Skip to main content /transcript


Rock Hudson Offscreen

Aired June 7, 2001 - 22:00   ET


KING: Tonight, he was a megastar, a big-screen symbol of manliness. But behind that image another story, full of secrets. Only the truth about a deadly disease shattered his double life. Joining us in Los Angeles, Rock Hudson's publicist and dear friend Dale Olson -- hasn't spoken in depth about this story in many years.

With him, the physician who treated Rock Hudson in his final years, Dr. Michael Gottleib. Plus the king of show business scoops, Army Archerd. He says that telling the truth about Rock Hudson made him, for a time, the most hated man in Hollywood. Also in L.A., the author of Rock Hudson and his story, Sara Davidson. She interviewed the dying star and had remarkable access to the people around him.

And famed actor Robert Stack, Rock Hudson's longtime friend, co- star in two movies, they're all next on "LARRY KING LIVE"

KING: There's so much to the story about Rock Hudson, more than -- and on this occasion of 20 years -- of the knowledge of the disease of AIDS, we thought it appropriate to bring this group together, and we thank Dale Olson for agreeing to come on because he was really the spearhead of putting this program together. He was Rock Hudson's publicist and friend. You had to lie, right?

DALE OLSON, ROCK HUDSON'S PUBLICIST: I had to alter the truth or try to change it sometimes.

KING: When did you know what this was?

OLSON: I suspected it for sometime.

KING: Was he getting slimmer, was he looking...

OLSON: He was looking very bad, as a matter of fact. And I at one point, turned to him and frankly said, Rock, do you have AIDS? And he said, no, he was anorexic. I think I believed that because I wanted to believe it. I also believed it because he liked to eat, and I liked to cook, and he frequently came to dinner and ate a lot, but the last few times he just sort toyed with the food.

So I knew there was something wrong. It wasn't until Army Archerd really announced it, and brilliantly, it is the most careful piece of journalism I have ever seen written.

KING: Now, so you, the publicist and friend, learned about it from Archerd, the writer?

OLSON: I learned about it from Archerd the writer, and then confronted Rock and his people, who said, well, that is not really true, he has liver cancer.

KING: Rock denied it to you?

OLSON: Rock denied it to me.

KING: When you first read it did you feel betrayed?

OLSON: No, I didn't feel betrayed. I mean, Army Archerd has a great deal of integrity. And he always checks his stories.

KING: I mean betrayed by Rock.

OLSON: No. Because it is -- Rock was very private about many things. And I think it was his right to keep that private for as long as he possibly could.

KING: Was an official denial issued?


KING: You issued it?

OLSON: Right after that I issued a denial, in which I said that he had liver cancer, which indeed he did have, in fact.

KING: Had both...

OLSON: So, that was true. But I denied that it was AIDS until he actually told me one night in Carmel after we had gone for the Doris Day show and he broke down and told me that.

KING: When he appeared on that show, that was her show she was starting about pets, right?

OLSON: Well, that was that was the series that she did for the Christian Broadcasting Network. She called and wanted Rock to have a reunion to do the first show.

KING: And he looked absolutely terrible, right?

OLSON: He looked, well, that's what had happened. I tried to talk him out of doing it because there was a press conference to announce it with Doris. I desperately tried to convince him he should not do that. And he kept saying, no I have to do this, Doris wants me, and he insisted.

KING: Now there we see the picture of him and Doris and obviously, that was not a Rock Hudson we were accustomed to.

OLSON: No, that is exactly the picture that was taken that day.

KING: He told you soon after? OLSON: He told me actually the next night.

KING: OK. Before we get the rest of the panel, how did he tell you and what exactly, as you remember, were the words?

OLSON: Well, I had asked Doris to talk to him because I was concerned about him and I wanted him to go for treatments. He wouldn't open up to me, and I said, Doris, I think I know what's wrong, but I want you to talk to him because he is very sick and would you talk to him.

So I arranged for them to have a breakfast alone the next morning. And she did talk to him that night, the day before shooting. He called me in my room and said, would you come over, I need to talk to you. I said sure. So I went to his room, and there in front of me were six scotches on the rocks, his drink, and five vodkas on the rocks, which was my drink, and I said you must be planning a long conversation. And it was all night.

And he broke down and told me about the problems of his life, and what had happened to him, and what this was, and that he was going to go and have help.

KING: As his publicist, did you know he was gay?

OLSON: Oh, of course.

KING: That you knew?


KING: Army, how did you break this? How did you find it out?

ARMY ARCHERD, DAILY VARIETY SR. COLUMNIST: Well, it was really no secret that there was a problem with Rock Hudson for a long time.

KING: But no one had printed AIDS and Rock Hudson until you did, right?

