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Rock Hudson 'gay confession' recording made by wife featured in new book The Fixer

Rock Hudson 'gay confession' recording made by wife featured in new book The Fixer

Phyllis Gates wife Rock Hudson 1955 closeted gay hollywood movie star
Johnson/Graphic House/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The recording was made surreptitiously by his wife, Phyllis Gates, according to the book by Josh Young and Manfred Westphal.

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A new Hollywood tell-all book is highlighting Rock Hudson’s so-called gay confession tape, made secretly by his wife, Phyllis Gates, in the late 1950s.

There have been revelations about the recording before — The Hollywood Reportercarried a story on it in 2013 — but now it’s getting new attention with the publication of The Fixer: Mobsters, Moguls, Movie Stars and Marilyn by Josh Young and Manfred Westphal. It chronicles the life of private investigator Fred Otash.

Hudson was married to Gates from 1955 to 1958. She was the secretary of his agent, Henry Willson, who like Hudson was gay. The marriage was arranged to quash rumors about Hudson’s true sexual orientation. Confidential magazine, for which Otash was a freelance fact checker, had been ready to publish a story about Hudson’s gay relationships, but Willson supplied it with information about two other clients in exchange for killing the Hudson story. Still, Willson and other Hudson associates thought more needed to be done to protect Hudson’s heterosexual image, so they came up with the marriage to Gates.

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

But she eventually grew tired of lack of attention, including physical attention, from Hudson, and of his affairs with men. So she filed for divorce. (There may be more to the story; sources have said that Gates was a lesbian.)

Her lawyer, Arthur Crowley, hired Otash to gather evidence of Hudson’s homosexuality. The plan was that Crowley would threaten to reveal the evidence if Hudson didn’t offer Gates sufficient financial support.

“She was put in the position of not being able to fend for herself,” Young recently told Fox News Digital. “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.”

Going by a script Otash had written, Gates confronted Hudson while surreptitiously recording the conversation. This tape and others have disappeared, according to the 2013 Reporter story, but transcripts exist. Young and Westphal gained access to Otash’s archives through his daughter Colleen, who had previously shared the documents with the Reporter.

One bit was about a Rorschach test Hudson had taken. “You told me you saw thousands of butterflies and also snakes,” Gates said, according to the book and transcript. “[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.”

She also said, “Your great speed with me, sexually. Are you that fast with boys?” He replied, “Well, it’s a physical conjunction [sic]. Boys don’t fit. So this is why it lasts longer.”

Gates went on, “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.”

“I have never picked up any boys on the street,” Hudson responded. “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.” But he did say he had a sexual encounter with a man the day after he married Gates, the book reports.

Confronted with the transcript, Hudson, who had offered Gates little or nothing in the way of settlement previously, agreed to give her their home in the Hollywood Hills, $250 a week for 10 years if she didn’t remarry, and stock in his production company. The $250 a week would amount to $1.3 million today.

“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 told Fox News. “It was surprising to learn what an advocate he was for women and how interesting those cases were.”

Otash also claimed to have recorded Marilyn Monroe having sex with President John F. Kennedy and to have recorded her dying breaths, according to the book. He further said he moved in with Judy Garland to help her recover from addiction, protected Frank Sinatra from federal law enforcement, and aided many other celebrities.

But he may be an unreliable narrator. “He was a con artist, bullshitter,” James Ellroy, who based some details of his novel L.A. Confidential on information he gathered from Otash, told the Reporter in 2013. “He did a lot of bad things [including] revealing secret details, mostly sexual in nature, about the lives of celebrated people, causing them to endure personal shame, emotional hardship, financial privation — and doing this for a living. … He was always talking about bugging [JFK brother-in-law] Peter Lawford‘s beach pad and getting the goods on Kennedy. He told me Jack [sexually] was a two-minute man. But I did not trust him not to dissemble. I got what I could, and he died.”

Otash died of a heart attack in 1992, aged 70. Hudson died of AIDS complications in 1985, and Gates died in 2006.

The Fixer is out now from Grand Central Publishing.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.