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A Revelatory Dissection of What It Was to Be a Gay Movie Star

By Jose Solis

The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson by Robert HoflerBy the time of Rock Hudson’s death from AIDS-related complications in 1985, the popular screen icon had spent more than a year traveling the world looking for a cure. His public relations team at the time explained that the actor had been diagnosed with a serious liver disease, while they tried to avoid rumors about his HIV status and his until-then-alleged homosexuality.

It was only after his death that it became widely known that the actor had in fact always been gay and had romanced many of his male co-stars. Indeed, the surge of AIDS related deaths in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s opened up a vault of secrets that Hollywood had fought to keep silent since its very inception; some of the most popular screen actors who seduced women and made female fans faint from excitement had all along been homosexuals.

There was one man in particular who not only discovered and nurtured actors like Rock Hudson and Guy Madison, but who turned being gay into a secret lifestyle that included some of the most powerful men in the industry. Such men were behind some of the most renowned pictures of Hollywood’s Golden Era. The man was Henry Willson and his name would probably remain unknown if it were not for Robert Hofler’s incisive biography, The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson, which follows him from his early years as a rich New Yorker and then across the country as he realized early on that there was a whole future meant just for him in California.

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