ARCHERD: No, the word "AIDS" really did not exist, Larry. People didn't know that word at that time. The AIDS virus itself had barely been identified, correct, doctor? And so, talking about AIDS just didn't exist but I had heard that he was very, very ill and I had seen a copy of the doctor's report. Actually the lab's report sent it to his doctor which told about the sarcoma -- what do you call it...

DR. MICHAEL GOTTLEIB, ROCK HUDSON'S PHYSICIAN: Kaposi's Sarcoma, which of course is AIDS, and I knew about it.

KING: This week you wrote terrifically, looking back on that column. Great piece you wrote.

ARCHERD: Well, it's the 20th anniversary of the identification of the AIDS virus.

KING: Did you ever think, I'm not going to print it? There you see the picture of you and Rock on the column you wrote this week about that column. Did you have second thoughts?

ARCHERD: About printing the column?

KING: Yeah.

ARCHERD: Oh, I had more than second thoughts. I had third, fourth, fifth, and sixth thoughts. And before I wrote it I called my wife at home I said well, you know, we saw what Rock looked like when he was up there with Doris Day. When he arrived up there, Carmel, Doris's son Terry met him at the plane, and he was so shocked that he didn't think it was possible that he could bring Rock to see Doris, because she would faint when she saw how sad he looked.

And took him to the hotel at that time and had him rest for a while before bringing him over to Doris's. Doris, as Dale said, try to convince him not to make any more public appearances. So when that picture broke, the whole world, the whole country saw that this was not the Rock Hudson that we all knew and that we all liked.

So I said at that time I have got to find out what's happening. I found out he had gone to the Pasture Institute in Paris and then I found out he is going to leave again to go back there, and that is the Pasture Institute in Paris was where they had been doing lot of research on AIDS.

And I tried to reach him desperately to find out, you know, what is happening, rock, what are you doing? He had left. He was in Paris where I knew the story would break, Rock Hudson is there. So as Dale said, in the most gentle way, I said that he was going there and pointed out specifically at that time, because I knew from doctors with whom I had spoken, that this horrible surge would soon cover the world. And it would not be just whites, it would could cover every part -- poor, rich, black, white, young, old.

KING: Did your publisher back you all the way? Editor and everyone at "Variety" say go with this?

ARCHERD: I broke the story. My editor was very suspicious and the next morning as Dale knew, when the story broke I mean all hell broke all around the world.

KING: They denied it?

ARCHERD: Dale had the unfortunate position of being on television to say that, you know, it is not true.

KING: Hold it right there, we will come right back. We are going to talk more than just about AIDS but about keeping secrets, and how Sara got together with him, how Robert felt and the doctor's look at all of this. It is our subject full the full hour. Tomorrow night George Carlin will be here. Next Tuesday, Paul McCartney. We'll be right back.


KING: Did you see him right before he died? ELIZABETH TAYLOR, ACTRESS: Oh, yeah, I was with him the night before. And, he couldn't remember today. He could remember yesterday. But he could remember the present. And we laughed about making chocolate martinis, and -- he was just skin and bones. And I thought, I am going to do everything in my living power to get at this disease, and kill it by its throat.





DORIS DAY, ACTOR: Would you stop that banging down there? What are you doing? You will wake up the -- dead.

HUDSON: But Judy, what's wrong?

DAY: Ask Linda!

HUDSON: What did you do that for? Will you let me in? Judy, I swear to you, please let me in! I will catch my death of cold!

DAY: Good! And be sure to give it to Linda!


KING: Robert Stack, how did you react when you read Army's column or first heard about this?

ROBERT STACK, ACTOR: You know, Larry, he was the nicest -- and I was born in this town, I say nicest in the sense of being more aware of other people, more caring.

Nobody knew much about AIDS then. I was stricken, as we've discussed, when I saw him, the deterioration and all. It was a tragedy. Because my mother said, this is one of the handsomest young men I have ever known, and also he has the best manners of anybody that you brought by the house.

KING: Did you, as a coworker, did you know he was gay?

STACK: Well, we had all kind of heard that. I'm -- I'm close to the police department, and we heard that he one time had picked up a young boy or something, but you know, I always figured in this profession, with this Ingrid Bergman with Rosselini, is none of my damn business, you know.

KING: You could always stay removed from stuff like that.

STACK: Yeah. He never impinged himself upon me either.

KING: Sara, how did you get access? SARA DAVIDSON, ROCK HUDSON'S BIOGRAPHER: I was hired by his accountant and lawyer who were looking for a writer to write his official story.

KING: Were you aware of this?



DAVIDSON: So, I've...

KING: So, this was after AIDS, he wanted to tell it or not?

