Actors Fund Fans: Rock Hudson & Dale Olson
Not long ago, a short clip featuring Rock Hudson speaking in support of The Actors Fund surfaced on YouTube. Curious to learn more, we contacted Rock’s longtime publicist and friend — and Actors Fund Trustee — Dale Olson, who enlightened us:
In early 1984, The Sands Hotel in Atlantic City — interested in doing a benefit for The Fund — contacted our New York office. Searching for a star to make a special appearance, The Fund called Olson, who in turn phoned Hudson, who jumped at the chance to do his part. The Sands provided a helicopter to and from New York, where Hudson had an apartment.
“Rock thought it was a hoot because he had never been to Atlantic City, and we walked the Boardwalk and he signed autographs—he just had a wonderful time.”
Susan Saint James, Morgan Fairchild and Susan Lucci also attended the March 31, 1984 event, which was hosted and underwritten by Mr. and Mrs. William Weidner (Mr. Weidner was the President of The Sands). Hudson accepted The Sands’ $40,000 donation and spoke about The Fund, particularly mentioning one point especially important to Olson: The Fund helps everyone in the entertainment industry, not just actors. Hudson was persuaded by the showgirls to dance, so Olson arranged a photo, which appeared in Time magazine — with a shout out to The Fund.
It wasn’t long after this Atlantic City event that Hudson found out he had AIDS — he was the first international celebrity to go public with the disease. After witnessing the solidly built actor’s rapid decline and death — Olson visited him every day throughout his illness — Olson decided to devote much of his time to AIDS awareness and fundraising.
“I learned about AIDS through Rock — the devastation of AIDS through Rock — which motivated me to be more active on a hands-on basis with AIDS.”
Just after Hudson’s death, Olson announced he was going to launch The Rock Hudson Foundation for AIDS Relief. But when Elizabeth Taylor — a great friend of Hudson’s — decided to start the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Olson called her up, and threw his support behind her, realizing Taylor could ultimately raise more money.
“So, from that time on, every time I’ve asked Elizabeth for anything, like a special autographed picture for one of our auctions, she has always come forth with something.”
Olson then decided to devote his time to finding a cure, and that’s when he became an Actors Fund Trustee, which has hands-on programs for people with AIDS, including The Actors Fund HIV/AIDS Initiative, and works to help people living with the disease in whatever way necessary. He has helped connect numerous people in need to The Fund’s social services, and has dedicated a great amount of time and numerous resources to the cause. For example, as a member of the West Coast Housing Committee for the Palm View Residence in West Los Angeles — which offers affordable housing for entertainment industry professionals living with HIV/AIDS — Olson announced its groundbreaking, placed numerous articles, and opened the building with a gala hosted by Bea Arthur and Rod Steiger.
Today, one of Olson’s top priorities is reminding the general public that, while advanced medications are — fortunately — helping those living with AIDS, it is still an enormous threat. Because much of the public now believes the disease is no longer a problem, AIDS donations have decreased over the last few years. So, Olson is especially pleased when organizations help him shine a light on the community’s continuing efforts, such as California’s Lake Arrowhead Film Festival did in 2010.
“I was so happy with the Lake Arrowhead Film Festival, which gave an award in both Rock’s and my name as heroes of AIDS Awareness, because that helps us to let people know it’s still there, and we have things to do.”
We are grateful to the many people in entertainment who have supported The Fund through the years, and continue to do so. Stay tuned as we’ll soon announce another starry night: our 2011 Annual Gala on May 23!
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