On This Day In 1985, Rock Hudson Announced His AIDS Diagnosis

18_rock-hudson-pool_C2101_R_ampliacionOn this day in 1985, Rock Hudson became the first notable mainstream celebrity to announce that he had been diagnosed with AIDS. Though the medical community knew little about the virus at the time, Hudson’s announcement has since been credited as a turning point in the fight against HIV/AIDS for providing a familiar and famous face to highlight the severity of an epidemic.

The quintessential Hollywood hunk starred in over 60 films during his career, but was most noted for his role in Giant (1956), his award-winning role opposite Doris Day in Pillow Talk (1959), and right before his death, a recurring role on gay staple Dynasty (1985).

Hudson had been diagnosed with HIV more than a year before going public with his status, which came via press release after the actor was hospitalized with “liver cancer” in Paris. We know now that Hudson was in Paris seeking treatment from an early medication that was, at the time, not available in the US. He died in Beverly Hills three months later.

Though he never spoke publicly about his sexual orientation, friends and former co-stars Elizabeth Taylor, Susan Saint James, and Carol Burnett all claimed to have known about his “secret homosexual life.” His death inspired Taylor to become one of the first (and certainly not the last) celebrity AIDS activists.

Arguably one of Hudson’s most famous ex-lovers, Marc Christian MacGinnis, made headlines in 1991 by receiving a $10 million settlement from the late star’s estate after convincing a jury that Hudson had knowingly exposed him to AIDS. Until the day he died in 2009, at the age of 56, MacGinnis remained HIV-negative.

During hearings, MacGinnis claimed he suffered “severe emotional distress” after being exposed to the virus, and told People several years later that his purpose was “not to sleaze Rock. It was to say that if you have AIDS, you ought to tell your partner, whether you’re a movie star or a postman.”

More recently, his crusade to inherit money from a male lover during a time when same-sex marriage was not recognized has offered precedent in the fight for LGBT equality.

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  • balehead

    Still more masculine than most straights…and almost all gays who think they pass for masculine…CW’s series “Husbands???” (seriously?)

  • neostud

    What a gorgeous specimen he was. R.I.P. sir.

  • Homophile

    So sad and such a horrific time in our nation’s history.

  • scotshot

    I grew up watching Rock Hudson’s films. He was IT! There’s nothing more to say.

  • dvlaries

    Even the authorized biography of Hudson by Sara Davidson does not paint a picture of a very nice fellow. By the 1970s, Hudson was turning into a rather nasty drunk. The Jim Nabors rumor always was a bunch of bunk. Not only did Hudson prefer blonds, but his ego never would have stood for a lover with fame and following of his own.
    And don’t get Cleve Jones or Larry Kramer started on the topic of Hudson.

  • dre23222

    Yes Rock was hot!!! I can say that. I live for all the old Hollywood hunks. During their day, you couldn’t stop them in the looks department. I’m 34, and I love Rock Hudson and James Dean. They were unbelievably gorgeous and great actors.

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