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Shocking Hollywood: Rock Hudson’s “illness”

Rumors of grave illness had surrounded Rock Hudson in the months before the July 25, 1985, announcement that he was afflicted with AIDS. The screen idol had looked frail during a late-1984 appearance on Dynasty (when he passionately kissed costar Linda Evans) and was nearly skeletal by the following July, when he guested on the new cable program Doris Day’s Best Friends. His latter appearance forced the moment: a press release confirmed that the actor had AIDS. He was receiving treatment in Paris at the time, and in a matter of days, Hudson returned to America–the solitary passenger on a chartered commercial airliner–to die in the country whose spirit his square-jawed, broad-shouldered good looks had once embodied.

Rock Hudson

Rock with Linda Evans on Dynasty.

“I hope I die of a heart attack before they find out,” Hudson said when diagnosed. But the legend shed his studio-cultured roles in the last weeks of his life, coming out of the closet about both his illness and his sexual orientation. Until then, in the minds of the mainstream, AIDS was still the province of sodomites, Haitians, junkies and other marginalized people, not upstanding Americans like movie stars–especially not solid-bodied hunks like Rock. But on October 2, 1985, at the age of 59, Hudson succumbed to the disease. And AIDS could no longer be ignored.

The Last Word: “I can at least know my own misfortune has had positive worth.” –Rock Hudson