After the health scare, Hudson continued to work, but his health wasn’t getting any better. He refused to quit smoking, and he was in ill health while filming the action-drama film “The Ambassador” in Israel during late 1983 and early 1984. While doing so, he also didn’t get along with co-star Robert Mitchum, who was a serious drinker and would easily get belligerent, clashing with Hudson and other cast members, as well as crew members, while off-camera.
By the time Hudson returned from Tel Aviv in 1984, Hudson’s health had declined even further. The next step in the story has a couple of possibilities. One of them is that he immediately sought out medical attention after returning home, but the other is that he ignored it, only to be notified by none other than First Lady Nancy Reagan that he had a blemish on his neck.
The Famous Urban Legend
For some reason, in the early 70s, an urban legend began to circulate, saying that Hudson was married to actor Jim Nabors. Not only was such an act not allowed in the United States at the time, but Nabors and Hudson have only ever been described as friends. The joke went that Hudson would take the surname of Nabors’s famous character Gomer Pyle, thus becoming “Rock Pyle.”
The joke was so widespread that the October 1972 edition of “MAD” magazine featured a joke about the fake relationship, which was spread by people who failed to get the joke. As a result, Hudson and Nabor are said to have never spoken to each other again, and at least weren’t seen in public with one another ever again.
In 1981, with Hudson now sitting pretty at about 55 years old, he began to develop health problems. All his life he had been a heavy smoker and drinker, and the vices were finally beginning to take a toll. These complications eventually led to a heart attack in November of that year.
Hudson underwent an emergency quintuple bypass surgery, which sidelined his new TV show “The Devlin Connection” for a year – the show was canceled in December 1982, not long after it aired. His health also forced him to turn down the role of Col. Sam Trautman in the Sylvester Stallone movie “First Blood” which is a bit of a shame, since it’s likely to have been Hudson’s most popular and maybe even his most successful movie. Even after his emergency surgery, Hudson continued to smoke.
A Stunning Diagnosis
No matter how he ended up going to the doctor’s office, the end result was the same: Hudson had just been handed a death sentence. He had AIDS. This was long before you could pop a daily pill to keep yourself healthy – there was no cure, and the diagnosis was grim. Hudson was given a year to live.
The disease was heavily associated with homosexuality, and discussing it was taboo at the time – for this famous actor to fall under the disease could have been a big blow to himself, his legacy, and his fans. While experts are unsure how exactly Hudson contracted the disease, there are several possibilities, including that it came about from a blood transfusion following his quintuple bypass surgery. We will never truly know.
Doing Some Good
While there were many who suffered from AIDS and HIV, Rock Hudson was among the first celebrities to come out and declare that he actually had it – which he did on July 25th, 1985. Due to the stigma, those who were hit with it kept it to themselves and their loved ones.
But Hudson’s actions began to reverse the stigma and began the long process of turning it into something that a person could fight – but it took a lot of effort and bravery to make the announcement. Suddenly, the stigma that surrounded the disease had taken a hit. Though the road was a long one, Hudson’s decision to go public eventually led to a greater focus on the disease and eventually a cure. He turned it from a moral affliction into a disease.