Saturday, February 6, 2016

Friendships solid as a rock: Rock and Doris were true pals to the end.

Their careers had taken totally different paths, but in 1959 here they were, together in Hollywood, making a romantic movie with lots of suggestive overtones.  There was nothing to suggest that this film would be anything more than another scheduled release, a product to sell enough tickets to keep the movie house owners happy and make some money in the process for the studio, too.
Sometimes if we get lucky in our lives, our souls just connect and we call it 'friendship'.  Now, they don't always have to be human souls.  Anyone who has looked into the eyes of a trusting animal and made a spiritual connection will understand.   And, once in some very rare circumstances, a special connection can happen between two humans working in jobs that make them cultural icons for millions of others to dream about.  But in all cases, true friendship usually gets tested by time.
Still in his sexual prime, Rock was already the established hunky movie star and Doris was a favorite singer and actress.  Pillow Talk would turn out to be the first of their classic trilogy of movies for Universal Pictures and would become a very big hit.  More than just publicity for the movie, Rock Hudson had actually been a fan of Doris Day since her big-band days, when he was serving in the United States Navy.  And with loving and caring being a true part of her nature, Doris has always been accepting of all creatures in this world (a crusader for animal rights) and understood the need to be accepted and loved.
It was recently reported that the actress, now 91, still gets choked up when she remembers Rock: "I lost one of my dearest friends and I still miss him so much.  The world lost a talented actor and a fine human being when he passed away. He was one of the funniest men I’ve ever known – and the nicest."
From Pillow Talk

The sexy movie Pillow Talk was a hit. Rock Hudson and Doris Day made sexual innuendo into an art form.  Day was nominated for an Oscar.  She deserved it, because it was her personal acceptance of Hudson (playing a straight guy) looking to score in the bedroom as often as he could that allowed the film's script to actually work so well.   The movie won Oscars for Best Story and Best Screenplay. 
In the movie, Doris plays a single working woman who lives in a nice apartment in Manhattan. Her only problem is that she has to share her phone line with a wolf-hound male song writer, played by Rock Hudson. Often she picks up her receiver to make a call, only to hear Hudson putting the moves on another of his female conquests.  Rock's character pretends to be gay to get close enough to seduce her. It's a real-life closeted gay star playing a straight man, who is pretending to be gay.

The duo were re-united in the 1961 movie Lover Come Back, followed by 1964's Send Me No Flowers.   1971, Doris welcomed Rock as her special guest on her musical special for CBS.  In 1985, Doris Day's Best Friends debuted and Doris reached out for Rock to appear.

Rock was at a point in his life when the longtime rumors about his homosexuality were now being overshadowed by the gaunt look of his thin body, as speculation ran rampant that Rock Hudson was dying from AIDS.  This was time in America when AIDS hysteria was everywhere and discrimination against anyone suspected of having the disease was at its most ugliest in terms of human compassion, for many otherwise nice folks. 

It turned out that Rock's last public appearance was to be with his longtime friend Doris. "I miss those laughs we used to have" Doris tenderly recalled to Rock about their golden era at Universal. "Oh me too" Rock replied during the taping.  It must have been quite a decision for Rock to tape that show.  Immediately after the taping, Rock left for a plane for Paris for treatment, but the treatment was not to save him.   His condition had gone public when he collapsed on July 21 of that year in his suite at the Paris Ritz, where he had gone for secret treatments of the antiviral drug HPA-23, then unavailable in the United States.

Once Rock Hudson was back in the United States, HIV specialist Doctor Michael Gottlieb was asked to examine him and hold a press conference to tell the public what was happening. 

According to reports, Gottlieb said 'The press wants information on your condition. Should I tell them you have AIDS?' and he said: 'Yes if you think it will do some good.' He couldn't have imagined how much good it actually did.’ Gottlieb said that by that stage ‘I don't think Rock was afraid of it getting out’.  He said: It was beginning to dawn on his fan base that he was gay. He had AIDS and was dying. People related to him on a human level’.
Two months later, Hudson died at the age of 60. In his last weeks he was visited by many famous friends such as Carol Burnett, Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor, who upon his death was reported as saying "Please God, he did not die in vain." Long after his death, Doris recalled when she asked him to appear on her show:  "I had to have Rock Hudson as my first guest so I called him and he said "I’ll be can count on me, and that was the truth! All his friends, and there were so many, could always count on him. He didn’t talk about his illness any time.  I can only tell you my friends it was a heartbreaking time for me without my faith I would be a lot sadder than I am today. I know that life is eternal and that something good is gonna come from this experience."

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