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The Big Story

Tuesday, July 23, 1985–GOOD MORNING: The whispering campaign on Rock Hudson can–and should stop. He has flown to Paris for further help. The Institute Pasteur has been very active in research on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Hudson’s dramatic weight loss was made evident to the national press last week when he winged to Carmel to help longtime friend Doris Day launch her new pet series. His illness was no secret to close Hollywood friends, but its true nature was divulged to very, very few. He left for France and possible aid from scientists there over the weekend. Doctors warn that the dread disease (AIDS) is going to reach catastrophic proportions in all communities if a cure is not soon found…

That morning “my phone just rang off the hook, from all over the world, every newspaper, every service,” Archerd recalls. “Then his (Hudson’s) press agents denied it, and they put out a story, which our paper even printed. And I told Tom (Pryor, then Daily Variety’s editor), ‘Believe me, I know this is true.’ ” Archerd had, in fact, known about Hudson’s illness for some time, but “I had not felt it was my place to say anything until there was something tangible. When he went up to see Doris Day, there were pictures in all the papers showing his complete deterioration. Then he went to Paris hopefully for the AIDS cure…which does not exist.”

Archerd is convinced if he had not broken the story, Hudson death four months later would have been attributed to “liver cancer or something like that…Of course, we all know the results. (President) Reagan at the time was trying to get him into the Army hospital in Paris for treatment. It was the first time that the White House or the Federal government had really taken any cognizance of the fact that AIDS existed and that they had to do something about it.” Four years later, 1989, a lead article in the New York Times Living Arts section acknowledged, “without Army Archerd’s column, there is a very real chance that the world might have suspected but never known what killed Rock Hudson.” Anne Taylor Fleming wrote, “Mr. Archerd was both applauded and scorned at the time by a town and an industry with a schizophrenic attitude toward homosexuality–privately accepting, as they had been of Hudson all his double life, but publicly squeamish, fearful…””Yeah, I took some heat,” Archerd admits. “Elizabeth Taylor was not happy. But I’m not here to write stories that make people happy. I write the column to keep people informed…Because, let’s face it, whenever a celebrity is involved with anything it results in action.

“It would have been years before anybody paid attention to the fact that this horrible disease exists, and it’s spreading…I feel that in some small way by having the truth come out about a previously unknown, a previous swept-under-the-rug situation–no, not situation…a tragedy–that some good came out of it, at least.”

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