DAVIDSON: After the announcement, after he was forced to announce that he had AIDS, they came up with this idea to write a book, and the proceeds would go to the Rock Hudson AIDS Research Foundation. So, they needed a writer.

I happened to be in New York, in my agent's office, talking about what my next book might be, when she got a call saying, Rock Hudson has sold the rights to his story and they are looking for a writer. Ten minutes later, I'm walking out in the street, I have got this book to write that I didn't wake that up morning expecting to write, and I stopped in my tracks and said: "He has AIDS." As these gentlemen have said, I didn't know what that was.

KING: You thought you could catch it.

DAVIDSON: I thought I could -- I was scared that I made some pact with the devil, and I could -- and I had a six-month-old baby, and I was terrified at going from his house where this man was dying of AIDS to my home and picking up my newborn baby.

So, I called a friend of mine, who was a doctor at Harvard and said: "Is there any chance that I can catch it by being in his house?" And he said: "I don't think so, but because the disease is so new, nobody can tell you for sure." So I decided that I wasn't going to eat or drink anything in the house, and I wasn't going to touch him, and I was going to try not to use the restroom.

So, I walk in the first day to meet him, and he is sitting in the kitchen in his pajamas, opening the thousands of letters and telegrams that are pouring in, and he stands up and says: "Hi, I'm Rock Hudson." And there was no way not to shake his hand.

KING: Dr. Gottleib, how did you come into the case?

GOTTLEIB: I met Rock in 1984, when his private physician, Beverly Hills, called me and asked me to come down to her office, and visit with him.

KING: And your expertise is -- your specialty is?

GOTTLEIB: My specialty is immunology, and I was involved in some of the early descriptions of AIDS. KING: This was prior to Army's column.

GOTTLEIB: Oh, well prior. Well prior.

KING: OK. So, you met him?


KING: And?

GOTTLEIB: And he was a very, very nice man, and he had a very nice manner, and he smiled and greeted me.

KING: How soon before you knew he had?

GOTTLEIB: I pretty well knew when she had told me she had made the diagnosis, and she brought me in to consult with respect to where we should go from there.

KING: He knew at that time he had it, then?


KING: How did he handle that?

GOTTLEIB: Well, I examined him, and he -- I recall that he was very tall, of course, and I recall that I told him, I said: "Oh, you are so tall," because certainly people on the big screen are tall, but I had never imagined that he would have this charismatic presence.

And he took it very well. He knew that he had something very serious. He was aware of the disease. He had friends who had been affected. And he knew that there was no cure at that time.

KING: Do you feel justified, Army, when the story actually broke?

ARCHERD: Justified in printing the story?

KING: Yeah.

ARCHERD: Well, absolutely, because, first of all, it was already a common piece of knowledge that Rock Hudson was desperately ill. And it was being swept under the table, and no one was trying to face the fact that AIDS was the horrible, horrible disease.

KING: When they denied it, were you hurt?

ARCHERD: Oh, I was not only hurt, I was mad, because first of all, I have always had a great repetition for honesty and integrity, and for someone to deny a story of mine, of course, would not exactly sit well with any journalist.

KING: Dale, were you lying, then?

OLSON: No, I wasn't lying, actually. KING: But you said he had liver cancer.

OLSON: Yes. I simply ignored the fact that he had AIDS, but I announced that he had liver cancer.

KING: Did he have liver cancer, doctor?


KING: All right. Let me take a break and come back, and we'll talk about secrecy and more about AIDS and involve everyone, including your phone calls. Don't go away.


KING: AIDS, were we late on that?

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think -- certainly we -- it was -- we were not unnecessarily so, it was a plain case of catching up with things, and I immediately appointed a commission to get into the whole problem of AIDS and come back with a recommendation of what we could and should be doing.

KING: You think Rock Hudson focused a lot of our attention on it?

REAGAN: Oh, I think that brought a lot of attention to it.

KING: Did you know him?




HUDSON: I promise, no more. And I promise to behave myself.


HUDSON: Sorry. I have embarrassed you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you haven't. Tony, I think I love you.


KING: By the way, Dr. Michael Gottleib, who treated Rock Hudson at UCLA, was one of the pioneers in AIDS research. He identified AIDS as a new disease in 1981 and reported it to the CDC. Were you shocked?

GOTTLEIB: At what?

KING: At finding it.

GOTTLEIB: Oh, definitely very surprised to find something totally new.

KING: A new virus.

GOTTLEIB: Exactly.

KING: Why -- who hated you? Who was mad at you, Army?

ARCHERD: Well, first of all, if I may, Larry, I come not to bury Caesar, nor to praise him, but there are certain facts about this entire Rock Hudson story that should be realized.

