and they don’t always coincide. “We’re very positive people,” Rock will tell you. “We’re always making positive statements about things.”

But compromises are spontaneous in the Hudson household. When Phyllis moved into Rock’s bachelor abode, there was little furniture. When he’d had company and needed another chair, he had simply dashed out to the patio and lugged in a piece of garden furniture. He’d planned to complete the house gradually. “No decorators for me,” he’d announced positively. “I don’t want my house looking like a department store window.”

At the present time, a decorator is working with Phyllis.

On the other hand, however, upon entering the Hudson house one can’t help noticing a large red-plaid chair which would never fit into a decorator’s scheme of things. Phyllis knew it. She also knew that Rock would love that chair.

Sometimes their compromises mean that each goes his (or her) own way. On Phyllis’ birthday, Rock sat her down on the couch and ordered her to close her eyes. She heard him disappear for a few moments, then return. She felt him placing something in her lap; something soft and fluffy, with two ears and a cold nose. Phyllis had become the owner of a puppy. “Name’s Joe,” Rock informed her.

“Never!” retorted Phyllis. She settled for Demitasse. Demi, for short—a moniker which makes Rock shudder. “Here, Demi,” Phyllis will call.

“Here, Spike,” Rock says amiably.

Rock has always been a generous man, a thoughtful one. He’s the sort of fellow who’d give you the shirt off his chair if you admired it. As a husband, he outdoes himself. Possibly because there’s some- thing about the way Phyllis’ face glows when she’s surprised.

Shortly after their wedding, Rock took his wife by the hand and led her out to the garage. There she found a brand-new black Ford, with red-leather upholstery. It was tied with a large red ribbon. “Happy wedding gift,” were his words.

Phyllis was glowing. She was also crying. “I’ve never seen so many tears,” says Rock. “But they were happy tears.”

The next surprise was a mink stole. Someone printed the news of the purchase in a column before Rock got it home. That nearly killed him. Nowadays he goes shopping with the caution of an undercover agent.

As for going anywhere else, the Hudsons rarely ever do. “There’s just no point in going out as much as we used to,” Rock says. “You don’t want to—when you have someone to go home to.”

Phyllis smiles as she hears him say that. It is a secret smile—a woman’s smile—and a smile any other woman can understand. It is the smile of a woman who was intelligent enough to know what she wanted, and lucky enough to get it. As for those others, “I don’t care how many women there might have been in his life,” says Phyllis. “All that matters now is that I’m the woman.”

The secret of her success is a simple one, and she’ll tell it to you gladly and cheerfully. “I guess,” she will say simply, “that Rock and I were right for each other, or it never could have happened—could it?”

Let those who have loved and lost take comfort from that—and from the fact that somewhere, for each of them, whether or not they have found it, there is someone who is right for them.




No Comments
Leave a Comment