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Hudson’s Message of Hope to Be Read at AIDS Affair

Times Staff Writer

On the eve of a benefit gala that will raise at least $1 million for AIDS victims and research, actor Rock Hudson released a statement saying that if others have been helped by the acknowledgement of his disease, it meant his sickness “had some positive worth.”

“I am not happy that I am sick. I am not happy that I have AIDS,” Hudson said in the statement, which was read at a news conference Wednesday by AIDS Project L.A. Chairman Peter Scott. “But if that is helping others, I can, at least, know that my own misfortune has had some positive worth.”

Hudson’s message will be read tonight by actor Burt Lancaster during an entertainment marathon at the dinner for 2,500 at the Bonaventure Hotel.

Hudson acknowledged the support of his longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor, who at the finale of tonight’s AIDS Project affair will present former First Lady Betty Ford with the first Commitment to Life award. Even before Hudson’s illness became known in July, Taylor had joined with Scott, philanthropist Wallis Annenberg and Mayor Tom Bradley in organizing the dinner.

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A letter from President and Mrs. Reagan also will be read at tonight’s dinner. This and other statements will be part of a program of several hours organized by ABC Entertainment Vice President Gary Pudney. Also among those taking part are Rod Stewart, Cyndi Lauper, Carol Burnett, Sammy Davis Jr., Burt Reynolds, Shirley Maclaine, Sam Harris and Diahanne Carroll.

Hudson’s “Dynasty” co-star Linda Evans originally was scheduled to read the actor’s letter tonight, Pudney said, but then it was decided that a letter from a man would be better read by a man. Lancaster, Pudney said, had “specifically asked to do that if there were going to be a letter from Rock.”

Pudney said Evans would introduce Lancaster and the part of the program set around the Hudson statement because she “wanted to be a part of that, and set the record straight on how she feels about this.” Rumors that she was angry with Hudson, quickly denied by Evans, had circulated after disclosure of Hudson’s illness and centered on the romantic scenes they played together in last year’s “Dynasty” episodes.

Proceeds from the benefit will go primarily for support services for AIDS victims and for research. The banquet, with tickets going for up to $500, was sold out months ago. Besides the $1 million raised through ticket sales, there will be a special appeal for funds from Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, a silent auction, a hefty program book and a live auction of paintings by Andy Warhol.


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