As the doctor said, he told him he had AIDS. He knew he had AIDS in 1984, was already, I think, the second time it was a confirmation that he had that, as he called it, the sarcoma. And so he was very cognizant of the fact that he had AIDS, and he was not a stupid man, and he knew what the ramifications of AIDS was.

In spite of this, two things: he continued a lifestyle endangering lives of so many people in San Francisco; the stories that were very well-known, those kinds of things did not fit in with the kind of person that we liked to believe Rock Hudson was.

Secondly, the fact that he wanted to conceal the fact that he had AIDS, and that he did, might possibly have continued to his death. As the "New York Times" even said, for me and to me, if I had not printed the column, it is possible that the world would not have known that Rock Hudson died of AIDS. And that a celebrity died of AIDS.

Remember, there was no one who knew he had AIDS. You knew who had cancer, you knew who had multiple sclerosis, you knew who had every disease, and -- but no one knew the celebrity. Once a celebrity had it, then it became something worthwhile...

KING: Dale, does he have a good point?



OLSON: That is an interesting point, because I consider Rock Hudson the hero of AIDS awareness.

KING: He could have infected people.

OLSON: He could have effected people, I'm sure, I don't know anything about that, because I didn't know anything about that at the time.

KING: But now that you do know...

OLSON: All I'm saying is that when that announcement was forced by the American hospital in Paris, who discovered he had AIDS when he collapsed at the Ritz Hotel.

KING: We'll show that in a minute -- go ahead. OLSON: I spoke to him and said, "Rock, this is terrible," and frankly said "you have a terminal disease. This is going to effect a lot of people. And you can be the person who can make people aware of it."

He agreed totally, was not capable of doing it himself, but asked me if I would be a spokesperson and get that message out. Which I did.

KING: That came out...

DAVIDSON: That was involuntary.

KING: It wasn't voluntary.

DAVIDSON: He was forced to do it at the hospital, and she said to him, as you remember.

OLSON: The hospital said he had to make the announcement, absolutely, but once he had to make the announcement, I wanted to change it around so that he would do good for people.

KING: I want to show that clip from France, watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Rock Hudson, has acquired immune deficiency syndrome, which was diagnosed over a year ago in the United States.


KING: We will be right back with more right after this.


MARC CHRISTIAN, ROCK HUDSON'S FORMER LOVER: The very day that the news had broke, I was sitting in his living room, he was over in Paris, and he had collapsed. And his secretary called me and said, "We have very bad news. He has got liver cancer and they are going to -- say it on the news." Of course, I'm devastated, thinking liver cancer, it is inoperable.

So, I'm watching the television, and, the Yano Collarte (ph), who was the French press secretary for him, came on and said he has acquired immune deficiency syndrome. And my first reaction was, they just discovered this? Then said later on, "which was diagnosed a year ago in the United States."

Then I knew I had been lied to.



KING: Sara Davidson, why is this -- I guess it's popular out here, and I will get everybody to comment -- this emphasis on secrecy. Hiding the truth?

DAVIDSON: Well, he was an actor who grew up at a time and entered the business at a time when it was impossible to be open about being a homosexual and getting a job.

KING: If it had been announced, he couldn't -- a love scene with Doris Day would have been a farce.

DAVIDSON: In fact, to this day, I'm not aware of any actors who play romantic roles...

KING: Who would admit it.

DAVIDSON: Who would admit it.

There's a few actress who have, but they haven't -- I think the irony is that Rock was so beloved, and so secure in who he was as an actor, that had he somehow survived AIDS and gone on to play romantic roles, I think he would have proved that it would be feasible to do that. I think his fans would have accepted it.

KING: Did you like him?

DAVIDSON: I only spent a month with him. And it was when he was dying. Of course I liked him. But I didn't really get to know him until after he died and I was given the job of piecing together his life, from those around him who shared it with him.

KING: Do you think he owed the information, Robert?

STACK: I suppose. You know, he was a very close friend of mine. And he did things for me that...

KING: We have a picture of you, and I think we have it -- we could put it up. What -- he -- you had a daughter, you want to explain this?

STACK: We were -- it was a second movie called "Tarnished Angels." We were on location. My lovely wife was about to give birth, and, I was stuck millions of miles from anywhere, no cell phone.

Now, Rock knew I was worried, and he went -- the day before he went to an airport about 20 miles away, got a direct line from the airport to the hospital. They would call him the second the baby was born. There was a guy there who was stunt flier, got him, and there were two banners that he had made. One, "It is a Boy," and one, "It is a Girl."

Now we go back and we start to shoot this shot, and the director says, there is some idiot coming! Look out! Look out! And right over the camera came "It's A Girl."

