According to reporter Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed, Nancy Reagan turned down Rock Hudson’s pleas for help as he was seeking AIDS treatment from a pioneering French doctor.
After collapsing at Paris’s Ritz hotel in 1985, Hudson—who had gone to Paris to see French army doctor Dr. Dominique Dormant and receive experimental treatment with the drug HPA-23 that was unavailable in the United States—was rushed to the American Hospital in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris.
Dormant, who had previously treated Hudson in secret, tried to get Hudson admitted to the Percy Military Hospital, but the hospital’s commanding officer denied Dormant’s request as Hudson was not a French citizen. Dr. Dormant thought that a request from the Whitehouse or a high ranking American official would change the commanding officer’s mind.
Hudson’s people reached out to Nancy Reagan. The star had been friendly with the Reagans since their time together in Hollywood. “Only one hospital in the world can offer necessary medical treatment to save life of Rock Hudson or at least alleviate his illness,” wrote Dale Olson, Hudson’s American publicist. Olson wrote that the hospital would not admit the film star because he wasn’t French, but that “a request from the White House or a high American official would change [the head of the hospital’s] mind.”
They didn’t get the request they were hoping for. The same day, Hudson’s team received a telegram from a young Reagan staffer named Mark Weinberg. “I spoke with Mrs Reagan about the attached telegram. She did not feel this was something the White House should get into and agreed to my suggestion that we refer the writer to the U.S. embassy, Paris.”
Weinberg had advised the then First Lady that the White House “had to be fair” and treat Hudson the same as anyone else would be treated. Weinberg recommended referring the matter to the embassy in Paris, because it was “probably not the [last] time we’re going to get a request like this and we want to be fair and not do anything that would appear to favor personal friends.”
After intervention from then-French defense minister Charles Hernu, Hudson was admitted to Percy Military Hospital. By then, his infections caused by the disease had progressed too far. HPA-23 treatment would be of little use. Hudson chartered an Air France Boeing 747 and returned to Los Angeles, where he was taken to the UCLA Medical Center. Hudson died October 2, 1985.
Two years later, Reagan, at the request of his longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor, Reagan gave his first major speech on AIDS.