On October 2nd of 1985, film actor Rock Hudson became the first major celebrity to die from AIDS.
Rock Hudson was born Roy Harold Scherer Jr. on November 17th of 1925 in Winnetka, Illinois. His father, an auto mechanic, abandoned the family in the heart of the Great Depression. His mother worked as a telephone operator to support him. Roy was an only child.
In school, he could not get any parts in school plays, because he could not remember his lines. This problem plagued him throughout his life, but he seems to have found his way around it.
Hudson is known for his work as a leading man in movies of the 1950s and 1960s. He was a Hollywood heart throb of the Golden Age, along with actors such as Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Tony Curtis. Mostly, Hudson found his niche in a succession of romantic comedies. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Giant, a film he made with James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor.
After starring in many movies through the 1960s, Hudson began a second career as a TV actor, appearing in McMillan and Wife, among others. In the four decades of his career, Rock Hudson appeared in more than 70 films, and made numerous TV appearances.
It may have been common knowledge in Hollywood that Rock Hudson was gay, but that was something female movie watchers who adored him would not want to think about. Image is everything in Hollywood. So all those gay actors had to hide their homosexuality and pretend to be getting with women. Otherwise, ticket sales would plummet.
A heart bypass procedure in 1981 required Rock Hudson to have blood transfusions. He continued to experience declining health after that. He looked increasingly gaunt and ashen when he was filming Dynasty, leading to speculation that he might have liver cancer. On June 5th of 1984, Rock Hudson was diagnosed with HIV, just three years after the existence of the virus was discovered. He eventually admitted to having the disease. This caused panic in Hollywood, where scripts were rewritten to avoid kissing scenes, and Linda Evans was thought to be dying of AIDS at any minute, since Rock Hudson had kissed her in Dynasty.
Rock Hudson died at his home on October 2nd of 1985, at the age of 59. His death was not in vain. Contributions soon came pouring in for AIDS research and treatments.
Until then, Ronald Regan had not even discussed the topic of AIDS, as it was considered a “gay disease” at the time. Even after his death, Regan made no public statement about the condition of Rock Hudson. Despite the fact that Rock Hudson was secretly gay, he was a also a good friend of Ronald Regan. Regan, formerly an actor himself, probably didn't know he had any gay friends. After the death of Rock Hudson, Regan called for support for AIDS research, and care for the victims of AIDS.
In dying, Rock Hudson put a face on the disease called AIDS.