The mahogany shutters are open in the master bedroom, and the lights of Los Angeles flicker through the window. But the house, which still smells of disinfectant, is quiet. “It’s strange being up here again,” says Marc Christian. “I haven’t been here since that awful morning [when Rock Hudson died].” Although Christian has resided in the actor’s Beverly Hills house for two years, he is now preparing to depart. Downstairs in the video room, he holds a pair of Hudson’s eyeglasses with gold wire frames. Slipping them on, he says, “I’m thinking of changing the lenses to my prescription and wearing them.” He slides the glasses into his shirt pocket. Then he returns to a half-packed suitcase and the activity that has become his primary business: retribution.
Last week Christian appealed to the legal system for more substantial souvenirs of his three-year relationship with Hudson. In an unprecedented action, the 32-year-old self-described musicologist and accused male hustler, who received nothing in the actor’s will, filed a $10 million claim against the actor’s estate, saying that Hudson failed for 13 months to tell Christian he was suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. According to the claim, Christian “would not have risked death by continuing to engage in sexual relations with Hudson.” Adds Christian, “I found out he had AIDS on the 6 o’clock news like everyone else.”
Whatever the outcome, the claim represents another insidious milestone for AIDS. It pivots on the issue of disclosure: Did Hudson endanger his friend’s life by not admitting to his disease? Named in the suit are attorney Wallace Sheft, executor of the estate; Hudson’s longtime secretary, Mark Miller; Hudson’s former companion Tom Clark, and two physicians (so far anonymous) who treated Hudson for AIDS. The suit contends that friends and doctors withheld potentially life-saving information from Christian. “This is the most unpleasant lawsuit I’ve ever been involved with,” says Christian’s lawyer, Marvin Mitchelson, who represented both Roxanne Pulitzer and Michelle Marvin. “We feel it was Hudson’s duty to disclose a disease of this kind at the time of his diagnosis.”
Some of Mitchelson’s colleagues demur. “I don’t think he has a chance,” says L.A. attorney Roberta Bennett, who recently won damages for a wife whose husband gave her herpes. “His problem is going to be one of proof. The court rarely awards speculative damages. The judge or jury will be asked to speculate whether Mr. Christian’s life is threatened. The fact is no one knows for sure.” Christian has tested negative to the AIDS antibody, but this does not preclude the possibility of a positive finding at a later date.
The most inflammatory issue in the case may be the responsibility of doctors to pass along information on AIDS patients. In California, in cases of venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea, the physician must report the patient’s name to the County Health Department, which then seeks out the patient’s recent intimate partners. So far with AIDS, however, that is not the case. As Christian’s own physician, Michael Roth of Santa Monica, explains: “It is our obligation to tell AIDS patients what to do—we advise them to inform intimate partners that they have AIDS. If a person disregards our advice, there is nothing we can do about it.” According to Dr. Rexford Kennamer, Hudson’s personal physician, “Mr. Hudson was given very specific instructions over a year ago” to inform intimates. On the day the claim was filed, Kennamer had not been served with legal papers. “I’m just scared it’s me [in the claim],” he says. Christian’s action gives the doctors 10 days to show cause why they should not be sued.
As a relative newcomer in Hudson’s house, Christian frequently found himself pitted against such longtime chums as secretary Mark Miller, 58, and Tom Clark, 55. “I don’t think I would have been so open to this whole legal question if everything had gone smoothly at the end,” says Christian. “Instead, Mark Miller and Tom Clark tried to get rid of me.” For their parts Miller and Clark have done something unusual since this affair began: They have refused to comment.
Appropriately enough, Christian’s recreation of his life with Hudson un-spools like a Hollywood film fantasy. Their first meeting in October 1982 was a brief encounter at an L.A. charity party. “I gave him my phone number, but he didn’t call for three weeks,” says Christian. “Finally he asked me out on a date.” Hudson insisted, he says, on picking him up at his small apartment in Hollywood. “My roommate couldn’t believe that Rock Hudson was coming to our house,” says Christian. He pauses. “Neither could I.”
That date led to another—but not yet, says Marc, to physical contact: “He was a true gentleman—it took quite a few dates before he even tried to kiss me.” Marc says that Rock was then breaking with Tom Clark—and with his socially active past. “Rock was tired of all that.”
