Rock Hudson’s wife secretly recorded gay confession for private investigator, book claims


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Rock Hudson’s wife had no qualms playing the role of a Hollywood wife – until her closeted husband came swinging with a divorce.

While it is known today that the 1950s heartthrob was gay, Universal Studios went to great lengths to protect his image, including keeping his sexuality a secret. Hudson was married to talent agency secretary Phyllis Gates from 1955 to 1958.

“During the marriage, she kept quiet,” author Josh Young told Fox News Digital. “But it obviously affected her life. And in the end, when it was clear that he was going to leave her with nothing, I think that’s when she felt she needed to do something.”


A close-up of Rock Hudson and his wife Phyllis Gates looking serious

Rock Hudson was married to Phyllis Gates from 1955 to 1958. (Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Young recently teamed up with Manfred Westphal to write “The Fixer: Moguls, Mobsters, Movie Stars and Marilyn.” It delves into shocking revelations from notorious private detective Fred Otash based on his never-before-seen investigative files.

Rock Hudson embracing Marilyn Monroe

Rock Hudson is seen here with Marilyn Monroe. (Getty Images)

For the book, Westphal was given access to Otash’s archives with the blessing of his daughter, Colleen. Westphal, who first met Colleen at Otash’s funeral, developed a close friendship with her over the years.

Otash, a World War II Marine veteran, died in 1992 at age 70.

Fred Otash demonstrating his wiretapping equipment

Fred Otash, a private investigator, was known as “The Fixer” in Hollywood. (© the Otash/Houck Archives)

“Fred Otash fought to get Phyllis Gates what she deserved in their divorce settlement when Rock was kicking her to the curb and refusing to support her,” Young explained. “It was surprising to learn what an advocate he was for women and how interesting those cases were.”

According to the authors, Otash was the son of Lebanese rug merchants whose life was marked by tragedy. 

Fred Otash posing in his LAPD uniform

Fred Otash was a member of the LAPD. (© the Otash/Houck Archives)

He lost his father and only brother during the Great Depression, prompting him to drop out of high school at age 16 to join the Civil Conservation Corps to support his mother and sisters. He went on to volunteer for the Marine Corps and, at the outset of World War II, fought in the South Pacific. 


The Fixer book cover

Josh Young and Manfred Westphal wrote “The Fixer: Moguls, Mobsters, Movie Stars, and Marilyn.” (Grand Central Publishing)

Otash landed in Los Angeles in 1945, when he signed up for the LAPD. There, he made a name for himself as a renegade officer before launching his own detective bureau in 1955, which, thanks to his access to emerging technology, eclipsed his contemporaries. He served as a freelancer for the Los Angeles tabloid, Confidential.

Rock Hudson with his arm around Phyllis Gates at a dinner party

Phyllis Gates would later say she really did love Rock Hudson. (Johnson/Graphic House/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

“There were a lot of tabloid rumors about Rock Hudson at the time,” said Young. “Fred was a fact-checker for Confidential, which was the nastier version of the Enquirer, the precursor to that. It was a magazine that didn’t play ball with the Hollywood studios and would run whatever story they could get their hands on.”

“Early on, they had a lot of stories about Rock Hudson and his relationships – his homosexual relationships,” Young shared. “A lot of those stories were traded out and killed by Rock’s manager in exchange for other tabloid stories.”

Rock Hudson holding two women

Rock Hudson was a sought-after Hollywood heartthrob during the 1950s. (Getty Images)

According to the book, Gates was a “wholesome farm girl and former Sunday school teacher” from Minnesota who was set up with Hudson. Hollywood agent Henry Willson, who “had already bearded his own homosexuality by becoming engaged to President Harry Truman’s songstress daughter,” ensured that the couple was photographed all around town.

In 1955, Confidential was ready to strike with an in-depth story of Hudson’s sexuality based on first-person accounts by his former lovers. Willson, fearing the tell-all would destroy Hudson’s career, cut a deal by throwing two of his other less lucrative talents under the bus.

Rock Hudson and Phyllis Gates laughing and dancing

Phyllis Gates dancing with her husband Rock Hudson at Ciros, a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California, circa 1956. (Jack Albin/Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Still, magazines wondered when “Hollywood’s most handsome bachelor” would get married. Willson gave Hudson two months to get hitched.

Gates happily obliged when Hudson asked her to move in with him. Two months later, she said I do. A quickie “PR stunt wedding” was orchestrated by Willson with Hollywood’s “gossip queens” in attendance.


