Rock Hudson's Wife Secretly Recorded His Gay Confession

Hudson was fed wedding cake by his bride, Phyllis, at a reception following their surprise wedding in 1955. Inset: Fred Otash
Hudson was fed wedding cake by his bride, Phyllis, at a reception following their surprise wedding in 1955. Inset: Fred Otash
 

He continued: "I gathered up all the bottles and locked them up. Then I began the search for pills. You wouldn't believe the cleverness of that woman in stashing her drugs so nobody could find them. And there were all kinds. Uppers, downers and some I didn't even recognize. They were stuffed into a hole she'd cut under the mattress and in rubber fingers tied at the top with the string tied again around the faucet of the washbasin. The pills were down in the crook of the pipe, and when she wanted them she just pulled them up by the almost invisible string. I dumped all that junk down the toilet and flushed it away."

When Otash confronted Garland, she demanded to know why he had destroyed the stash. He told her: "Narcotics and alcohol are the best evidence he [Luft] could ever produce in court. Believe me."

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CLEARING LANA TURNER?

The detective also might have been involved in one of the most celebrated murders of the era, that of mobster Johnny Stompanato, though he gave various accounts of precisely how. Documents in the files indicate that Giesler (who represented movie star Lana Turner) called Otash and asked him to come to the actress' house the night of the gangster's death.

Stompanato had been dating Turner when, on the night of April 4, 1958, police were called to her house, where they found the gangster stabbed to death. Turner's teenage daughter, Cheryl Crane, then 14, took the blame, explaining that Stompanato had attacked her mother and that she had acted in defense -- an explanation accepted by the courts, where the death was ruled justifiable homicide. (The files indicate that Cheryl's father, Stephen Crane, had asked Otash to keep an eye on his daughter, and that he was afraid she was the object of Stompanato's desire.)

Westphal says Otash told him that he was on the scene of the crime before the police and actually removed the knife from the dead man's body, placing it in Crane's hand.

But in a 1991 Los Angeles magazine profile, Otash gave another account, saying: "Beverly Hills police chief Clinton Anderson once accused me of removing the knife from Stompanato's body, wiping off Lana Turner's fingerprints, putting on Cheryl Crane's fingerprints and then shoving the knife back into the body. Crazy."

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BETTE DAVIS' EYES

Within the files, there also are surveillance records dating from the time Otash was hired by Bette Davis to snoop on her husband Gary Merrill while she was in the process of divorcing him, after which two Otash operatives testified in court that they saw Merrill leave a Newport Beach, Calif., hotel while he "went out on the town" and made "flirtatious gestures with girls."

THE END OF THE LINE

Otash kept working as a P.I. until his license was revoked by California's Bureau of Private Investigators, partly because of his connection to Confidential (whose reign of fear effectively ended following a much-publicized libel case in 1957) and partly because of his association with several jockeys who were involved in a doping case. Later, he earned a living as head of security for cosmetics company Hazel Bishop Inc.

His tapes have vanished, and now only his files remain as evidence of his secret activities. But more information may yet emerge.

On the night of his death, Otash left his West Hollywood apartment to attend a Friars Club dinner celebrating the completed first draft of his unpublished book, Marilyn, the Kennedys and Me. He came home later that evening then, mysteriously, at around 4 a.m. called for a taxi to take him to LAX.

At about 7 a.m., the taxi arrived, but there was no Otash. A doorman called Westphal's parents (Otash's neighbors and friends), who entered the snoop's Park Wellington apartment in West Hollywood and found him lying facedown under the kitchen table, dead of a heart attack, it later was concluded.

Soon after, his executor, famed attorney Arthur Crowley, arrived and stripped the condo of its contents -- including a red filing cabinet that contained material nobody close to the detective ever got to read.

Says Westphal: "He put a shackle on the door, emptied the condo, and nothing inside was ever seen again."

Shirley Halperin contributed to this story.

See the transcript of Rock Hudson's gay confession below:

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