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25 years ago: Rock Hudson

October 2, 2010 |  6:00 am

Rock300 Rock Hudson, the handsome Hollywood star who earned an Academy Award nomination for his dramatic work in "Giant" and created sparkling big-screen chemistry with Doris Day in a string of romantic comedies, died of AIDS 25 years ago. He was 59.

Hudson shocked the world only three months before his death when he revealed he was being treated at UCLA Medical Center for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. 

President Reagan and wife Nancy were among the first to express sadness upon hearing of Hudson's death.

Hudson attended a White House dinner in May 1984. According to the authorized biography "Rock Hudson: His Story," when the actor received the photo from the event, showing him with the Reagans, a friend commented on a blemish visible on his neck. Within a few days, he received a biopsy result that confirmed he had AIDS.

Hudson, who had never publicly revealed he was gay, told only a few close friends about the diagnosis, but his weight loss and gaunt appearance caused much speculation.

Hollywood rallied around the actor at a star-studded AIDS fundraiser just two weeks before his death. More than 2,500 people raised $1 million for research in Hudson's name. The actor was too ill to attend, but in a message read at the event, he said: "I am not happy that I am sick. I am not happy that I have AIDS, but if that is helping others, I can, at least, know that my own misfortune has had some positive worth."

Hudson reached the height of his popularity with Day in "Pillow Talk" in 1959 and "Lover Come Back" in 1961. In both films, Hudson portrays a roguish ladies man trying to seduce the virtuous Day. Audiences responded to the chemistry between the two, and he and Day became good friends. Hudson appeared in more than 50 films before starring in the television series "MacMillan & Wife" in the '70s.

Marc Christian, a former lover of Hudson's, sued the actor's estate after his death, alleging emotional distress because Hudson did not reveal his illness to Christian. A multimillion-dollar settlement was reached. Christian, who never tested positive for HIV, died in 2009. The Times obituary can be found here.

San Francisco author Armistead Maupin urged Hudson to make his sexual orientation public in the mid-'70s. "He seemed kind of fascinated and horrified at the same time," Maupin said in a newspaper interview. "I wanted him to do it because he was a big hero to me and I thought that he would be a big hero to a lot of other people."

Hudson's Times obituary can be found here. A photo gallery is available here.

-- Susanna Timmons

Photo: Rock Hudson in 1961. Credit: Leo Fuchs, courtesy of the John Kobal Foundation