So now you say, about Rock Hudson, what kind of a guy was he? Well, I can't think of anybody I know -- I can't think of anybody in my family, my best friends, anybody who would have done that, you know. He just was -- as the Irish say, a darling man.

OLSON: Typical of the gentleman Rock Hudson was, really.

KING: It's complex. We will take a break and come back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.



HUDSON: Did I once say that being near you is like being near a pot-bellied stone on a frosty morning?


HUDSON: I was wrong.

DAY: You were?

HUDSON: More like a forest fire, completely out of control.

DAY: Know something? Out here in the country, you are very different.

HUDSON: I reckon I feel more at home, for the first time.

DAY: A man who owns a mountain doesn't belong in a big city.


KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Let's reintroduce our panel. Dale Olson is Rock Hudson's -- was Rock Hudson's publicist and long-time close friend. Dr. Michael Gottleib treated Rock Hudson at UCLA, pioneered in AIDS research himself, identified the disease as a new one in 1981.

Army Archerd, the famed columnist at "Daily Variety," senior columnist. On July 23 of '85, he wrote a column disclosing that Hudson had AIDS. Sara Davidson wrote the book "Rock Hudson, His story," published in 1986. Hudson fully cooperated. His name, in fact, is listed as coauthor. Her new novel, by the way, is "Cowboy."

And the famed Robert Stack, long-time Rock Hudson friend. He costarred with Rock in "Written on the Wind" in 1956, and "Tarnished Angels," in 1957. Rock also made a screen debut in an uncredited bit part in 1948's "Fighter Squadron," in which Stack appeared.

STACK: Yes, yes.

KING: That's right, uncredited. All right.


KING: Who hated you, Army? Who got real mad at you?

ARCHERD: Well, there are quite a few people who were upset with the fact that I had written this story. Among them, several at Dale's profession, press agents who had worked with Rock who were very fond of him and thought that I should not have done it, and who one of whom never spoke to me again.

It was a strange time. There were some people who were trying to do things about AIDS, and they couldn't get any celebrities to help them. And I got this -- I got this invitation to attend the party for a book that Carol Bayer Sager had written, and the party was being given at Tiffany's at Beverly Hills, and Carol Bayer Sager's dear friend Elizabeth Taylor would be one of the guests there who were sponsoring the party.

Just a couple days before the party, I get a call from a publicist who is representing Carol, and telling me she had a terrible thing to tell me. I said: "What's that?" She says: "You can't come to the party, I'm disinviting you to the party." I said: "What are you talking about?" She said: "If you come to the party, Elizabeth will not show up." So I said: "Well, I never heard of such a thing. But if, you know, it's putting your job in jeopardy, I don't have to go to another cocktail party, I need that like a hole in the head."

Well, fade out, fade in, and of course Elizabeth became one of the most staunch supporters of AIDS -- first it was APLA, AIDS Project Los Angeles. I got a letter this weak when I run a column celebrating the 20th anniversary of the discovery of the AIDS virus, from someone who reminded me that he had lost over 100 friends since AIDS was discovered, so they could identify the cause of death.

And he recalled that he was unable to get any support whatsoever from the celebrity Hollywood, no one would touch it. They wouldn't go near it. They didn't want to have any identification with it whatsoever. But the day after -- he wrote in this letter to me -- he said: "The day after your column appeared, we had associated AIDS with Rock Hudson," he said, "the phones rang off the hook in his office for people who wanted to help."

KING: Dr. Gottleib, what -- is it a thin line for the doctor between the confidentiality of the patient and the desire of the public -- or not desire of the public, the knowledge that any partner the patient has should know?

GOTTLEIB: That is a thin line. But I think the doctor -- if you are talking about whether the patient is having sexual relations, is that it?

KING: Yes, you diagnose a patient with AIDS, are you duty-bound to inform sexual partners?

GOTTLEIB: Legally, no.

KING: Is he duty-bound?

GOTTLEIB: Ethically bound.

KING: Ethically, but not legally?

GOTTLEIB: Well, the Christian case may set a precedent for that.

KING: Marc Christian won, that was civil.


KING: There is no criminal...


KING: You can't be criminally held responsible, if you're not going to tell anyone?

GOTTLEIB: Not in this state.

KING: Do you believe -- do you agree with that?


KING: You would not hold someone -- so therefore, if a partner didn't tell his partner that he had AIDS, that would be his decision?

GOTTLEIB: I think patients are often in a state of denial about whether they are HIV-positive or not. They may actually convince themselves that they are not.

KING: Sara, did Rock ever feel sorry about Marc Christian?

DAVIDSON: Not that I'm aware of. Also...

