Ron and Nancy Reagan turned their backs on old pal Rock Hudson when he had AIDS.
According to the just-released biography “Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit and Glamour of an Icon” by Kate Andersen Brower, the Reagans were long-time pals of the closeted “Pillow Talk” star — but refused to make a call for Hudson to receive experimental treatment that may have extended his life.
Brewer writes that the former First Lady had been shocked by Hudson’s gaunt appearance at a White House party in 1984 and had written the actor, suggesting he get a mole on his neck checked. He took her advice and, on June 5, 1984, the dermatologist who had biopsied the mole told the closeted actor that he had AIDS.
A year later, the day before the “McMillan and Wife” star went public with his diagnosis, his publicist, Dale Olson sent a telegram to the Reagans.
“Rock was in Paris seeking experimental treatments and there was only one hospital in the world, Olsen argued, that could potentially save his life, ‘or at least alleviate his illness.’ Olsen asked the Reagans to make a phone call to get Rock admitted into this French hospital that had denied him entry,” writes Brower.
“The Reagans would not help,” she added, “and they turned their back on their old friend.”
One friend who did not turn her back on Hudson was Elizabeth Taylor. The two had become close while co-starring in the 1956 film “Giant.”
When Hudson returned to Los Angeles, she went to visit him at his home and was surprised to find a “strange group of Hollywood Christians, including Pat and Shirley Boone and ‘The Love Boat’ [star] Gavin MacLeod, praying at his bedside.”
However, no one appeared to be getting close to the ailing actor.
“‘Oh, for goodness sake!’ Elizabeth yelled,” writes Brower, “and she jumped into bed with him and held him close, rocking his frail body gently … Elizabeth watched helplessly as he got worse and worse until he was reduced to skin and bones, and there was no medicine that could help him get any better.”
Hudson died at home on October 2, 1985, at the age of 59.
The night before he passed, Taylor “sat on his bed and held him.”
Taylor, despite the advice of publicists, became a passionate activist on behalf of AIDS patients — co-founding the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985 and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS and Elizabeth Taylor AIDS. She also helped to raise millions of dollars for the cause and testified before Congress.
In the early days of the AIDS crisis, she sent fifty thousand dollars to San Fransisco based – Project Inform to help get experimental drugs, which were illegal at the time.
The Oscar winner also let friends and friends of friends who were sick stay at her Bel Air mansion.
“She visited hospices and asked caretakers what they needed,” Brewer writes. “Most of the time they would say the patients just needed someone to touch them. She decided to do unpublicized hospice visits so that she could hug patients and talk with them, and make them feel human again. She wanted them to know that they were loved.”
In 1987, the “Cleopatra” star gave a speech at the National Press Club in Washington DC, explaining how she became an activist.
“I became so incensed and personally frustrated at the rejection I was receiving by just trying to get people’s attention,” said Taylor, who died from congestive heart failure in 2011, at the age of 79. “I was made so aware of the silence, this huge, loud silence regarding AIDS … Certainly, no one wanted to give money or support and it so angered me that I finally thought to myself, Bitch do something yourself. Instead of sitting there getting angry. Do something.”
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