Rock Hudson and Phyllis Gates in front of their wedding cake

Rock Hudson, 29, and his bride, Phyllis Gates, 26, smile happily as they prepare to cut their wedding cake at the Biltmore Hotel following their elopement. (Getty Images)

All seemed well as Hudson skyrocketed to fame. However, his lovers reportedly kept him occupied when the cameras stopped rolling. Gates, who had grown tired of “her estranged husband’s disregard for her physical and emotional needs,” hired Hollywood lawyer Jerry Giesler to commence divorce proceedings. According to the book, Gates later became “shaken” to learn that her marriage “was nothing more than a fanciful farce” to cover up Hudson’s sexuality.

Phyllis Gates and Rock Hudson staring adoringly at each other at home

The Rock Hudson-Phyllis Gates marriage was less than a month old when they were photographed in their honeymoon house in the hills above the famous Sunset Strip in Hollywood. (Getty Images)

The book noted that Hudson was willing to grant Gates a divorce. However, he would only offer “a few measly bucks, her car and no place to live.” Gates fired Giesler and brought on personal attorney Arthur Crowley, who then reached out to Otash to find any evidence of Hudson’s homosexuality. Crowley planned to threaten that he would leak the news to the press if Gates was not financially supported.

“She was put in the position of not being able to fend for herself,” said Young. “It was the case for a lot of women in those days who were dealing with powerful people in various circumstances. That wouldn’t happen today, but it did happen in the 1950s.”

Rock Hudson and a male companion in his car looking at a woman

Rock Hudson’s secret life was about to be leaked by Confidential magazine. (Moviepix/Getty Images)

According to the book, Otash set up a sting operation. He created a script for Gates, which she used to confront Hudson. The actor was secretly recorded by Otash, the book claimed.

During the sit-down, Gates confronted Hudson about a Rorschach test he had taken.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson passionately kissing

Doris Day and Rock Hudson passionately kiss in a scene from the 1959 comedy “Pillow Talk.” (Screen Archives/Getty Images)

“You told me you saw thousands of butterflies and also snakes,” said Gates. “[A therapist] told me in my analysis that butterflies mean femininity and snakes represent the male penis. I’m not condemning you, but it seems that as long as you recognize your problem, you would want to do something about it.”


Gates also pointed out, “Your great speed with me, sexually. Are you that fast with boys?”

Rock Hudson walking behind his wife Phyllis Gates while smoking a cigarette

Rock Hudson’s separation from his wife Phyllis Gates started ugly. (Screen Archives/Getty Images)

“Everyone knows that you were picking up boys off the street shortly after we were married and have continued to do so, thinking that being married would cover up for you,” she further accused Hudson.

“I have never picked up any boys on the street,” Hudson shot back. “I have never picked up any boys in a bar, never. I have never picked up any boys, other than to give them a ride.”

At one point, Hudson broke down to Gates, the book claimed.

Rock Hudson looking at his wife Phyllis Gates in bed

“The Fixer” claimed that Rock Hudson broke down to his confused wife, Phyllis Gates. (Screen Archives/Getty Images)

“I never felt we were together on anything,” Hudson tearfully said to his estranged wife. “I never felt you loved me.”

“And that is why you never touched me?” Gates replied. “Rock, when we came back from our honeymoon you never made love to me for one whole month. I was always here, and I always wanted you. At first, I would come to bed, and you would have a book in your face… People sense these things… A man has to have a sexual outlet. You should have picked me up and carried me into bed, but you never touched me.”


Rock Hudson shirtless on a horse

Rock Hudson would keep his sexuality a secret until his death. (Getty Images)

Hudson allegedly told Gates that he had a homosexual affair “the next day” after they were married.

A close-up of Rock Hudson holding a cigarette and wearing a suit

Today, it is well known that Rock Hudson was gay. (Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images)

“I was just a doormat to you,” said Gates. “Someone to hide behind.”

According to the book, Otash and Crowley used the transcript to pressure Hudson’s team into a settlement. Hudson gave Gates their Hollywood Hills home and $250 a week for 10 years if she did not remarry, which would come to $130,000, or $1.3 million today. She was also given stock in his production company.

Neither remarried. Hudson died of complications from AIDS in 1985 at age 59.

A close-up of Rock Hudson wearing a plaid shirt and a dark blazer

Rock Hudson seen here several months before he died in 1985. (Paul Harris/Getty Images)

“I had the power to destroy Rock and I didn’t use it,” Gates later wrote, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. “To have exposed his other life would have been vicious and vindictive. I faced enough trouble rebuilding my life without bearing that guilt.”

Before she died in 2006 at age 80, Gates told Hudson’s biographer Sara Davidson that she “was very much in love” with the actor.

“I thought he would be a wonderful husband,” said Gates, as quoted by People magazine. “He was charming, his career was red-hot, he was gorgeous. How many women would have said no?”