Rock Hudson

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Rock Hudson, (1925-1985), US Actor

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Rock Hudson was an American actor, born as Roy Harold Scherer, Jr on 17 Nov 1925 in Winnetka, Cook County, Illinois, the son of Roy Harold Scherer, Sr an auto mechanic, and his wife Katherine "Kay" Wood (d. 1977), who had just married the year before.

Kay was the daughter of James Wood and Mary Ellen unknown. Roy Sr left the family in 1932 and went to California. Rock's obit in the NYT states that Roy had lost his job during the Depression. After Roy left, Kay started dating Wallace "Wally" FitzGerald who worked shoveling coal at the Winnetka Water Works. Kay and Wally married when Rock was eight, and Wally adopted Roy who became Roy FitzGerald.

Roy FitzGerald went to New Trier High School. Wally and Kay fought and he would beat her and Roy. They divorced, Kay married him a second time, and they divorced again when Roy was fifteen. Kay became a live-in housekeeper for a wealthy family. For several years they lived above Walgreen's Drug Store.

To California

Celebrity-Image-Rock-Hudson--small-Size--223228.jpg "Roy Fitzgerald enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943 and was shipped on the S.S. Lew Wallace, a Kaiser Liberty ship, to Samar, a sandy island in the Philippines." (Rock Hudson: His Story, p42) (His obit in the NYT says he enlisted in 1944.) He was shipped home in 1946 and decided to go to California because his father, was living in Long Beach, with a new wife and a daughter. He lived with his father for a short time, but it didn't work out well. He found a job driving for Budget Pack. In Long Beach, for the first time, he met men who were open about being gay. One of these was Kenneth G Hodge. "...Ken Hodge had worked in radio for many years, producing Lux Radio Theatre. Ken was thirty-six and Roy was twenty-one...he lived in a the Chateau Marmont, a building owned by his Aunt Bernadette." (His Story, p 43)
Roy and Kenneth met in the Summer of 1947. Davison relates a story told her by Herbert Millspaugh, claiming to describe how the name "Rock Hudson" came about.
"I received a letter from Herbert Millspaugh, a retired clerk in San Francisco, who said he had been present the day Roy Fitzgerald was named Rock Hudson. He included names, dates and supporting photographs
In the summer of 1947, Millspaugh said, he was living in Long Beach, working for the Texas Oil Company, hanging out by the Villa Riviera and going to parties at the penthouse of Ken Hodge. Ken introduced him to an extremely handsome young man he'd just met, Roy Fitzgerald, who wanted to be an actor. One sunday, a group of Ken's friends walked back from the beach to Ken's apartment, fixed gin and tonics and started trying to think up a name for the actor.
"Ken wanted a name that suggested strength," Millspaugh said. "Someone came up with Rock. Then we looked through the Long Beach phone book to find a second name that sounded right. We came up with Hudson. Everything you've read in the press duing the last forty years about the origin of the name is malarkey." (His Story, p 44)

Millspaugh also told this story on The E! True Hollywood Story:Rock Hudson. Robert Hefler claims that this Herbert died in 1999, however that Herbert A Millspaugh who died in Florida was born in 1917 in Indiana and more damning, his SSN was issued from Indiana. The chance that he moved from Indiana to California by 1947 is diminished. Checking the U.S. Public Records Index, I find a Herbert E Millspaugh, age 82, listed in San Francisco. And I find him in the 1970 San Francisco Telephone directory at the same address.

It's interesting that it's implied that they lived in the Chateau Marmont in one place, but in the Villa Riviera in another. The Villa Riviera is at 800 East Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach (see here).

To Hollywood

rock1.jpgTogether, Roy and Ken left Long Beach and moved to Hollywood where they shared a bungalow in the hills. Kenneth worked his contacts and threw parties to introduce his protege. At one of these, Roy met Henry Willson. Without Ken's knowledge, Roy contacted Willson, they signed a contract and Willson became his agent. A short time later, Kenneth moved back to Long Beach, alone. Davidson reports that "..Roy's first check, made out to "Roy FitzGerald" from Vanguard Films of Culver City is endorsed on the back "Roy FitzGerald, Pay to the Order of Rock Hudson, Kenneth G Hodge"

Hudson's first named role, according to his Wikipedia article was in Fighter Squadron in 1948.

