On This Gay Day: Film star Rock Hudson died of an AIDS related illness

Hollywood star Rock Hudson died of an AIDS related illness

Rock Hudson was a massive Hollywood star in the 1950’s and 60’s. The heart-throb actor kept his homosexuality hidden out of fear it would ruin his career.

In the early 1950’s his agent kept stories out about him being gay out of the press by trading revelations about lesser successful clients. Shortly after avoiding the tabloid scandals Hudson married his agent’s secretary to keep up the pretense that he was straight.

In the 1970’s he moved into television staring in the series McMillan and Wife and later appeared on the hit TV show Dynasty. 

In 1985 speculation about the actor’s health surfaced after he appeared at an event looking extremely gaunt. His publicist denied that the actor had contracted HIV, but in truth he had been diagnosed with what is now known as HIV a year earlier.

Hudson travelled to France hoping to find a cure for the disease. After he collapsed in a Paris hotel his publicist said he was suffering from liver cancer, but a few days later they shared with the public that he had been diagnosed with AIDS.

Hudson passed away on this day in 1985, aged 59. He became one of the first high profile AIDS related deaths and his passing is attributed with increasing awareness about the virus.

Following his death there was a significant uptake in the number of private donations to AIDS research and support services, and the US Congress also voted to put US $221 million towards finding a cure.

Prior to his death Hudson himself donated $250,000 to amfAR, the research foundation for AIDS research – at the time it was the largest single donation they had received.

OIP Staff


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