Just In: Nancy Reagan Abandoned Rock Hudson on Death Bed; 5 ’80s Stars Who Stood up for AIDS Awareness

Elizabeth Taylor in 1986 via Wikimedia Commons

In July of 1985, beloved actor Rock Hudson arrived in Paris seeking more advanced AIDS treatment than was accessible in the United States. Upon arrival, Hudson collapsed at the Ritz hotel, and was promptly admitted to the American hospital there. But Hudson was seeking a specific doctor — Dr. Dominique Dormant — who had treated him in secret the year prior, and whose treatment Hudson believed to be the only course that would alleviate his suffering.

Dr. Dormant was refused access to Hudson’s hospital room, and in desperation after many attempts to get proper treatment, Hudson’s publicist Dale Olson sent a telegraph to the actor’s friends at the White House, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, according to an article published by Buzzfeed today. Olson sought a request from the White House for Dr. Dormant to be allowed to treat the actor, who was now dying in his hospital bed.

Nancy Reagan refused.

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The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

That kind of uncompassionate inaction is shocking now, but in the 1980s, homophobia, a misunderstanding of the illness, and societal stigmas ran rampant. That makes these ’80s stars and figures, who worked to support AIDS activism even then, so astounding.

Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor founded the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation in 1991, but her work and support started in the ’80s, when misconceptions prevailed. The opening page of her foundation’s website aptly reads,

“It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance.”

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Elizabeth Taylor via Wikimedia Commons

Sheryl Lee Ralph
You may remember Sheryl Lee Ralph from Moesha, or from Broadway in Dreamgirls, but her activism in support of AIDS research deserves recognition as well. In 1990, Ralph founded the DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware) Foundation, which works to decrease infection rates and diminish stigma.

Arsenio Hall
In 1987, Arsenio Hall hosted the cult-success season of The Late Show, continuing with his own syndicated program, The Arsenio Hall Show, following its cancellation. Hall leveraged his fame to battle worldwide prejudices against AIDS, later filming an AIDS PSA with Magic Johnson in the early 1990s.

Elizabeth Glaser
Wife of actor and director Paul Michael Glaser (Detectiv David Starsky to you,) Elizabeth was a tireless AIDS activist, founding the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in 1988. The foundation exists now in 12 countries with a goal of eliminating HIV infection and pediatric AIDS, through advocacy, research, prevention, and treatment.

Larry Kramer
Kramer, the LGBT rights activist and public health advocate, will be better known to some as the playwright responsible for The Normal Heart, which HBO turned into a film starring Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts in 2014. Kramer witnessed the passing of many of his friends from AIDS, which inspired the play. In 1987 he continued his activism, founding ACT UP, or AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, a protest organization dedicated to increase public action in the fight against the AIDS crisis.

Bret Easton Ellis Agrees With Paris Hilton About Gays & AIDS

Great minds think alike!  One-man peanut gallery Bret Easton Ellis has tweeted that he "kind of" agrees with Paris Hilton’s dumb-ass comments about promiscuous gays on Grindr all having AIDS, because … well … what would this scandal be without Ellis weighing in, really?

Earlier this week Hilton was recorded by a cab driver discussing Grindr, which I think needs no introduction here, and Paris Hilton-ly squealed:

Gay guys are the horniest people in the world. They’re disgusting. Dude, most of them probably have AIDS…I would be so scared if I was a gay guy. You’ll like, die of AIDS.

First of all, shut up, Paris Hilton. Like you should be calling anyone disgusting.

Second of all, gay guys are not the horniest people in the world: evangelical Christian and Satmyr Jew teenagers are, obviously.

But I suppose that is neither here nor there, but American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis  weighed in on Twitter yesterday to add his two cents:

I kind of agree with Paris Hilton. As someone who has used Grindr? Paris Hilton is not that far off. 

What an excellent example of a damaging culture sterotype being promoted by someone who should know better. 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter and Tumblr

Naive Yale Alumnus Doesn’t Want You to Forget About Privileged AIDS Victims

There’s a lot of gay art about AIDS. Not that I’m saying that all gay art is about AIDS, or even that all art is gay (I mean, most of it is too BORING to be gay), but it’s a pretty regular theme. I mean, rightly so! A lot of gay artists died from AIDS! You know, in addition to an entire generation of gay men, a community that included people from many socioeconomic classes! And those people ought to be recognized and remembered because the cultural yield of those deaths is still being felt by people today. So, you might be asking, how can one go about remembering them in the most wrong way possible?

