I find it hard to believe but it is 30 years since Hollywood star Rock Hudson died amid a lot of bad publicity about his death. Rock died of AIDs, which then was considered a new contagious plague. Perhaps he made a mistake of travelling to Paris for some last minute cure hope but he collapsed there and he was forced to reveal his illness. He was beyond treatment and his wish was to die at his home in Los Angeles. He was returned there on a stretcher although some airlines refused to transport him as they feared the illness was contagious by merely a touch.

Rock was one of the last great stars of Hollywood's last golden era. He was discovered by Henry Willson, a gay talent agent. Henry launched a number of stars in the 1950s often via the casting couch. However, he knew how to be ruthless to protect his boys.

Once Rock had become a star in the 1950s a scandal magazine threatened to 'out him' and sadly in those days it meant the end of your career. Instead, Henry agreed to expose the criminal record of one of his lesser cowboy stars and Rock remained the all American heartthrob to a generation of female cinemagoers. To cover the tracks further he arranged for Rock to marry his secretary to squash further rumours. Can you imagine trying to control the tabloids like that today?

I don't think Rock ever worked in Borehamwood but I stand to be corrected. I met him briefly once in the 1980s on the set of an Agatha Christie movie being shot in England. I still recall him standing from his chair and towering above me as he was well over six-feet tall. 

Rock came across as a very nice guy who took his career extremely seriously and his films were extremely popular in the 1950s and 1960s. He was fairly open about being gay but in that era if you were a success such potentially career destroying matters were covered up. 

When Rock became very ill his friends hoped that he would die in Los Angeles where they had already prepared a cover story that he died from liver disease, especially as he was a heavy drinker. That did not happen and when he passed away in his mansion face masked medics removed his body and shortly after he was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea. His last lover, now also deceased sued his estate for having been exposed to AIDs without knowing it and won several million dollars in compensation. His mansion was part of his estate and went to probate and was bought by director John Landis for nearly $3 million and promptly demolished most of it. It is hard to believe such attitudes existed just 30 years ago.

Recently, I was invited to a dinner party to regale guests with tales about stars I have met over the last few decades. I declined as I could not imagine anything more boring than listening to me. I also have a problem in that I still remember the words of the late Paul Mills who was the publicity chief at MGM in Borehamwood for decades but refused to write a 'kiss and tell' autobiography. He said to me I was privileged to see behind the scenes and to meet stars and my repayment was to bury any bad publicity about them. I guess that means I must take some stories to my grave and so be it, but if others have already leaked the tales then that is showbiz. I have recounted some of my star encounters in my book Elstree Confidential, now in paperback and available online from Elstree Screen Heritage and at the Borehamwood Museum, helping to raise funds for both worthy causes.

Finally, if you would like to know more about the studios of Borehamwood then why not join us at 96 Shenley Road for a free screening of the 90-minute documentary From Borehamwood to Hollywood on Sunday, September 13 at 3pm. Tickets are now available from the reception desk. Until the next time keep smiling.