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.


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.”


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.

Gene Kelly and Ten Other Dead Dudes We’d Totally Sleep With

My eyes were a little cloudy and heavy this morning when I got into the office, and I knew exactly what would perk me up: Google Image Searching Gene Kelly. Sure, some people would pick coffee, but some people would pick Gene Kelly. Right? That’s a thing that people do? Well, you should, because Gene Kelly was a handsome bro. I think even those who weren’t into dudes who hopped around on his toes and danced the nights away would be into him, because he basically looked like a linebacker who could also plié. And it got the gears in my brain a-movin’ and a-turnin’, and I started wondering: wouldn’t it be great if time travel were real and I could go back in time to have sex with Gene Kelly?

Look, let’s not get weird about this. You would, too. And you know what? I bet there’s a whole bunch of other now-dead people who were pretty attractive when they were alive. Here’s my list, and feel free to comment below with your own!

1. The Searchers-era Jeffrey Hunter

Sorry that the Comanche killed your parents, Martin, but you’re still hot so it’ll be OK!

2. A Streetcar Named Desire-era Marlon Brando

Goddamn those arms. I mean, bless those arms, but also goddamn those arms.

3. Rock Hudson in everything

You know? He might actually be game for this.

4. A Place in the Sun-era Montgomery Clift

This guy would probably be a handful, but there’s something really romantic about having to save someone, right?

5. Paul Newman in everything


6. Hamlet-era Laurence Olivier

This one is kind of a wild card, but there’s something creepily sexy about that Aryan dye-job.

7. John Cazale in everything

Speaking of creepy! But Meryl Streep slept with him, and that’s a big endorsement as far as I’m concerned.

8. Midnight Express-era Brad Davis

Despite the history of sexual abuse, the drug use, the alcoholism, this guy was kind of a catch!

9. River Phoenix in everything


10. Bullitt-era Steve McQueen

Don’t you think he’d treat you like total shit? Sign me up.

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