KING: But he slept with him after he knew he had AIDS.

DAVIDSON: I don't know whether he did or not.

KING: You don't believe Marc Christian then?

DAVIDSON: It depends who you talk to. Rock's closest...

KING: What did Rock say?


KING: What did he say?

DAVIDSON: By the time I met Rock, he wasn't talking about those things. Marc Christian was living in his guest house, and Tom Clark, who had been his lover for many years before, was living in the house, and he -- Marc was frozen out, he wasn't allowed to come in the house. He was holding on to his territory. It was a very strange scene.

But there was a conspiracy of silence at the time, on the part of the press -- Dale and I were talking about this. Everybody knew he was gay, but nobody would write about it. And when the book, the biography that I wrote, came out, I was attacked by people who said: "Rock would never have wanted this to be known. He wouldn't have wanted people to know about his lovers, about his romantic life." And I realized that it was because he was homosexual that they felt people didn't want to know. If he was a straight actor, everybody would have expected to hear about all the women he had loved and who had been in his life. But because he was gay, you weren't supposed to tell, weren't supposed to talk about it.

ARCHERD: Talk about ethics, Larry, if I may interrupt. Aaron Spelling was using Rock at that time in "Dynasty," he had him sign -- he signed him up for I think five, or maybe it was seven segments.


ARCHERD: Six. And Linda Evans was to be the lady...

OLSON: We're splitting -- splitting the difference here.

ARCHERD: And Aaron was so upset about the fact that Rock didn't tell him, because Aaron told me, he said: "Before anybody starts to work for us, for anybody in the business, in that kind of a role, they have to have a doctor's certification that they don't have anything, any disease whatsoever." And Aaron was upset that Rock totally hid that fact from him, and of course, from everybody else with whom he worked.

KING: Are you saying, he is not the man we thought he was, Army?

ARCHERD: I'm not saying that he wasn't the man he was, I'm saying he was the sick man that we didn't know who he was.

KING: Do you agree with that?

STACK: Yes, I think that to judge somebody in the extremes, or somebody when they are very ill as if they weren't, and we are dealing with unknown -- nobody knew the name of the disease, nobody knew what to do about it. They were worried about breathing the air from it, and I was privileged to have known him when he was Rock Hudson, and I don't make judgments on the illness.

DAVIDSON: Yeah, but all his life, he maintained this double life.

KING: What a way to live.

DAVIDSON: Yeah, and I always wondered what was the cost, what was the toll of having to keep a double life, the secrets.

KING: What do you think he paid, the price he paid, Dale, for that? He had lived a lie. Had to live a -- millions of Americans do, except they are not in the spotlight.

OLSON: Rock Hudson was not the only person who has ever done that.


OLSON: There are great many people that do that today. KING: But someone in the spotlight as a heterosexual image.

OLSON: Rock Hudson was an actor who had an image. Rock Hudson was the epitome of a movie star and the epitome of the boy next door. He was terrified that that would stop, if anybody found out about his personal life.

KING: What was that must have been like for him?

OLSON: It was miserable for him, that's why he drank so much.

KING: He did drink a lot.

OLSON: He drank a great deal.

KING: Was he a good patient, doctor?

GOTTLEIB: He was a great patient.

KING: He was cooperative?

GOTTLEIB: Friendly, kind, cooperative. He...

KING: We will be right back with more after this. Don't go away.


MARC CHRISTIAN, ROCK HUDSON'S FORMER LOVER: When the years pass you kind of wonder to yourself, "why didn't he tell me?" And I just think a lot of that had to do with the studio system. He was a very young man, 20, 21. He was brought up by Universal. They do everything for you. You never write your own check, you never pay your own bill. You live in a fantasy land to a degree. And I think he probably thought, this can't happen to me, and if I don't think I have it, then I won't have it.



KING: Dr. Gottleib, you wanted to add something?

GOTTLEIB: Larry, I wanted to follow up on an earlier point, that is the duty to inform, you know, a sexual partner. I counseled every one of my sexual patients to inform their partners about the fact that they are HIV positive or that they have any other sexually transmitted disease.

KING: But you don't know if they do?

GOTTLEIB: I don't know if they do, you are absolutely right.

ARCHERD: Did you tell that to Rock?

GOTTLEIB: Yes, he told that to me. He told me he had informed partners. In fact, when I met him the first time and confirmed that he had AIDS, he told me that he had four letters already addressed to prior sexual partners, and that he was now going to drop those in the mail. They were anonymous letters. In other words, they were letters that said, you have been exposed.

OLSON: That actually is true. And the letters were sent.

KING: To your knowledge do most of your patients follow through with that recommendation -- to your knowledge?

