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AIDS Plea Planned for Benefit : Hollywood: The widow of actor Brad Davis is expected to issue a letter tonight that calls on industry leaders not to ostracize people with the illness.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The widow of actor Brad Davis is expected to issue a dramatic personal appeal tonight to Hollywood’s leaders to “lift the veil of secrecy” surrounding the disease that claimed her husband’s life.

“Whatever the rules are in Hollywood today, they must be changed so that people like Brad can come forward before they die,” says Susan Bluestein in a letter to be read at Commitment to Life, an annual benefit for AIDS Project Los Angeles being held this year at the Universal Amphitheatre.

Davis, who won a Golden Globe award for his starring role in “Midnight Express” in 1978, died last Sunday at the age of 41.

Davis and his wife learned in 1985 that he was infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. The couple went to extreme lengths to keep Davis’ condition secret because of their conviction--shared by many in the entertainment industry--that an actor known to be infected with the usually fatal virus would not be able to get work.

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A story in last Wednesday’s Times detailed the heavy toll that secrecy took on Davis, his wife and their 8-year-old daughter, Alexandra. Fearing gossip, he denied himself the solace that support groups often provide people with AIDS and HIV. Davis’ delay in seeking treatment “probably cost him years of vitality and life,” the actor’s doctor, Joel Weisman, told The Times.

“You in this room have the power to do something about AIDS,” Bluestein says in her letter. “I ask and beg you to use your power to send a message of compassion and caring to all people with AIDS and HIV, no matter how they got the disease.”

“Let’s celebrate our achievements tonight, but let’s go to work tomorrow more determined than ever to fight discrimination in this industry. . . . Please, let Brad’s death, and the death of so many others, make a difference.”

The Commitment to Life benefit will honor Weisman, who was Davis’ doctor from 1989 and is the founding chairman of APLA and chairman of the board of the American Foundation for AIDS Research; singer and actress Bette Midler; MCA President Sid Sheinberg; personal manager Barry Krost, and thousands who serve as volunteer “buddies” and in other capacities.

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“The warriors are among you,” Bluestein writes in her letter. “And though many have remained silent, the time has come to lift the veil of secrecy. Each small step we take brings us closer to freedom--the freedom to work, the freedom to be accepted. . . .”

Though Davis, in a book proposal he wrote two months before he died, was harshly critical of the Hollywood Establishment for throwing “umpteen benefits” but providing little individual support to people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, his wife said Saturday that he wanted her to reach out to the community after he died.

The APLA said some $25, $50 and $100 tickets remain available for the 7:30 p.m. show, which will feature performances by Midler, Jennifer Holliday, the Commitments and many others.


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