Until he read Rock Hudson’s biography, Lee Garlington never realised he was the iconic Hollywood actor’s “one true love”.
“I broke down and cried,” Garlington has revealed in an interview with People magazine.
“‘I just lost it. He said his mother and I were the only people he ever loved. I had no idea I meant that much to him.”
Garlington, who dated Hudson from 1962 to 1965, has opened up about their relationship.
Hudson died of AIDS in 1985.
Garlington says he was an extra on a movie set when he first decided to “check out” Hudson, having heard rumours the movie star was gay.
“He was the biggest movie star in the world and the rumours were that he was gay,” he said.
“So I thought, ‘Let me get an eye on him.’ I stood outside his cottage on the Universal lot, pretending to read Variety, which was probably upside down at the time.
“He walked out and down the street. He looked back once. That was it.”
A year later, Garlington got a call out of the blue from one of Hudson’s friends, saying he would like to meet him.
Garlington says he was so intimidated by Hudson’s celebrity status and his sheer size (Hudson was 6’4”) on their first meeting that nothing happened.
However, they decided to start dating.
“I’d come over after work, spend the night and leave the next morning,” Garlington says.
“I’d sneak out at 6am in my Chevy Nova and coast down the street without turning on the engine so the neighbours wouldn’t hear. We thought we were being so clever.”
Garlington said that while there was never a conversation about whether Hudson should come out he remembers sharing a nod and a wink with Paul Newman, who he assumed knew that he was Hudson’s boyfriend.
While Garlington says Hudson wasn’t paranoid about people finding out the truth, both would always take female dates to movie premieres.
Hudson, who was briefly married to Phyllis Gates from 1955 to 1958, would never publicly come out of the closet before his death, although many of his closest friends, including Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, were said to have known about his lifestyle.
The actor, whose breakout role came opposite Taylor and James Dean in the 1956 film Giant, for which he would go on to be nominated for an Oscar, would have other relationships with men over the course of his life, most notably Marc Christian.
Christian, who met Hudson in 1982, would later sue the actor’s estate after his death and win $5.5 million ($A7.113m) after claiming he never informed him that he had AIDS, and continued to have sexual contact with him after he was diagnosed.