In Christian’s view, Hudson, then 57, was attracted to his youth. “I don’t mean that in a sexual way. He liked the vitality of youth.” Their courtship consisted of rendezvous in restaurants and at Hudson’s home. Then, a year after their first date, Marc settled into the house. “Rock was going off to Israel to shoot The Ambassadors [his last film] for two months. Tom had moved [to New York]. I was helping Rock transfer music and films to tape. He said, ‘Why don’t you stay at the house on the hill while I’m gone?’ I moved in and he never asked me to leave.”
His adversaries paint a very different picture of Christian and his romance with Rock. The inner circle refers to him as a common street hustler. While Christian allows that his looks may have encouraged offers of payment for sexual services, he denies ever participating in such transactions. “They’ll make fools of themselves if they try to prove that.”
Becoming a star’s companion was not Christian’s first career choice. As a youngster in Villa Park, a small town in Orange County, Calif., Marc Christian MacGinnis had visions of stardom as a rock musician. “My background is pretty right-wing conservative,” he says. His now-deceased father worked in a paper manufacturing plant, and for many years neither mother nor father knew of their son’s sexual preference. “Being gay was not something I’d have told my parents back then,” he says. After graduation from Villa Park High School in 1971, Christian moved to L.A., hoping to become a model. Eventually he found bartending a more rewarding way to exhibit his bleached-blond looks. “Just a couple of days ago,” he says, “I got a fan letter from somebody I used to pour drinks for. He saw my picture in all the magazines.” He continued to seek work as an actor and model, but like others with similar ambitions, he ended up waiting tables instead.
Life in Hudson’s home gave Christian a taste of the glamorous life that had eluded him. He was given the run of the mansion, and to replace the 1959 Chevy he had been driving, Rock gave him a Cadillac Seville. Hudson even extended favors to Christian’s family: His sister held her wedding reception at the estate, and his parents had a 40th-wedding-anniversary party there. Indeed, both mother and sister attended the Hudson memorial service held at the house on Oct. 19.
In the spring of 1985, Christian’s good life came to an end. Hudson began to see less of him, as repeated battles with flu and fatigue kept the actor frequently bedridden and emotionally drained. He had been diagnosed with AIDS a year earlier. “That’s when Rock began to lead a true double life,” he says.
Christian says he was shocked when Hudson collapsed in Paris last July. The actor’s return to L.A. and admission to the UCLA Medical Center hospital brought further frustration. Mark Miller compiled a visitors’ roster without Christian’s name on it, and the hospital staff would not admit him. “I thought, what is this, Studio 54?” he recalls. When Christian vented his anger at the staff, he was escorted from the hospital by six security guards. A few days later a confrontation with Miller led to a meeting with Hudson.
“When I went into Rock’s hospital room, it was the first time he’d faced me since the AIDS issue had come out. I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you had AIDS?’ He avoided giving me a direct answer. There is no answer to that question. He said, ‘When you have this disease, you’re all alone.’ I told him, ‘You’re wrong. You know that if you’d told me you had AIDS, I’d have helped you to get treatment. You should never have done Dynasty. You should have concentrated on staying alive.’ He just looked at the wall and didn’t say anything. We never talked about it again. I asked him if he wanted to be alone—if I should move out of the house. He said, ‘No—just carry on as usual.’ ”
Hudson’s death last month made carrying on as usual impossible for Christian. In his will, Hudson reportedly left the bulk of his estimated $27 million estate (much of it from the TV show McMillan and Wife) to Mark Miller and Miller’s close friend, George Nader. An actor colleague during Hudson’s contract days at Universal, Nader’s career was sabotaged by Confidential magazine when the studio traded a report on Hudson’s sexuality for a report on Nader’s. Contends Christian, “Guilt is what prompted Rock to leave most of his estate to George Nader.” Clark, who had fallen out of favor with Rock until his return to Hudson’s side last August, was purposely omitted from the will, which had been drawn up in August 1981 and amended three years later following his AIDS diagnosis. Miller and Nader are now residing in Hudson’s home.
Christian has returned to his Hollywood apartment, which he now shares with a woman friend. Until recently he was making music videotapes for a gay bar. Now he is unemployed. “I stayed with him in that house for the last year of his life,” he says. “I moved in and I trusted him. Now it’s not the money that’s important to me. It’s my life. I want justice.” Betrayal, of course, is the crime. But as this courtroom drama plays itself out, the judge or jury must decide which of the principals is the greater offender.