Lee Garlington reminisces about his time with then-boyfriend Rock Hudson

By Liz McNeil and Grace Gavilanes
Updated October 05, 2015 03:00 PM
Credit: Courtesy Lee Garlington

Movie legend Rock Hudson and now-retired stockbroker Lee Garlington secretly dated from 1962 to 1965, when Hudson’s gay life was a closely guarded secret and being discovered, as Hudson told Garlington, would be "career suicide." PEOPLE asked Garlington, who first shared his touching memories of the romance in PEOPLE’s April 27 issue, for his thoughts on the 30th anniversary of Hudson’s Oct. 2, 1985, death from AIDS.

I said to myself, I would not do this – write a 30-year-old fan letter! But as the anniversary of Rock’s death looms large, I feel I need, personally, to say some things to him for the last time.

When Sarah Davidson, the author of his 1980s posthumous biography, came to interview me in Laguna Beach, California, she told me that she learned that Rock had said that he had only really loved two people in his life, his mother and me, I was shocked. I stammered, then started to cry. I had no idea he felt that strongly about me! Why didn’t he ever tell me? What might have been different between us if I had known that I was not just another of his flings (of which I thought he had many)? I have felt so guilty over the years about not being there for him in his last years.

I had suspected what was happening up there [at Hudson’s home] on Beverly Crest but got on my high horse and decided I wanted no part of [the people who were around him] – anyway they had his money and the power, and I had nothing! I called once when I heard that he was sick but was told by his “keepers” that he did not want to see me ever again! I called again in his final weeks and was told that he had dementia, did not recognize anyone and that he looked too terrible, that I should really remember him as he was. I took the easy way out and did nothing.

I wish I had been stronger; I wish a lot of things that are now too late. I am 78 years old now and have been with my life partner for 28 years. I will continue to remember Rock as the gentle giant who was respectful and kind to all that he worked with, down to the lowest grip – and they loved him for it. I loved him for it.