Writer, Who Disclosed Rock Hudson Had Aids, Dies

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Gossip columnist Army Archerd died this week in Los Angeles at the age of 87. He was the first journalist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One of Archerd's biggest scoops was the revelation in 1985 that Rock Hudson had AIDS.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The king of Hollywood news died this week at the age of 87. Army Archerd was the first journalist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His columns appeared in Daily Variety, a Bible for the entertainment industry. Army Archerd always began with the words good morning. He broke plenty of stories in his half century at Variety. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports on one in particular that had ramifications far beyond the entertainment industry.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Army Archerd was the first to report that Rock Hudson, long considered one of Hollywood's sexiest leading men, had AIDS.

Mr. ARMY ARCHERD: The Rock Hudson AIDS story was probably one of the most difficult stories I had to print.

GRIGSBY BATES: That's a 2003 interview with Archerd in the Archives of American Television. Almost six months earlier, someone had slipped Archerd a copy of Hudson's AIDS diagnosis from the French hospital that had been treating the star. Archerd recalled he held off reporting it while he gathered more information. But when a gaunt and obviously ill Hudson appeared at a televised press conference at the side of his long-time co-star Doris Day, Archerd said it was clear what was wrong with Hudson.

Mr. ARCHERD: He looked awful. He really was in the ravages of a dread disease.

GRIGSBY BATES: Hudson's publicist and manager both denied he had AIDS, but the star eventually released a public statement confirming Archerd's report. Rock Hudson died about two months after Archerd's initial story. Army Archerd's reporting suddenly gave a public face to AIDS and tempered some of the harsh judgments directed a many people with AIDS. The stigma was so great, AIDS deaths were often attributed to secondary diseases such as cancer and pneumonia. Several of Hudson's friends were furious that instead of doing that, Archerd had reported on what was really killing the star. But many news organizations now say Army Archerd's revelation forced the public to face the plague years earlier than it otherwise would have.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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