Picks and Pans Review: My Husband, Rock Hudson

updated 06/15/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Phyllis Gates and Bob Thomas

"I couldn't believe that this was really happening to me, that Phyllis Gates of Montevideo, Minnesota, was marrying Rock Hudson, the movie star." So writes Hudson's wife of three years (1955-1958) in her straightforward account of their rough-and-tumble life after the man she considered her dreamboat turned into a husband more closely resembling the Titanic. Now 61 and living in Los Angeles, Gates never saw Hudson after their divorce on Aug. 13, 1958. But she insists she married Hudson out of love, not to cover up his homosexuality, as has been reported. She is convincing. The two met while she was a secretary to Hudson's manipulative agent, Henry Willson. A whirlwind courtship and hasty marriage followed. Only after the pair parted did she learn Hudson and Willson had consulted an attorney a week before the wedding, seeking a way to thwart a magazine article revealing Hudson's homosexuality. Gates's book includes plenty of personal, sometimes too personal, detail about Hudson. Do we really need to know that he would childishly raise his arms and ask, "Wanna see my pits?" Gates and Rock did share some happy times, but the private Hudson was a tormented man. As for Gates, she ignored what most women would have picked up on. For Hudson, for instance, lovemaking could be passionate but also extremely brief. Well, okay. But strange men showed up at their house demanding money from him too; he would leave the house in the wee hours, without explanation. Once, when she called one of his friends a "silly little fruitcake," Hudson whacked her across the face. Then there were such comments as, "All women are dirty. Their private parts remind me of cows." Finally Hudson moved out. When she learned he was gay, Gates was stunned. "I couldn't believe that.... He had always been the manliest of men." Whoever invented the phrase love is blind could well have intended it as a subtitle for this book. (Doubleday, $16.95)

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