Childhood & Early Life
Phyllis Lucille Gates was born on December 7, 1925, in Dawson, Minnesota, US. She was raised on a 600-acre farm.
In her initial career, she worked as a sales clerk in a departmental store and also as an airline stewardess. Thereafter she worked as a talent agent’s secretary in New York City, before working for Henry Willson.
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Association with Rock Hudson, Marriage, Split & Controversy
While working with Willson, in October 1954, Gates met Hudson, who was an established and leading actor. Hudson as well as Willson refrained from divulging any details on the personal life of the actor. Some of Hudson’s colleagues, however, had mentioned that his homosexual activities were well-known in Hollywood.
‘Confidential’ magazine in 1955 threatened to come up with an exposé revealing secret homosexuality of Hudson. Willson somehow managed to stop this. It was followed by marriage of Gates and Hudson on November 9, 1955, in Santa Barbara, California. According to some sources, it was Willson who urged Hudson to marry Gates to stop the rumours and maintain Hudson’s macho image.
Gates later mentioned that she and Hudson dated for several months and also lived together for a couple of months following which Hudson proposed her for marriage. She said that she tied the knot with Hudson because she loved him and not for preventing an exposé of his sexual past, as was reported later.
Relationship of the couple, however, started to deteriorate after they returned from a short honeymoon in Jamaica. Gates separated from Hudson in 1957 with rumours doing the rounds that the actor had committed adultery while shooting for the film ‘A Farewell to Arms,’ in Italy. A close friend of Gates confirmed such rumours and also told her that Hudson was having an affair with a man.
In April 1958, Gates filed for divorce citing mental cruelty. Hudson did not contest and the divorce was finalised on August 13, 1958; alimony of $250 a week for 10 years was to be paid to Gates.
Hudson’s homosexuality became public knowledge after he succumbed to AIDS-related complications on October 2, 1985. He was the first major celebrity to die of AIDS-related illness.
In 1987, Gates published her autobiography, ‘My Husband, Rock Hudson,’ co-written by Bob Thomas. She wrote that at the time of her marriage to Hudson, she had no knowledge that he was gay, and also said that she was not complicit in his deception. This book, along with several magazine articles, court records, and interviews, later became the basis of the ABC aired 1990 made-for-television crime-drama film ‘Rock Hudson,’ where Thomas Ian Griffith played Hudson while Daphne Ashbrook featured as Gates.
On September 20, 2005, author and journalist Robert Hofler published a book ‘The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson.’ In the book Hofler wrote that the people who knew Gates said that she was a lesbian and that she tried blackmailing Hudson on his being homosexual. It was also suggested that Gates was possibly reluctant to divorce Hudson, as by that time she became addicted to being the wife of a star.
Hofler also wrote an article in the American LGBT-interest magazine ‘The Advocate.’ In the article, he claimed that Gates was a lesbian and she knew from the very outset that Hudson was gay.
Gates disputed such suggestions through an interview with Larry King. She said that such lies were being spread in an attempt to protect Hudson. It was she who filed for divorce and that, too, for Hudson’s aggressive behaviour. She said the divorce did not fetch her much as she did not intend to take advantage of Hudson. Gates, who never married again, said that she never stopped loving Hudson and that the actor was the love of her life.
Later Life, Career & Death
Gates became a successful interior decorator later in her life.
On January 4, 2006, at age 80, Gates succumbed to lung cancer at her home in Marina del Rey, California, US. Gates was survived by her siblings, Russell Gates and Marvis Ketelsen.