GOTTLEIB: To my knowledge, some do, some don't. I think it is probably 50-50, which is why it is important for me to continue to pound on them, to let them know that it is their obligation.

KING: This is obviously, Sara, a conflicted individual whose circumstances of life made him conflictive.

DAVIDSON: Yes, and the irony is that he lived his whole life terrified that he would be exposed. In fact, I was told that...

KING: Of being gay, you mean?

DAVIDSON: Of being gay. I was told that sometimes he would be sitting around with four or five guys and they would think about going out to dinner and they'd look around and say, too many boys. We can't go out with this many boys and no women.

ARCHERD: That is why he went to San Francisco where he didn't worry about that -- truly.

DAVIDSON: So having spent his whole life terrified of this secret coming out when it was announced, when he was forced to make it public, the opposite happened of what he had feared. He became beloved, popular, he got 30,000 letters. We are sitting here today talking about Rock Hudson because he did come out and announce it.

KING: Did you see him after you knew he had AIDS.

STACK: Yes. I saw him -- this is a strange story -- a young lady that I knew was one of the early people who had AIDS before it had a name, and the doctor saw it and he said it was Kaposi's Sarcoma. He worked with Sweitzer in Africa and he said I have never seen this in this country before.

And as a consequence she had an appendectomy. She had a transfusion, and she died of the disease without anybody knowing what the disease was. I mean, that goes way, way back. So when it first came out, the fear, the trauma that went with just who do you touch, what do you say, can you breath the air, you know?

KING: So, what was your meeting like with Rock?

STACK: It was -- as I say, he was a dear friend. And my wife and my mother, we all thought he was one of the nicest guys in the business. That never changed.

KING: What did you say to him?

STACK: I just said, the cliche of all, how are you? What are you going to say? The man looked like he was dying of cancer.

KING: What did he say?

STACK: He just said good you see you, Bob. You know, you lie around these important things, Larry, you know.

KING: Were you were with him when he died, Dale?

OLSON: I was not with him the day he died. I was with him virtually every day after he came back from Paris.

KING: He went to UCLA after that, right? Came home from UCLA and died at home.

OLSON: Yes. He went to UCLA but then he was taken home and I was there every day, as was Elizabeth Taylor, incidentally -- very loyal. Elizabeth was at his house virtually every day up until the day he died.

KING: Did he know he was going to die?


KING: We will be right back with more of Dale Olson, Dr. Michael Gottleib, Army Archerd, Sara Davidson, and Robert Stack. Don't go away.


KING: Sara, he died three and a half weeks after you had completed work with him, right?

DAVIDSON: After I met him.

KING: What was that like? In his last days?

DAVIDSON: He had good days and bad days. He had days when he was very alert and full of humor and he'd come downstairs and eat ice cream and joke with everybody. And then he had days when he couldn't get out of bed.

KING: And he knew the whole world was talking about him, right?

DAVIDSON: Yes, but he kind of got a kick out of it, I have to tell you. Don't forget, this was man whose career was on the wane


KING: He did? He enjoyed it, that true?

OLSON: Oh, sure, I would bring him these things, he would pore over all of the mail. And the kids in West Los Angeles did a whole role that they put all over West Los Angeles streets of messages, and people came and wrote them. He loved that.

KING: Folks, we have an old friend of his and of mine on the phone, Angie Dickinson, are you there?


KING: You worked with him in "Pretty Maids In All A Row," right?

DICKINSON: Yes, I did, and hello, to everybody. I'm sorry I couldn't be on the show. You know you've got Dale there, right?

KING: Yep.

DICKINSON: And Dale certainly was great to Rock.

KING: Did you know that he was gay?

DICKINSON: No, I didn't. First of all, well, I did at a certain point but not most of his life. And that was never important to me. And, I don't even know when I knew or when I suspected or when I -- I tell you one little story, may I?

KING: Sure.

DICKINSON: Before I run out of time. We were at Dinah Shore's for dinner, just a small group, maybe 8 people, maybe 10, and Rock was there. And I was there with a fellow, and Rock was there with a fellow.

And we were having dinner and the house man came up behind me and said, "Miss Dickinson, we have a problem outside. Somebody -- the police are around your limousine."

And, so I said, "The police are around my limousine?"

And Rock said, "Angie and I will go take care of it." And we did. He was MacMillan and I was Pepper, and we went out there, we literally thought we could handle it. And they busted my driver for cocaine possession, and Rock and I were play-acting.

KING: Did -- were you -- when you learned of the AIDS, did you talk to him after that at all?

DICKINSON: Yes, did. I think Dale is the one who told me I was the one person to get through in Paris.