Well, by being completely ignorant, I suppose, which is what a young Yale alumnus named Christopher Glazek has recently experienced. As seen in today’s edition of The New York Times, the young Glazek recently learned a Very Special Lesson about AIDS:

Death began to monopolize Christopher Glazek’s interest a few months after he graduated from Yale in 2007. Summoned to Baltimore by a dear college friend, he was attending the funeral of her two younger siblings, who had died in a house fire that had also injured her father, a Yale alumnus.

Afterward, some of the mourners, most of them Yale-connected, gathered around a kitchen table to console, commiserate and reminisce. Out of the ether of nostalgia, an absent alumnus, Frank Gaines (class of 1975), was brought up in conversation: It turned out he had died young, and AIDS had killed him.

“Everyone was laughing about how funny he was and what great clothes he wore, and they were talking about Frank’s friends, and then suddenly someone said, ‘Of course, Frank’s gone, and all his friends are gone, too,’ ” recalled Mr. Glazek, now 27 and a senior editor at the magazine n+1.

His naïveté back then still astounds him. “I asked, ‘What do you mean?’ and someone said, ‘That whole generation, it was the AIDS era.’ ”

Mr. Glazek remembers being “floored.”

“I think,” he continued, “I asked something stupid like, ‘So a lot of Yalies died from AIDS?’ ”

They had, especially alumni from the 1970s and early ’80s. “The thought immediately crossed my mind,” he said, “that I would likely have died from AIDS, too, had I been born 25 years earlier.”

OK, here is my first question: how does one graduate from Yale in 2007 as a gay man and not have any concept of the AIDS crisis of 20 years previous? As a gay man just two years older than Glazek, this is pretty mind-blowing. What’s more mind-blowing is that Glazek is described in the article as "untouched by HIV or AIDS." And to that, here is my response:

Not to get all Grampa Gay on you here, especially as I am someone who was born during the early days of the AIDS crisis and not someone who experienced it first-hand, but I don’t think it requires much thought to understand why a 25-year-old gay man in New York City cannot possibly be untouched by HIV and AIDS. You don’t know anyone who has it? Good! You are not HIV-positive yourself? Even better! But how ridiculously stupid can one be, assuming that they are personally above the disease itself? And why would the Times profile this person instead of suggesting that this mindset is actually indicative of an incredibly disturbing trend among young, urban-dwelling gay men of a certain socioeconomic status?

Anyway, blah blah blah, now that the young man is an editor at n+1 and has discovered what AIDS is, he has taken it upon himself to teach others about how much it sucks that people died from it in the ’80s. And not just all people, but the most important people: YALE GRADUATES.

Mr. Glazek had barely heard of AIDS until college. “We mostly saw it as an African problem, and a little bit as an inner-city American problem,” he said. “Nobody ever talked about it as a disease among Yale students and staff.”

Let us not forget how rich white people died of AIDS! Ugh, don’t you hate how those poor Africans and inner-city black people get ALL THE ATTENTION? Oh, and in case you missed it before:

Of course, the folks over at Yale are excited as all hell about some Yale graduates turning a zeitgeisty mirror back at the Ivy League institution: 

“One reads so much about this generation being academically adrift and glued to their texting and tweeting, but this is a serious piece of work devoted to real research that incorporates visual technology as well as verbal recollection,” said Joseph W. Gordon, dean of undergraduate education at Yale College. “It’s not as though the AIDS epidemic is over anywhere in the world, not even in New Haven.”

Yes, let’s congratulate some kids who admit that they never knew anything about AIDS before they went to college. Firstly, I’m glad they made it to Yale! What an accomplishment, and it certainly speaks volumes about the incoming freshman that will make up the class of 2016. (How many of them know about AIDS? I’m guessing maybe four, tops.) And if we can get these kids to Tweet about AIDS rather than, like, sandwiches, I guess? Well then, those millions of deaths will surely not be in vain.