A New York Teen Steps Up to Buy Rock Hudson's $1,400 Footstool

updated 04/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Displayed on the auctioneer's block April 2 at Manhattan's William Doyle Galleries, the world's most coveted pinewood footstool looked like a seventh grader's first effort in shop class. But it was the inscription on the top that sent the stool going, going, gone directly to Rose Caiola, 16, an unruffled New York high school junior who shelled out $1,400 for the item.

This, of course, was no ordinary footstool. It was found in Rock Hudson's New York apartment after his death last October and was one of several of his belongings to attract 700 bidders at the auction. What excited Caiola was that the stool featured an inscription in lavender ink from Hudson's close pal—and Rose's idol—Elizabeth Taylor. It read: "E.T. stood here, she had to because she couldn't reach the sink. R.H. is a love, and I thank him always—even tho he is one foot taller. Your always friend, Elizabeth." Taylor wrote the message while staying in Hudson's apartment in 1981. The 5'4½" actress had the stool built so that she could reach the 6'4" Hudson's extra-tall bathroom sink.

All of this made Caiola, an aspiring actress and collector of Taylor and Hudson memorabilia, more determined to add to her bounty. "My room looks like a shrine to them," she says. When she brought the prized stool home to suburban Pelham Manor—and mentioned how much she paid—her family thought she was crazy. But, says Rose's mom, Bettina, a housewife, "When I saw how radiant she was, I was happy for her."

Rose, a devoted fan of Taylor and Hudson since she saw 1956's Giant four years ago, worked hard for the money. She earned most of it answering telephones for $4.50 an hour at her father Benny's construction office. Rose brought along brother Louis, 25, an accountant, to do her bidding because "he's more aggressive." But when the gavel was raised, Rose kept bumping Louis' leg, saying, "bid more, bid more."

Other items that went quickly were Hudson's sword from a 1977 production of Camelot ($1,300), a statuette of a dancing man from Fred Astaire ($650), a silver-plated box inscribed "Dynasty, 100th episode" ($900), a Steinway piano ($6,250), and a needlepoint rug ($2,100). The auction added $84,000 to Hudson's estimated $27 million estate.

Meanwhile, Caiola has proudly put the stool in her bedroom. They don't make stars like Taylor and Hudson anymore, and surely they don't make fans like Rose. The check she signed was the first she had written. Until she raises the balance again, it may be her last.

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