KING: I spoke to him in Paris?

DICKINSON: Yes, I did.

KING: What did he say?

DICKINSON: Well, he was very quiet, and I said, you know Rock, you better get back here, because Dinah can't have any dinners without you. We loved going to Dinah Shore's house, as you know -- you went with me, Larry. KING: Sure did.

DICKINSON: She was so wonderful, and it is always so hard to say something to somebody who is dying. And he laughed and he said, oh, yeah, I will get back there, I have got to have dinner. He played along with it.

KING: Angie, because of time, I wish you could have been here. Why did everyone like him so much?

DICKINSON: Well, he was a warm, and very understated, and -- but the warmth. And his beautiful eyes, he just showed approval all the time.

KING: Thanks, Angie.

DICKINSON: Thank you for doing this show on our dear, dear wonderful friend.

KING: Angie Dickinson.

DICKINSON: God bless you, Larry.

KING: Bye, dear.


KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with out panel after this.


KING: Dale Olson, you were telling me that Angie Dickinson and President Reagan were the only two that got through to...

OLSON: Angie Dickinson and President Reagan were the only two people who got through directly to Rock Hudson in Paris, other than myself, and other people who worked for him.

And as a result of the call from President Reagan, government put through $40 million in research aid for AIDS, and I told Rock about that, and he was very proud of that.

It took two years, though.

KING: Yes, it took a long time. Doctor, how are we doing in this? We keep hearing, everybody lives a lot longer, drugs are amazing, true?

GOTTLEIB: We are doing a lot better, for people who can take the drugs, they are great. But a lot of people can't take them because of side effects. So, it is still no picnic having HIV.

KING: But are people living with this -- there's a story of a guy, 20 years with it? GOTTLEIB: Definitely, the downturn in the death rate started in 1995. And it has continued a lot of people who had a poor prognosis are doing much better. And Rock was one of the first people to try an experimental anti viral medication.

KING: Really?

GOTTLEIB: That is what he was doing in Paris.

KING: In a way, Robert, his death helped others.


KING: Right? Focus attention, got more money.

STACK: He probably woke them up. We didn't know about AIDS to begin with, and as a consequence, as you say, he was a search light, he was a symbol, and all of a sudden being a movie star to compound it, gave it a kind of a patina of special-ness that...

DAVIDSON: He was somebody that President Reagan knew personally, and worked with, who had AIDS.

KING: You saw him right before he died, right?

DAVIDSON: I saw him the day before he died. And people often talk about when people are on the edge, that a kind of transcendent radiance comes into them, and he absolutely had it. I remember walking into his bedroom, saying good-bye, because I was about to leave for New York to interview some people, and he just smiled this radiant smile. He looked totally at peace.

KING: That is good to know. Did you get the same reaction, Dale?

OLSON: Yes. Yes. There were times, there were times when I wasn't sure he knew what he was talking to throughout this, just as Sara has said, it came and went. But I got that same feeling, that he was at peace.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) patients you lose at times, Doctor?

GOTTLEIB: At that stage, some people are ready. They have that sense, and a sense of calm.

KING: Are you happy about the role you played in all of this, Army.

ARCHERD: I'm unhappy about story, totally, because it is so sad. But you know, you mentioned Ronald Reagan, and thanks to Ronald Reagan, that a lot of men are not dying of prostate cancer because he came out with it.

And that Nancy Reagan came out with the fact she had breast cancer, and that Shirley Temple came out, celebrity helped and Rock Hudson would have helped long before Army Archerd printed this story. KING: Are you saying then, any celebrity with any major disease should come out?

GOTTLEIB: They should come out to help.

KING: Come out to help, and certainly, would you agree, Robert?

STACK: Of course.

KING: If you have AIDS, I think you owe it to come out, so you certainly owe it to the people you are associated with.

ARCHERD: Sure, because if you are going to die, you may as well make it worthwhile.

DAVIDSON: I think Rock went full circle from utter secrecy to having everything known about him, and I would hope that...

KING: I can't thank you all of you enough. You were a great panel, on an important subject. Thank you.

DAVIDSON: Thank you, Larry.

STACK: Thank you.

OLSON: Thank you.

KING: They all obviously miss him.

Friday on LARRY KING LIVE, comedian and author George Carlin. If you want to submit questions early, you can check out our Web site at

Saturday night, a tribute to the late Anthony Quinn. We'll play you highlights of previous interviews with Anthony Quinn, a great book show coming up on Sunday night, including Sumner Redstone.

Monday night, we will talk about the planned execution of Timothy McVeigh.

Tuesday night, Paul McCartney.

"CNN TONIGHT" is next. For our panel and myself, thanks for joining us and good night.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top