Phyllis Lucille Gates (December 7, 1925 – January 4, 2006) was an American secretary and interior decorator known for her three-year marriage to the actor Rock Hudson. The story of their marriage was depicted in the 1990 TV film Rock Hudson, starring Daphne Ashbrook (as Gates) and Thomas Ian Griffith (as Hudson).
Gates was born in Dawson, Minnesota, and raised on a farm. Early in her life, she worked as a sales clerk in a department store, airline stewardess, and secretary for a New York City talent agent, before moving to Hollywood to work for the Hollywood talent agent, Henry Willson, who represented actors Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter and Rory Calhoun.
Marriage to Rock Hudson
Gates met Rock Hudson in October 1954. They started dating some time later and were married in Santa Barbara, California, on November 9, 1955, shortly after he finished filming Giant. Following a brief honeymoon in Jamaica, their marriage began to disintegrate. They separated in 1957, following rumors that Hudson had committed adultery while on location in Italy for the film A Farewell to Arms. The rumors were later confirmed by a close friend of Gates's, who also revealed to her that the individual Hudson had the affair with was a man. The divorce was eventually finalized in 1958.
Gates later became a successful interior decorator. She died from lung cancer at her home in Marina del Rey, California, aged 80. She was survived by her sister Marvis Ketelsen and brother Russell Gates.
In her autobiography, published in 1987 after Hudson's 1985 death from AIDS, Gates wrote that she was in love with Hudson when they were married, and that she did not know Hudson was gay when they married, and that she was not complicit in his deception.
However, the author and journalist Robert Hofler wrote in the documented biography The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson : “Those who knew her (Gates) say she was a lesbian who tried to blackmail her movie star husband (Hudson)” or “She then became addicted to being the wife of a star, and didn’t want the divorce (...) Phyllis could play around with women, but Rock had to remain faithful to her. In a way, she was just being pragmatic: she feared that Rock’s exposure would ruin his fame, which was in turn her gravy train.”
This was refuted by Phyllis herself, in a personal interview with Larry King, where she spoke about the persons who were trying to protect Rock by spreading lies about her. Phyllis was the one who initiated the divorce, based on her husband's behavior. In her own words, she did not get much in the divorce because she did not want to take advantage of him. She never stopped loving him, and he was the 'love of her life'.
- Gates, Phyllis (1987) and Sara Davidson, My Husband, Rock Hudson, Doubleday, 232 pages. ISBN 978-0207157844