As a documentary film living up to its title in every way imaginable, HBO’s ‘Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed’ can only be described as equal parts baffling, intriguing, and heartbreaking. That’s because it incorporates not just archival footage but also exclusive interviews with key people to really shine a light upon the iconic actor’s life, career, and death as a closeted gay man. Amongst them was thus his once boyfriend, Lee Garlington — so now, if you simply wish to learn more about him, his experiences, as well as his current standing, we’ve got the details for you.
Who is Lee Garlington?
It was back in 1961 when Lee first came across Rock upon having arrived in Hollywood with dreams of becoming an actor, only to soon realize he was pretty yet didn’t have the needed talent. “I got a job at Universal Studios, and I wanted to see what he looked like,” the now unabashedly proud gay man revealed in the original production upon being asked how they actually started. “So I went over beside his cottage, and he walked out. He walked down the street… and looked back. Of course, I was – – whew! He was incredible. He made a big splash; let’s put it that way.”
Lee then added, “I got a phone call from someone on his staff, ‘Did I want to come up and visit with Rock Hudson?’ I wasn’t going to say no” — thus began their relationship, lasting until 1965. The truth is these 3-4 years were incredibly significant for more reasons than one, especially as it enabled the former to understand he really did not want anything to do with the industry at all. After all, it was impossible for him not to notice the way a lot of his partner’s “personal life” was carefully directed/manufactured so as to maintain his public image as a heteronormative hunk.
Nevertheless, per Lee, “[Rock] drove the management at Universal crazy by taking off, he and I, without telling them where he was going… He just said, ‘Screw it, I’m going to do what I’m going to do.'” The couple hence vacationed a lot together, whether it be in New Orleans, Louisiana, or down in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where they rarely had to worry about being anyone but themselves. “We walked on the beach, took pictures of each other with his camera, and drove around in an open jeep,” Lee once told People. “We just lived the life of two normal gay men that loved one another.”
However, because Rock’s “agent told him that he was never to have one of his boyfriends in a photo because if anyone saw it, they would suspect he was gay,” the only picture of him and Lee (below) was taken by someone random at a bar in New Orleans, which they bought to keep private. Yet, according to Lee in the HBO movie, the couple never really had a conversation regarding what it would be like to be openly gay: “There should have been, but there wasn’t,” he said. “There was a part of [Rock] that was very straitlaced and understanding of the previous generation… He was so inured of being closeted that he never mentioned it.”
Regardless, if there’s anything Lee regrets about his involvement with the actor, it’s just that he never went to see him following the AIDS diagnosis in 1985, even though he wanted to. “I was told, ‘Rock is not capable of knowing who you are, and you are better remembering him in a better time.'” he conceded. “In a sense, that was true. So I did not go see him [before he passed]. I wish I had. I feel very guilty about not going up and holding his hand one last time,” despite the span of two decades since they were last together.
We should also mention it was only after Rock’s death that Lee learned from a biography the actor considered him his “true love” — “I broke down and cried,” he told People in 2018. “…I had no idea I meant that much to him.” He even said, “[Rock] did not have the opportunity to live his life the way he wanted to, and he had to go around hiding. I wish he had been born thirty or forty years later. He’d be more relaxed and at ease and it would have been a happier life. He’d also be elated by how much has changed.”
Where is Lee Garlington Now?
Coming to Lee’s own standing at the moment, he actually found everlasting love the year after Rock passed away in Paul Garlington, to whom he blissfully tied the knot in late April 2014. Therefore, at 86, the self-employed U.S. International University Clinical Psychology graduate is contently residing in the home he built alongside his partner of 37 years in Queenstown, New Zealand. So, although Lee can still recall how “handsome [Rock] was and what a great time we had together. He was the kindest man I ever met,” he doesn’t regret their split as it brought him to fellow Carmel, California, native Paul.
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