Early Career

Rock appeared in the film Giant starring opposite Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. It was Dean's last picture, he died in a car accident. Phyllis Gates' in her autobiography relates that when Rock heard the news he start sobbing because he had wished Dean dead and now he was dead.


His mother died of a stroke in "...the fall of 1977."(His Story, pg 203)

Rock Hudson died of AIDS on 2 Oct 1985 at his home in California.


Many articles have been writen about him, but many of the people swirling around him are shadows, whose lives are only illuminated in his presence. That is, all the articles mentioning them, only mention them in relationship to him. There are a few exceptions like his agent Henry Willson or the actor George Nader, who was one of his best friends for most of his life.

See also

Ancestry of Rock Hudson

Primary documentation

  • 1930 New Trier, Cook County, Illinois showing : "Raymond Scherer, 30, IL, married at age 24, Proprietor, Garage; Katherine, 30 IL/England/IL; Raymond H 4 1/12; Lloyd 23 brother, IL, Helper, Gas Station"
  • California Voter Registrations:
    • Los Angeles City, 1946 showing : "Kenneth G Hodge, 7136 Sycamore Trail, R[epublican]"
    • Long Beach, 1948 showing : "Roy H Fitzgerald, 921 E Broadway, R[epublican]; Kenneth G Hodge, 921 E Broadway, R[epublican]" (this appears to be an apartment building, about 15 people list it as their address)
    • Long Beach, 1950 showing : "Roy H Fitzgerald, 921 E Broadway, R[epublican]; Kenneth G Hodge, 921 E Broadway, R[epublican]"
  • The Bradford Era (Bradford, Pennsylvania), 8 May 1951 (advertisement) "Dipsons Bradford, Starts Wednesday, Today, Gregory Peck, "Only The Valiant", Big Party Tonight, "Follow the Sun" Special, The Story of the Jet Fighters! Air Cadet starring Stephen McNally, Gail Russell, Alex Nicol, Richard Long, Peggie Castle, Charles Drake, Rock Hudson. 2nd Gay Feature, Song-Spashed! Fun-Filled! Rhythm Inn..."
  • Stars and Stripes Newspaper, WWII Europe and North Africa Editions, 1942-58, 1 Jun 1952 page 8 : "Life in Hollywood — ...Gene Tierney will be in England before many days....Gene has been stepping out with Rock Hudson recently, but this romance isn't serious enough to keep her from going to Europe."
  • New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 showing : "British Overseas Airways Corp., Embarked London, Disembarked New York, 28 Oct 1952, Rock Hudson aka Roy FitzGerald" ("aka Roy FitzGerald" is hand-writen)
  • New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 showing : "First Class, from Southampton, 16 Sep 1954 arriving at New York 21 Sep 1954 on the Queen Mary — Rock Hudson of 8383 Grandview Drive, Hollywood; born Illinois; 8 pieces of luggage"
  • California Death Index, 1940-97 showing : "Rock Hudson born 17 Nov 1925 Illinois, died 2 Oct 1985 Los Angeles County; mother's maiden name Wood"
  • New York Times, obituary "Rock Hudson" 3 Oct 1985 "Rock Hudson, Screen Idol, Dies at 59" stating such bits as : "...During the Depression, his father lost his job as an automobile mechanic and left the family. His mother, a telephone operator, remarried, and the actor, then 8 years old, took the surname of his stepfather Wallace Fitzgerald. His mother's second marriage ended after nine years." "In 1944, he joined the Navy and served in the Philippines as an airplane mechanic." None of his male lovers were named, his one-time wife Phyllis Gates was.

Secondary Sources

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