ROCK HUDSON & LEE MAJORS
Globe Magazine / October 1st 1985
Rock Hudson put Lee Majors on the road to fame and fortune, but as the superstar lay dying, his protégé was nowhere to be seen.
Rock discovered Lee in a backwater Kentucky town 23 years ago, persuaded him to go to Hollywood and went out of his way to introduce him to agents and producers.
But as the AIDS-stricken actor fought for life, Majors was not among the string of celebrities – including Liz Taylor, Roddy McDowall and Nancy Walker – who were rushing to his bedside.
Paul Block, Majors’ publicist, is on record as denying that his client and Rock even knew each other. Recently, confronted with undeniable photographic evidence of the mysterious friendship, he issued on behalf of Majors, a terse “no comment”.
Yet, observers of the Hollywood scene in the 1960s told GLOBE that the friendship between Rock and Majors was widely known. Another source says frankly, that Rock considered Majors to be his protégé. However, he adds: “I had the impression that the feeling was not mutual.”
The insider continues: “Rock insisted Lee dye his hair blond to make him look more like the macho surfer type – an image Rock thought was most popular with the studio executives. Lee used to come to parties at Rock’s house shortly before he landed the part in The Big Valley in 1965, but he always seemed uncomfortable, especially if Rock was bragging about what a big star Lee would someday become. “This guy is going to go places and will be a romantic leading man someday,” Rock once predicted during a small house party. Lee would blush and go off and stand alone either at the bar or out by the pool. You could tell Rock’s constant stream of compliments about Lee’s looks bothered him.”
One veteran Tinseltown reporter saw the picture of Rock that Majors kept in his bedroom while working on The Big Valley, his first TV break. When she asked him why it was there, he said: “I admire him.”
One source says that Lee quietly kept in touch with Rock until he really made it big in The Six Million Dollar Man. He and his first wife divorced shortly after he arrived in Hollywood and he went on to marry Farrah Fawcett.
“His star was shining a lot brighter than Rock’s, and frankly Lee was really too busy with his career and his marriage to Farrah to need Rock as a mentor for anything,” the insider explains. “Rock would mention that he heard from Lee from time to time, but I sensed that they were no longer what you would call close friends after Lee hit it big.”
He adds, “Rock almost felt it was his duty to the acting world to make certain there were enough handsome, young leading men types around to fill his own shoes, I guess.”
The source hints that Rock, whose gay lifestyle was then a secret, thought of himself as a Svengali to handsome, young actors like Lee.
Rock first met Majors, who was then known as Lee Yeary, in 1962 when Lee was playing football at Eastern Kentucky State College in Richmond, Kentucky. Rock astonished Majors’ adoptive parents by driving up to their house in nearby Middlesboro one day for a visit, and he willingly posed for pictures with Majors and his bride.
Sources who knew Majors then have revealed that Rock persuaded him to launch an acting career by enrolling at the Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky. He also urged Majors and Kathy to pack up and move to Hollywood – a decision that spelled the end of their brief marriage. Kathy filed for divorce shortly after and returned to Kentucky with their son.
“Rock loved football and always said that there were many good-looking college and professional football players around that they should get into acting before some injury would mess up their faces or bodies,” the Hollywood source says.
“Rock was also a friend of former pro football player Roman Gabriel, and he tried to push him into acting, but Roman just couldn’t cut it,” he says. “Roman wasn’t into acting and I think he made one film, thanks to Rock, which was just plain awful.
“Rock had better luck with Lee and always considered himself a close friend. He told me once that he was the one who got Lee his first contract with Universal Studios.
Young actors like Lee and others looked up to Rock because he was such an established star and definitely had influence in the business. He would try and give Lee and others guidance on how to defend themselves and to know when they were being abused professionally. “They will try and work you ’till you drop if you let them,” I recall him saying more than once.”
But when Rock dropped, a victim of the bizarre Hollywood lifestyle the former Lee Yeary was not there to help him.