BUZZFEED: On a Sunday evening in July 1985, just hours after arriving in Paris from Los Angeles, Rock Hudson collapsed shortly after checking into the famed Ritz hotel. The 59-year-old actor was once one of Hollywood’s hottest stars throughout the 1950s and ’60s, seen as the embodiment of “the American man” — tall, dark, and handsome. A constant fixture on the big screen, he starred alongside leading actresses like Elizabeth Taylor in Giant — netting an Oscar nomination for the role — and Doris Day in a series of popular romantic comedies.
By the mid-1980s, though, while still close with many from Hollywood’s golden era like Day and friendly with Ronald Reagan, another actor of the era and now the president of the United States, and his wife, Nancy Reagan, Hudson was no longer the broad-shouldered icon. He was frail, ill — the airline almost refused to let him board the nonstop flight to France. […] Hudson was dying from complications related to AIDS.
Although only a handful of people knew it, Hudson was in Paris desperately seeking treatment for AIDS — treatment that even a prominent, wealthy actor could not get in the United States in 1985. Although more than 5,500 people had died from the disease by the start of 1985, the government had taken few significant steps toward addressing the disease — with the Reagan administration recommending a $10 million cut in AIDS spending down to $86 million in its federal budget proposal released in February 1985. When Hudson was diagnosed with AIDS in the summer of 1984, he was living in a country where the president of American Airlines opened a breakfast at the Republican National Convention by joking that “gay” stood for “got AIDS yet?”
And so, Hudson traveled to France, hoping to see Dr. Dominique Dormant, a French army doctor who had secretly treated him for AIDS the past fall. Dormant, though, was unable to get the actor transferred to the military hospital. Initially, the doctor wasn’t even able to get permission to see Hudson at the American Hospital. Hudson’s longtime assistant, Mark Miller, flew to Paris immediately. There, he met with the French publicist, Yanou Collart.
Over the following days, the pair, along with Hudson’s American publicist, Dale Olson, tried everything in a desperate attempt to get the dying actor moved to the military hospital for treatment. As Hudson lay deathly ill in the hospital, his publicist, Olson, sent a desperate telegram to the Reagan White House pleading for help with the transfer. “Only one hospital in the world can offer necessary medical treatment to save life of Rock Hudson or at least alleviate his illness,” Olson wrote. Although the commanding officer had denied Hudson admission to the French military hospital initially, Olson wrote that they believed “a request from the White House … would change his mind.”
First Lady Nancy Reagan turned down the request. MORE
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